27 - 30 September 2018
During Berlin Art Week
Thursday 27 September: 4 - 8 pm (Opening)
Friday 28 September: 11 am - 7 pm
Saturday 29 September: 11 am - 7 pm
Sunday 30 September: 11 am - 6 pm
More information about the fair: https://www.artberlinfair.com/en/
CHRISTOPH STEINMEYER – SITUATION SUITES
For the second edition of art berlin, Galerie Michael Janssen is pleased to present Christoph Steinmeyer’s impossible world with a selection from the series SITUATION SUITES . These paintings challenge viewers and the very act of viewing, and they have prompted curator and critic Mark Gisbourne to position them in a category located between archaic and modern-day notions of amazement. In his essay, “From Wonderous Gaze To Marvellous Presence,” Gisbourne calls attention to their “distant, if not to say at times, somewhat puzzling realities”—a quality that gives them an Absurdist tinge. But as he suggests, the works are as much in conversation with philosophy, literature, and music as they are with the history of art and the language of dreams.
In Arvo Pärt, Lamentate (2018), a locomotive is depicted in a dark forest as it passes through a ravine. Light filters between bare tree branches, enhancing the cinematic atmosphere, yet failing to describe any exact season or place. It is a moment beyond time, and, therefore, melancholic. These conditions are appropriate given the painting’s namesake, a title that pays homage to both the world’s most famous Estonian composer and his grandest orchestration. It is a score that one could imagine accompanying any and all of the paintings on show.
This is especially true for Challenge (2018). The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster is not the explicit subject here, such an iconic nightmare would be a challenge in itself to depict, but viewers can surmise it is the inspiration, and pause to consider the point of no return captured in oil on canvas. The scene is surprisingly calm, and from a vantage point behind a park bench, we can see a bluff, and a cove, and a rocket engaged in liftoff. The rocket is blasting flame amid billowing clouds of smoke. Although this is certainly a wondrous moment, it is nonetheless ominous as it carries the weight of history.
From a forlorn train to a doomed spaceship, Steinmeyer demonstrates a general preoccupation with modern mechanics and their inadequacies. Consider also Das Rennen (Stop) (2018), wherein a pit crew labors among glaciers. Whatever wild circumstances grounded them in the frozen wasteland is beyond knowing, but for whatever schemes they might pursue while there, the high speed race car is wholly unqualified—surreal even, in the classic sense of a functional object rendered useless.
Perhaps the most mind-bending elements of the series are the eponymous Situation Suite (2018) and the smaller-scale Sweet Situation (2018). This pair reveals Steinmeyer’s predilection for repetition and difference. Despite their shared content, the paintings are discreet artworks, which independently came into being during separate painterly actions.
It is the artist’s mark—the evident hand—that diverts these works from being mere hyper/photorealistic duplicates. Significantly, they are known by different names linking them to different external influences. According to Gisbourne, Situation Suite provides “a key” to Steinmeyer’s other paintings in that it opens “onto a world that appears eloquently plausible in the first instance, but when closely scrutinised reveals an unfolding conundrum of visual contradictions.” Here Steinmeyer has compounded his formal and conceptual antics into a mutely colored bedroom. From outside the frame, it seems possible the room is sandwiched between mirrors, yet not even a simple mise en abîme is spared his sabotage, for the reflections do not correlate to their context. And even if they did accurately repeat the interior design, they would do nothing to explain the liquesent downward pull occurring in the foreground— a proverbial slippery slope, which takes us into a mysterious world where causal relationships no longer abide by common expectation. Instead, the uncanny prevails.
Text: Patrick J. Reed