Raum im Raum at Galerie Anton Janizewski / Berlin

Raum im Raum
Ferdinand Dölberg + Georg Vierbuchen

June 12 to July 31, 2020

Galerie Anton Janizewski
Goethestraße 69, Berlin

exhibition „Raum im Raum“ presents the work of two very different artists.
Ferdinand Dölberg focuses on painting, Georg Vierbuchen on objects. One relies
in his work on the subject, the other draws on a confusing outside world If you
look at Dölberg’s paintings between 2019 and 2020—a period that was eventful
not only in the world at large, but also in his paintings—, you can see an
astonishingly quick development. From soft to hard edges, from ornament to
outline, from gradient to silhouette. There currently is the assumption that
painting is reinventing itself. Usually it is phrased like this: the internet
exists, and painting exists, therefore the latter has to adapt itself. Whether
figurative or abstract, the edges have to be clear, it has to be colourful and
clean because the paintings need to look pleasant on Instagram. Dölberg refuses
this aestheticization. His paintings are too rich in detail anyway, since he
uses substances such as chalk, epoxy resin, and he paints over monotypes. Those
material conditions would be lost on a phone display. Dölberg deals with the
uniqueness of people, he says, but his figures have strangely rigid faces, much
like Japanese theater masks, whose emptiness allows the spectators to empathise
more with the characters. The sometimes evasive, sometimes severe gazes have a
strange effect: the emotional indeterminacy is alienating only at first glance.
After that, the faces become blanks that can be filled. They are so
indeterminate, they don’t even have a gender. Or, better: they have the
potential to depict all genders. The painter calls them non-binary. He takes on
the big issue of individuality—a problem for painters throughout the
centuries—by not depicting his figures as individuals, but as types. Dölberg
tackles the relation of viewer and image, as well as the relations between his
figures. The way humans treat each other is another of his concerns. The hand
that grips a shoulder can be a friendly approach, full of comfort, but it can
also be a menace and a restriction. Then something else happens in Dölbergs
paintings. Lines appear, like the ones in an exercise book. They are faintly
visible, just like the letters between the lines. The letter B, in cursive can
be glimpsed, and the letter Q, as if someone practised the alphabet before the
artist painted over it. The lines reoccur as the signifiers of a system:
repetition within a grid, modernity’s nightmare. If you practice the letter A a
thousand times, you know how it is done. That of course points to repetition as
artistic principle which is necessary for a painter’s work because in order to
learn you must practise. The process entails the danger of standardisation and
normalisation, just like in school. At some point, the painting says: „the same
thing, over and over.“ The counter-image is the anarchic game, which Dölberg
allows his figures, and perhaps the unruly patterns of their costumes too. „It
is all fictional,“ says the painter. He has an interest in placing figures in
their own environment. The spaces are restricted, and sometimes they are so
crowded that Dölberg’s characters overlap on the canvas and in the play of
their relations. And as if the constriction in fictional space wasn’t enough,
the artist translates the fiction into the gallery space. Sometimes he immures
himself, in a room whose outsides hold his paintings, or he encloses himself in
a wooden crate. Usually for the period of an opening, and usually so that
people don’t see him. Basically though, says Dölberg, anyone can communicate
with him via two channels: the images and by talking to the painter in the
crate. The subject in the centre—this is the formula you could use for Dölbergs
work, but the artist leaves the middle empty. And yet, he develops his themes
beginning with himself. Georg Vierbuchen, the other artist in this exhibition,
takes the reverse path. His influences come from the outside. While Dölberg’s
work is characterised by the expansion of fictional spaces, Georg Vierbuchen
above all processes impressions from his environment. His objects play with
kitsch and nostalgia, with the principles of mass and singularity, and they
deal with the overproduction of consumer goods. He claims that it is difficult
for him to filter exterior stimuli, and that in choosing his subjects
indiscrimination plays a major part. To make this disposition productive,
Vierbuchen uses an old method: condensation. Here’s an example. In 2019, he
produced candles shaped like the Parisian cathedral Notre Dame, whose roof
burned in the preceding spring. The candles looked like the souvenirs on sale
everywhere in the French capital, but the banal objects get an ironic twist. A
church goes up in flames, and people light candles to pray for the
refurbishment of the church. In an exhibition, the artist allows the wax to
drip on a MacBook white as snow, an unbearable sight for many. One year, maybe
six months, or only a few moments contract in a constellation of objects, and
you don’t need to add anything. All you have to do is condensate to bring out
the grotesque and make the joke visible. In addition to condensation,
Vierbuchen uses transformation. When the artist recreates objects in ceramics,
and gives them a different color, it is questionable what remains of their
essence. They are altered, from the cheap, mass-produced consumer object into a
fragile unique piece that is crafted by hand. How does Vierbuchen pick his
objects? The question would be irrelevant if he had hundreds of moulds to
select from, he says. To create a handwriting with found objects, that is what
he has in mind. This specific vocabulary is heralded by his composite
sculptures. Threaded pipes, joints and valves, initially designed to withstand
the highest pressure, are reproduced in ceramics, a tender, fragile material.
The pieces look utilitarian and stern, and yet their purpose is unclear. Maybe
this pretended utility which hails from a long-gone industrial age is the
boiled down essence of kitsch. „How much of it can I stomach, how much can
others endure?“ Vierbuchen asks. That, he says, is the interesting thing about
his reproductions, but it goes further. Kitsch is, by definition, a
mass-produced commodity, that pretends to have its origin in craft, or that
fakes a personal and unique character. Vierbuchen reverses the process. He
turns the mass-produced things that surround us into unique works. In doing so,
he turns to objects that suggest security: poles, that separate the sidewalk
from the street, the wheels of rental bikes that promise to carry us swiftly
and safely across town, swimming aids for children. Vierbuchen’s objects tell a
story of nostalgia and longing, for a past childhood or an innocence, which
perhaps never existed, but he doesn’t forget about its dark aspects. His recent
objects are not linked to a certain time, except to the present. But precisely
this makes them the nostalgic objects for the future.

Text: Philipp Hindahl