November 22, 2010 “The unbearable lightness of being”
22nd November 2010 – 10th of January 2011
Carbon 12 proudly presents The unbearable lightness of being, exhibiting the works of Katherine Bernhardt, Sara Rahbar, Rui Chafes, Erwin Olaf, Farzan Sadjadi, Michael Sailstorfer, Gil Heitor Cortesao, and Ralf Ziervogel. With their highly idiosyncratic style, each artist epitomizes the “Es muss sein!” (It must be so!) of Milan Kundera’s Book, which inspired the exhibition’s title.
The exhibition’s statement is literary: the works are like books, and the artists like authors.
The artist’s medium gives form to the concepts of structure and space, density and texture as a leaf of paper conveys thoughts, ideals, absolute truths and emotional distortions with every written word.
The relationship between the work and its creator is intertwined with originality and individuality. The oeuvre reveals the character of the artist, and vice-versa: the two form an inseparable entity, literally a body of work. The works offer paradigmatic solipsism and absolute ideals, and only what we call a true work of art manages to bring form and content together, in an intersection that allows the viewer to take part in artistic epiphany. The burdens of the daily grind, the joys of metaphysical horizons: light and darkness, to be or not be, inevitably omnipresent and unbearably beautiful.
Artworks are like books, and artists like authors. The relationship between the work and its producer is intertwined with a degree of originality. The character of an oeuvre reveals the character of the artist and vice-versa: the two form an inseparable entity, literally a body of work. Their works offer paradigmatic solipsism and absolute ideals, and only a true work of art manages to bring form and content together to an intersection that allows the viewer to take part in an artistic epiphany. The unbearable Lightness of Being presents the works of Katherine Bernhardt, Sara Rahbar, Rui Chafes, Erwin Olaf, Farzan Sadjadi, Michael Sailstorfer, Gil Heitor Cortesao and Ralf Ziervogel. With their highly idiosyncratic stance, each artists eptomizes the “Es muss sein!” (It must be so!) of Milan Kundera’s Book, which inspired the exhibitions title.
Only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value. Heaviness of subject and form alike. A ton of feathers, because there is only one life to live, and no time for hesitation to pursue ones passion or not. This kind of heaviness, the awareness of fugacity is the central theme of The unbearable Lightness of Being. Lightweight mediums collide with heavy thoughts, dense compositions with open fields of discourse: Katherine Bernhardt’s two-fisted deconstruction of the self, Sara Rahbar’s hand-woven political narratives, Rui Chafes’ playful overcoming of boundaries through form, Erwin Olaf’s ambiguous haunt of the everyday, Farzan Sadjadi’s skeletonized utopia, Michael Sailstorfer’s redefinition of the term experimental, Gil Heitor Cortesao’s glimpses of decay, and Ralf Ziervogel’s stunning visual compositions. Life itself as raw material: the political dimension overlaps formalist thought, personal desire converges with universal fate.
Every artist’s approach is as unique as his or her personal history: Katherine Bernhardt’s proto-solipsist boxer stance and Sara Rahbar’s armies of ideology, a battlefield of the individual and the masses, dog-eat-dog. On the edge of political discourse and artistic gesture, their works strive to break boundaries and overcome tradition as form. Bernhardt’s paintings are fast, hasty and confused: scribbled and smeared, dripping and damp. There is a certain directness present, as if the portrait frozen in time is going to evaporate any second. Her paintings can be seen as a catharsis and confrontation at the same time, stimulating and demanding nevertheless. Sara Rahbar’s body of work constantly expands through countries and periods. The discourse of power and human nature as a central theme where the politics of need and emotion create an explosive setting, straight-forward and subtle, romantic and realistic at the same time: Love and War, Peace and Death.
Gil Heitor Cortesao’s double-layered, mediated reality evokes memories of a distant future. Using images of abandoned buildings and haunting architectural interiors, he creates an intriguing dialogue between facade and interior, oscillating between layers of time, flickering afterimages of uncanny intimacy. A reinvestigation of the idea of modernity, reopening the discourse of utopia: a plateau for reflection and reconsideration of visions and visionaries. Farzan Sadjadi’s monumental, almost monolithic dystopian visions are always on the border of abstraction, images seen through eye-squinting sand storms. Deserted landscapes, lone perspectives, between a rock and a hard place. Clearly influenced by his immediate surroundings, Sadjadi’s paintings can be read as a direct reflection of his daily experience, a very pure approach, direct, straight-forward. Still there is a kafkaesque quality to be felt, an unexpected deepness in atmosphere, a glimpse of hope hidden behind a dune. Cortesao and Sadjadi both deal, in their very own way, with the themes of modernity and alienation, but also conceive paintings as a medium of perception: where past, present and future concentrate in a single perspective.
Michael Sailstorfer and Rui Chafes take their art into the third dimension, exploring the notions of space, carefully balancing solid forms and abstract ideas. Here the lightness of being becomes a physical quality, between paradox juxtaposition and inherent quality: metaphysics manifesting in ontology and vice versa. Sailstorfer takes his approach from Isa Genzken: art that comes “less from the head than from the stomach”, therefore his artworks are always open to interpretation, but with focus on formal aspects of the material standing for themselves, redefining their surroundings, putting themselves in position. This is as lively as sculpture can get. Rui Chafes explores the more metaphysical aspects of sculpture: sometimes playful, sometimes subversive. His sculptures take a vibrant position in the lineage of Brancusi and Giacometti, stimulating the timeless examination of content and form.
Erwin Olaf and Ralf Ziervogel both create a universe of their own with encyclopedian dimensions. In Olaf’s works a whole spectrum of symbols and metaphors enfold, featherlight and heavy as lead, a jungle of semantics, coated in stainless steel. The juxtaposition between the stark contrasts of black and white and the multi-layered use of signs and signifiers create an atmosphere of high tension, not only on a visual but also an intellectual level. Ralf Ziervogel’s gigantic installative piece combines organic flow with composed structured, fragile, fractal, almost obsessive. With concentration and reduction as formal principles Ziervogel creates an aesthetic experience that transcends the usual possibilities of visual arts, overwhelming, absolute: From the unbelievable love of detail to the enormous physical dimensions.
The unbearable lightness of being is longing for a multi-dimensional contextualisation of the artistic entity, defining and redefining positions through construction and deconstruction of semantic structures: gestural brushsstrokes scattered across the surface meets perfectionist mis-en-scène, tour-de-force appropriation versus introspective meditative contemplation. To each his own, but the truth is to be told. In the end theoretical thoughts and hands-on action meet naturally, as if they were never separated. An epiphany like this magic sentence in Kundera’s masterpiece, the weight of every letter, the lightness of fugaciousness. The burdens of the daily grind, the joys of metaphysical horizons: light and darkness, to be or not be, unbearable, but beautiful.
Text by Albert Allgaier