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Location: EMDE GALLERY - Mainz
Pascal Brinkmann - Soliloquy under four eyes
The gallery is very pleased to present the solo exhibition "Selbstgespräch unter vier Augen" ("soliloquy under four eyes") by Hamburg based artist Pascal Brinkmann. The exhibition provides insight into the artist’s multifaceted oeuvre and, in addition to his paintings, brings together a selection of wall clocks with integrated images as well as a trove of drawings and sketches. They accompany his work, present ideas for compositions and serve as templates for larger paintings, but also manage to assert themselves as independent works. A brochure will also be published to accompany the exhibition.
In Pascal Brinkmann’s paintings, the discontinuities that characterize existence become clearly perceptible. The individual motifs and subjects are not always easy to decipher. Often it is foremost the title that gives a clue to the more precise context and directs the viewer’s gaze, as in the work "Hunde im Auto vergessen" ("Dogs forgotten in car"), which only at first glance seems to be a cute double-portrait of two dogs, or in the work "Morbides Hobby" ("Morbid Hobby"), on which one can see three men, who have caught a large fish and are now proudly posing with their spectacular catch. The depicted often appears grotesque and deeply contradictory. His pictures are not accusatory, but full of revealing irony and dry humor.
Pascal Brinkmann’s works are inspired by many influences and are based on numerous personal experiences: Content-wise he repeatedly pays homage to precise observations on his immediate surroundings, painting everyday, ordinary scenes with passers-by and other contemporaries that seem interesting to him: working people such as squeegee-wielding window cleaners or violently gesticulating gallerists, people pursuing their leisure time or hobbies, people jogging or cycling, people partying, people arguing, etc.
Then again in other works, the artist takes inspiration from art history or the world of mass media images and transforms them. In "König der Welt" ("King of the World") for example, he satirizes the famous "Titanic" scene in which Leonardo DiCaprio holds Kate Winslet over the bow. Another scene, also set on the deck of a cruise ship, shows a view on a swimming pool with numerous figures cooling off in the water, sitting at the edge of the pool sunbathing. Similar to the painting with the forgotten dogs, it seems, at first, to be merely a depiction of a pleasant swimming pool scene. But again, only the title "Jungbrunnen" ("Fountain of Youth") ironically reveals that is is based on a classic art history motif: the ancient dream of eternal youth and beauty. The most famous example of one is probably the painting of the same title by Lucas Cranach the Elder from 1546.
Similarly versatile as the choice of motif is the artistic realization: expressive and thickly applied, high-contrast colors with clearly visible brush marks fill the canvases; mountains of coagulated compact lumps of colour pile up directly next to sausages of paint squeezed directly from the tube and drips.
What is particularly striking - be it familiar motifs or transformed images from art history -, is that the protagonists are always depicted in a petrified grey, thus blatantly standing out in contradiction to their often colorful surroundings. As if in a snapshot, the figures, suggested in only a few black and white brushstrokes, seem caught in the middle of their movements.
At the same time, the body forms do not appear clearly defined, but rather show soft transitions, that make it seem as if the bodies are melting on the canvas. This impression is further reinforced by the fact that some of the bodies are depicted twisted and the faces are often grotesquely distorted. The deformed grey figures can be read as likenesses of an alienated society. Especially the pictures with crowds of people, partially tiered in rows and merging with each other, convey a claustrophobic mood of speechlessness and a lack of relations.
While Pascal Brinkmann’s small-format paintings are more characterized by an expressionist style, the large-format paintings in particular, despite their spontaneity, are methodically thought out and - in contrast to the small format paintings - are always created over a long period of time. Thus, the work "Schützenstück" was recognizably worked in many steps, the production process being characterized by constantly checking, changing and finding new formulations.
A series of pictures also reveals a meticulous working method. The work "Der Turm stürzt ein" ("The tower collapses"), for example, is interspersed with finely chiseled lines. "Verkauf dem Esel die Peitsche" ("Sell the whip to the donkey"), on the other hand, shows a conglomeration of human figures over which the artist has thrown a net of lines made of spray acrylics, just like a spider’s web. What emerges here, is a playful moment, a great love for experimentation, as well as a certain preference for the ornamental.
The works of Pascal Brinkmann reveal both his sense for subjective sensitivities and interpersonal relationships, as well as for general social relations and the conflicts and contradictions that characterize existence, in short, what one likes to term "Zeitgeist".
Interview between the artist and Lea Schäfer M.A. (artist and research associate as well as curator at the Museum Wiesbaden)
Lea Schäfer (LS): In your pictures one can see people, alone or in groups, in everyday situations: sitting together, standing by a car, after having fished together with fat booty, as well as in moments of distress. Where do these scenes come from and what is contemporary about your painting?
Pascal Brinkmann (PB): In my paintings I deal, amongst other things, with the question of how we deal with images in today’s time and what is behind images. That is why I am also interested in current images from the media, for example of Trump, on which he situates himself in front of a church with a bible. A demonstration of power by the supposedly "most powerful man in the world", who rules in God’s name and solemnly invokes that. As an artist, I filter these images, they imprint themselves on my view of the world and let me expand my painting. Therefore, I paint figuratively, as it allows me to absorb as much content and narrative as possible in it and to expand myself to reflect the "Zeitgeist".
