Current (June)

Neues Deutschland. Review by Hannah Finlator

New series by Francis Gomila.

Lichtenberg Studios, exhibiton Cafe

April 21 to June 9. 2017

As many artists entrenched in digital media flounder in response to abrupt political shifts regarding the distribution and value of information accessible to the public, Gomila turns his practice toward the painterly. Amidst the sudden rise of neofascist ideology across The West, the Gibraltar-born British artist living in Berlin, tenaciously blends artefacts from 1980s East Germany with a rough and fervent aesthetic stirring multi-layered implications.

Ever present in Gomila’s oeuvre is the scrutiny of the observable world. While Neues Deutschland works are based on found imagery, the series is an atypical development for an artist who, since his early works as a painter, has rarely delved into history or personal biography. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of these new works is the subtle emergence of these aspects.

Following the restoration of his studio in a former East German village, Gomila reclaimed newspaper pages from Neues Deutschland, (1946-1989), used by previous owners as insulation under the linoleum floor. Initially fascinated by the optics of communist ideology, Gomila writes:

1. Politburo conferences, trade union meetings, heroic workers with farm machinery, livestock breeders, art competition, and beauty pageants winners are all photographed in a poised fashion that belies the innocence, pride, and naive seriousness on their faces.

Citing the idiom, swept under the carpetwith semi indifference, Gomila might have given half a heart to the lost innocence reflected in faces captured by the newspapers, but with the neutrality of experimentation, he then reprinted excerpts from the pages and smeared industrial bitumen onto the prints, which chemically altered them creating a highly toxic looking surface.

In one work Gomila added feathers to the bitumen layer. Reference to the ancient practice of public punishment via tarring and feathering is striking. If one isn’t simply distracted by the haunting anti-beauty beauty of the imagery, (rich in blackest blacks, figures barely discernible), one might begin to ask questions about the context and relevance alluding to this type of mob-law shaming, which was specifically intended to elicit public humiliation. However, first, the viewer must search beyond the cast of his own reflection eclipsing the portraits below.

Fast-forward to the Age of Information, Gomila’s ghostly lost-and-found reprints have been sentenced to both historical irrelevancy and artistic arbitration, resulting in works containing provocative irony: the artist recovers buried portraits to then (re)cover them, then further obscures the surviving imagery with eccentric surface manipulation creating a seductive yet eluding final effect.

The direct artistic intention is a little baffling. But, after some reflection, if in the current world context, ambiguity of source, clarity of truth, infiltration of nonsense infotainment- or absence of reality altogether- coming out of our media portals is at the forefront of our concerns, perhaps the viewer won’t look past the artist’s glaring pictorial black mirror.

Suspended between foundation and floorboards, is there another mirror, a possible biographical element to these works? Probably- after all, everyone who settles abroad faces cultural identity challenges existing between two worlds. They are also more likely to become especially sensitive to jingoistic language, language that historically precedes and facilitates far-right politics, such as the ones referenced within these works.

Thoughts are free and pass like shadows in the night.* Gomila, entering one of the more complex phases in his career, briefly turns away from the editing screen which has underpinned the last decades of his work, for a time of displacement, solitude, and reflection- blended, dark, and radically free.

*“Die Gedanken sind frei” 1780, German folk song.

Review by Hannah Finlator. Artist, art historian and author.

April, 2017

Current (April)

Wednesday, 12th of April at 7 pm

Suresh Kumar G.

Lecture and discussion on his work.

Suresh Kumar G. lives in the april in the lichtenberg studios and explores the district.

“In the morning slot on the second day of the ART Marathon, in the middle of the gallery on a green drop cloth, stood a 30-year-old bicycle.  When the bell rang announcing the start of the show, the artist Suresh Kumar G entered, in the sartorial garb of a mechanic—open half sleeved shirt over a full sleeves shirt—with tools in hand: wrench, screwdriver, hammer and pliers. Suresh’s performance for the next 45 minutes consisted of dismantling the old bicycle, which he inherited from his father, while narrating the story of the cycle.  On the surface it appears as a mundane and inconsequential act, but at a deeper level it connects differentiated temporalities—artists own past and the current events surrounding Venkatappa Art Gallery—conceptually and in actuality.

A three-day ART Marathon from May 9 to 11, 2016 was organized by the Venkatappa Art Gallery Forum, a platform of artists protesting the Karnataka State Government’s decision to handover the only public art gallery in the state to a private collector.  The ART Marathon began at 11 in the mornings and ended at 7 in the evenings.  Each day was divided into 9 slots; each slot showcased 4 to 5 artists, including a live performance or action; and a video or sound artist.   In total, during the three days of ART Marathon, over 120 artists showed their works in the gallery.  These collectively curated art displays and performances, that would change every 45 minutes, generated energy, vibrancy and dynamism previously unseen in an art event. More subtle and creative than AgitProp, the ART Marathon was not only a novel display technique, but was also about artists coming together as agitators for collective action, deploying instruments of practice at their disposal: space and art.

The performance of dismantling the bicycle became a site of overlapping temporalities and histories. The bicycle that was disassembled during Suresh’s performance is the core through and around which his memories about his father, childhood and student days are woven together.  His father, as an employee of the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) in Bangalore, used to travel to work and back home on this bicycle.  As a child Suresh memorised the parts of the bicycle from an English manual that came with it.  He washed it and cleaned it everyday. As a student of sculpture at Chitra Kala Parishad (CKP), a publicly funded art school in Bangalore, and later in Ahmedabad as an artist-in-residence, Suresh used the same bicycle to transport discarded pieces of wood picked up from construction sites to be carved into works of art, deeply embedded in his personal experiences.  The bicycle symbolism extends beyond the biographical.  Culturally, as narrated by well-known Kannada writer Kuvempu in his novel Malegalali Madumagalu (1967), the bicycle was an object of wonder and a harbinger of modernity, of self-mobility and speed when it was brought first by the British to the Western Ghats.  As the narrator observes in the novel, the bicycle had greater impact on people than the figure of Christ.” (Pithamber R. Polsani, 2016)

 

April, 2017