I wish my pictures
November 15, 2014–January 17, 2015
Mimesis, the interpretive reproduction of nature, was long considered to be the most important duty of art. Theorists of all epochs, referring back to Aristotle, called upon artists to feel and understand the chaos and order of the natural world in such a way that meaning suddenly became visible there where none could be recognized before. Robert Elfgen's artistic work also focuses in an unusually direct manner on this task which, with the advent of modernism, was pushed to the side and neglected. In recent years, Elfgen has created a unique œuvre in which he applies complex artisanal techniques to found pieces from nature and from his everyday life, and assembles them into an atmospherically charged, intensely personal form of bricolage. The realities of art and life come together in this position. Art becomes nature, nature becomes art.
In I wish my pictures, Elfgen's new exhibition at Sprüth Magers in Berlin, two thematic strands emerge into the foreground which have been latently present in his œuvre for a long time: the importance of landscape for our being-in-the-world, and the processes with which we perceive or do not perceive this world. A large assemblage sculpture, illumanted by a streetlamp protruding from the wall, is the first sight when entering the room. The exhibition reveals itself under the watchful eye of a circular mirror, into which intarsia has been inserted resembling a pupil. Landscape paintings and assemblages, the latter standing on the ground, guide through the two-parted exhibition space.
The heterogeneous materials of the assemblages convey the impression of having been gathered during a walk and rearranged after returning home. Plywood shapes symbolizing a sailboat and a seagull, glass mirrors laid open from behind, instructions for building a confessional applied to a wooden panel, slightly damaged traffic signs carrying surreal motifs, neckties functioning as colorful accentuation, in their resemblance to elongated, vertical brushstrokes, as well as pictures of black-painted leaves of pressed ferns and motifs found in the Internet, for instance a bus or a woman wearing sunglasses, combine to sculptural collages. The individual elements not only mark certain preferences and biographical aspects of the artist. They are always connected with each other and come back to the theme of vision and non-vision – sometimes metaphorically, sometimes concretely, sometimes quite humorously. But first of all, the assemblages convey how the artist himself sees nature and the world that surrounds him. The works are tantamount to abstract perception, to an aesthetically open reordering of the world.