Nightscape is an exhibition featuring new work of Adrian Ghenie that originates from a historical account in the artist’s own life. The sequence of images and situations is drawn from the City of Cluj in Romania, during a period just before Adrian Ghenie began his studies at the Art University.
Nightscape recalls both the artist’s special state of mind, and a suspended, highly subjective sense of time. After the first unsuccessful attempt to join the Art University, Ghenie spent a year at his grandmother’s house, situated high on a hill above Cluj and surrounded by a large garden. The house was on a street that still preserved something of the atmosphere of what it was like to live in the peripheries of a city in ‚the old days‘.
The temporal fragments and the physical spaces depicted in these works by Ghenie are then unsurprisingly exact, in as much as the characters of his paintings are borrowed from the immediate proximity of his then situation. The dialectic between the visual mediums involved in this exhibition – rawing, collage, painting – is just as precise and explicit.
Transposed into images, the places and people gain a particular texture which distinguishes them as emerging from this highly particular context. Although his social status was uncertain during this period, Ghenie considers this year of his life to be crucially formative – it was a fertile year because of the very absence of social and educational constraints – and so the artist’s memory of it became mediated by the materiality of things which he never “found again in another place“.
In contrast to the temporal and spatial precision inherent in these works, the subject is conspicuous by its absence; or, perhaps more accurately, the subject always seems to be ’somewhere‘ else, even in a surreal or philosophical sense: the cat is there, but sleeping, a universal beast, its dormant state suggests passivity or at least a pause. The mother is smoking (there hardly exists a more banal gesture), but the function of the pose of a person drawing on a cigarette as a symbol and metaphor for ’stepping out of oneself‘ has become part of common usage.
Meanwhile, in a self-portrait, the artist is grilling meat in a most absent-minded sort of way, mindlessly keeping himself busy. The mundane nature of the subjects‘ preoccupations stands in sharp contrast to their actual visual realisation on paper or canvas – with the baroque-like magnitude of their forms emphasised by the use of repetition and the accompaniment of a cosmic, almost saturnian atmosphere. The “disparity“ between the grand physical depiction of the subject versus their banal gestures, which seem unfitting or unbecoming, is troubling but it also serves as the source of a necessary tension in the
works. It irritates and it provokes but it also therefore encourages Nightscape to be read as an anti-narrative exhibition; one that touches instead on the universalism of shared and felt experiences rather than the telling of a story.
Paintings by Adrian Ghenie
Galeria Plan B
ART & DESIGN FAIRS
ARCO MADRID 21 FEB/ 25 FEB
PAD PARIS 21 MAR/ 25 MAR
ART BRUSSELS19 APR/ 22 APR
ART COLOGNE 19 APR/ 22 APR
PHOTO LONDON 17 MAI/ 20 MAY
PHOTO BASEL 12 JUN/ 17 JUN
ART BASEL 14 JUN/ 17 JUN