LS: To what extent are your images to be understood politically, for example, when we look at the pictures with boats and refugees on the open sea?
PB: I cannot put myself into the position of the refugees on the boat in the press photo. My painting shows a depiction of this situation, filtered through the photo, that is, a reality of its own and not reality itself. But in this depiction - and generally in the sum of the images that I depict - my position of course is also expressed. In that sense, no accusation lies in the paintings, but what I think and feel about it becomes clear in the way it is painted.
LS: Can one then deduce from this that painting today takes on a mission for you in a social context?
PB: In my opinion, the main task of the artist is to observe the world, to comment on it and to capture the Zeitgeist. So, everything that surrounds us here and now: Painting as a mirror of its time. However, I would not say that painting fulfills a direct mission, but that art merely conveys it indirectly. Painting cannot actively change the world, for that one has to do politics.
LS: Do you see yourself strongly in a particular tradition in the history of painting? Which one would you most likely assign yourself to?
PB: When we work with pictures, we always work with the whole tradition. That’s why I don’t reject art history, nor the painters of today, I don’t reject them either, everyone can do what they want. Many of them occupy my thoughts. It is an insane undertaking to confront art history. If I had to assign myself to a tradition, it would have to be the "Neue Sachlichkeit" with artists like George Grosz, Max Beckmann etc. or James Ensor, I think he’s great, too. And if we want to go back even further: Rembrandt, Tiepolo and Goya, there are thousands of painters I think are fantastic. Generally, the attitude an artist takes on towards life plays a big role for me and how it is portrayed artistically. Thus, for example, I prefer Jan Steen’s genre paintings to Ruben’s portraits. I believe the two big pawns of art are the artist and the viewer. The painter paints a picture and the viewer works with it and creates something new out of it. The work of art leads different lives and is perceived differently, depending on who is looking at it, where it is and so forth. That’s how it goes on and on - I hope, at least.
LS: In your paintings you paint human bodies in black and white streaks of colour. They seem petrified and stand in stark contrast to your grotesquely colorful and rather flat worlds in which they act. Where does that come from?
PB: I am not interested in depicting individuals, but people in different relations. I paint them in grey, so neither white nor black, because they are somewhere in-between, somewhere between white paint, which repels light, and black paint, which takes it in and absorbs it. This is not meant to make them look like monsters or zombies, but rather like they have been petrified or frozen in a moment - which is what a painting is, after all - and thus also expresses the difficulty of human communication.
LS: In some paintings your titles make a concrete reference to art history ("Schützenstück" for example), in others the titles with very specific connotations guide the viewer in reading your paintings (for example in "Dogs forgotten in car"). What meaning do they have in your work?
PB: For me, a title specifies a direction, can steer or add something. My "Schützenstück" is a homage to Dutch 17th century group portraits. I chose the rifle guild painting Because I wanted to bow to Rembrandt. After several attempts and failures I asked myself what happens when the Night’s Watch sets out? "Well, someone will have to duck down." Another big challenge in the creation of this painting was also that contrary to Rembrandt, I never or very rarely paint directly from living people. As a result I’d have to keep on dreaming and imagining to continue this kind of painting. The painting "Hunde im Auto vergessen" ("Dogs forgotten in car") would be boring without its title - with it as addition, however, one recognizes the cruelty of the scene in which someone, suddenly, after all, has forgotten their "best friend known to man". That’s kind of important to me. And sometimes I exaggerate. But I don’t take it as seriously as my painting professor, Werner Büttner.
LS: How do you come to colours, materials and compositions? How would you describe your artistic process?
PB: I always work on several canvases at the same time and in several steps. As a basis I use motifs from photographs, for example, or of sketches and drawings. Then I transfer these onto the painting with thin paint. First, I choose a colour spectrum from one half of the colour wheel. Then, at some point, I jump over to the exact opposite colour spectrum, until I reach a point at which I can say: It’s fine for now. After that, I take a more radical step and reach for the spray can, wipe the surface of the painting with rags again and again until everything is on point and the painting correlates with what I want to say with it. Generally, I use all materials: from acrylic to tempera to oil paints or directly to pigments. For me the power of the image is important, which comes from material and ductus. Therefore, I also like two apply colour thickly or put fat sausages of paint onto the canvas.
LS: How do you feel about social media? Does it make the art world more accessible in times of Corona?
PB: It’s a double-edged sword. Everyone assumes that one knows everything. The demands increase. The good thing is, you can pick out the cherries. And in times of Corona I can now exhibit digitally. The only problem is that you cannot control the effect of the work. Painting is difficult to view on a screen. I have the impression that right now there is an iconoclasm. I have tried to draw digitally but it doesn’t work. There’s something cold and lonely about it, like Techno music. It’s just no Punk Rock.
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