[…] In other words, the viewer is confronted with an abstract painting in which, by turns, subjective, part-narrative and anecdotal environments both reveal and hide themselves; we see a horizontal, non-hierarchical network of referents and references. However, it is clear that this form of presence (the artist’s staging of himself, his idiosyncrasies and sources of inspiration) can only be recognized and decoded by those who are completely familiar with contemporary art and its international players. In other words, the majority of the viewers will experience works which appeal both by virtue of their colour, their physical presence, and performative qualities, and by their occasionally shocking clamour for the attention of the real world – but which never yield themselves completely to the audience. Ultimately each figure and reference remains anonymous. Furthermore the abstract gesture seems to lead to a kind of aesthetisizing of the first layer. It is as if Bonde wishes to camouflage these superimposed layers of representation and reality; as if he distances himself from subjectivity and his private snapshot collection of references.
[…] Swirling about in a series of painted layers similar to a schizophrenic brain convulsion, small images peer through the veneer. Any connection to reality is quickly severed; it’s all about emotion and energy. The layers of frozen movement and splattered paint have more to do with a flow of bodily fluids or toxic chemicals than with some beautiful ideal. Raw, physically sexual and overpowering, the Danish artist Peter Bonde’s large-scale paintings consume our attention – pulling us closer to their iconography. There is no casual gaze; it is a visual quick-sand that pulls us under. It is not about the finished object in front of us, rather it is an elaborate theatrical prop that sets our minds in motion.
[…] Transition and abjection seem to be central elements in both Golder’s life and in his art. With his deviant opinions and behaviour, Golder occupied a marginal place in the educational system of his Soviet childhood. He stood outside the established system and as soon as possible he abjected himself (along with his family) from his original social context. They were, so to speak, abject entities, people who had separated themselves from the ‘established Soviet subject’. As a new subject he had then to re-establish himself in his new West German context, a transition that happened through a process of purification closely linked to his artistic practice. Through this Golder liberated himself from thinking and viewing art as he had been used to do at his elite school in Ekaterinburg. It is for this reason that the abject element is a recurring theme in Golder’s art.
[…] Countless journalists and critics have attempted in the past couple of years to decipher the primary motivation for the interest in these emerging Leipzig-educated painters. Some see the work’s appeal in its expression of the misdirection and pessimism that supposedly defines the post-Wall era for the generation born in the early 1970s. Others want to attribute it to a Prussian-style work ethic that distinguishes this group from their allegedly more slothful contemporaries at the Western art academies. Despite efforts to contextualize the work in terms of the Leipzig painters’ artistic heritage, it would seem that at least some of the fascination with this work stems from a sense of exoticism based partially on ignorance. The source of the artists’ collective spirit – though many writers acknowledge that there are more differences than similarities among the individual painters – must somehow derive from their attachment to the city of Leipzig and its drab GDR colors and spaces, despite the fact that many of the artists grew up in the West.
[…] What has disappeared since Greenberg’s day, though – notwithstanding the endless possible wrangling over latent ambiguities within his own writings – is, on the one hand, any assumption that painting, and beyond that visual art as a whole, is intelligible from within a securely-defined practice called criticism that has, as its primary role, the systematic discrimination of good from bad. Goodness knowable and separable from badness in a range of connected (or overlaid) ways – let’s call four of those ‘aesthetically’, ‘morally’, ‘socially’, and ‘politically.’ Barnett Newman once encapsulated this earlier, and now lost, certainty when he remarked that if people understood his abstract paintings “properly” they would see they would “mean the end of all state capitalism and totalitarianism.” Now, though Greenberg claimed he was never silly enough to have “fooled around with meaning” (my sense is that, while on one level he’s clearly being disingenuous here, he’s doing so for ultimately a laudable reason: in order to undercut his own authority and significance), meaning was definitely fooling around with him!
[…] This ‘democracy’ of image making sets up the relation between bodies, materials and technologies as a kind of open-ended encounter that engages with different questions about the conception, practice and experience of painting. What is the relationship between making work, its framing within a specific context, and the gendered and embodied viewing experience? In what ways are we as viewers drawn into the time and space of paintings? Is this to do with their materiality, in contrast to digitalised imagery? Or is it about a particular experience of inter-subjectivity that we encounter in looking at a painting? The question of relationship seems to be central; not only between the artist and his or her audience, but also as a means of thinking through the dialogue between objects, bodies, materials, technologies and cultural discourses.
[…] Most curators and critics are quick to celebrate what they understand as the pluralistic climate in which painting has operated for the last several decades. One need only look at the range of compelling work, this argument goes, to understand that the field is infinitely capacious: in its plundering of its own and other pasts, in its expansion into popular culture and outside medium-specificity, painting takes on a vertiginous array of graphic conventions and cultural source materials, each of which can in turn be rendered intimate or grandiose, obsessive or affectless, naïve or slick, retro or futuristic. But if all can agree that the field is now this heterogeneous, there remains fundamental disagreement about how this condition emerged, how it has been sustained (by critics, institutions and painters themselves), and how valuations or even simple contextualizations work within this ongoing condition. Here I will address only this last question, identifying three emergent modes of corruption (the high tech digital, the low end illustrative, and the remote history of painting itself) and trying to suggest how work within these lines builds a context for itself.
[…] The exhibition brought together a generation of painters, all of whom have brought new ideas to bear in the field of figurative art. It presented a group of young (or youngish) artists, united in their ambition and their desire to communicate with the public. Their paintings are potent, the colours strong, and they captivate the onlooker with their weird, fascinating stories, often drawn from the artists’ personal universes. It is acid anti-depressive art, a bravado output comprising works which cross over into, and confront the world of children’s art, of fantasy and fairytales. The artists present narratives that are unpretentious and colourful. At the same time, it is an important characteristic of their oeuvre that it is both contaminated and invigorated by borrowings from the pictorial universe of mass culture, from strip cartoons, computerised images, romantic popular culture, etc. In painters like Kristian Devantier, John Kørner, Kathrine Ærtebjerg, Tal R and Anders Brinch, we find a fascination with the naïve and the distorted. The artists cultivate banalities, childish fancies, superficiality, humour and the reality of daily life.