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STÜCK HIRN BLIND | JONAS BURGERT at the Blain|Southern Gallery
November 2, 2014
Enter a theatrical landscape occupied by tortured half-beings and toxic colour. Something isn’t right with the worlds created for us on Jonas Burgert’s canvases, like dreams turned into nightmares, we’re unsettled by what we see, yet it’s hard to pin down a tangible source for this feeling.
Thrown into the spotlight by the head of the Hamburg Gallery of Contemporary Art in 2005, who encountered the artist’s work at an Art Fair, Burgert has since become an international success. His preoccupation with our basic human drive to seek sense and purpose where there may be none has led him to these non-places filled with clutter, nonsensical objects and shadow-like inhabitants.
His first UK solo show in five years, Stück Hirn Blind (translating roughly as ‘piece of brain reactive’) takes its name from the largest work in the exhibition and Burgert’s largest work to date; an eight meter long, three and a half meter high painting depicting a mess of objects and bodies; fragments seemingly cast aside from other scenes. It looks almost as if we are peering into the aftermath of an explosion, or a battle, or both. Acid yellow covers the ground underneath the rubble, a giant pink and blue wasp-like creature lays upturned in the centre of the image, its stinger raised high. Slowly you become aware of a large number of bodies and limbs in amongst the rubble and a handful of conscious figures that all seem out of place and strangely unaffected by their surroundings.
There is a paradoxical feeling of menacing vulnerability to the figures in Burgert’s paintings which are unsettling individually, yet bring them together on a canvas and their lack of similarity to one another is unpleasantly unsettling; one black, another green, one possessing a human face, another merely a hollow skull, some fully dressed and others lacking any clothing. The only thing seemingly keeping these worlds together is the artist’s toxic fluorescent colours which both alarm and pull in the viewer.
There are a number of sculptures in amongst the paintings which, although interesting in their own rights, feel eclipsed by the painted works. They also lack the impact and freedom of expression that their two-dimensional counterparts hold.
You can’t help but feel entranced by these hauntingly beautiful worlds despite their ugly inhabitants. As you also can’t help but recall Freud’s writings on the uncanny, if you are familiar with them. Burgert so perfectly encapsulates in his works that eerie sense of foreboding and inability to make tangible its source.
STÜCK HIRN BLIND | JONAS BURGERT continues at the Blain|Southern gallery until the 22nd November 2014, Hanover Square, London. For more information go to blainsouthern.com/exhibitions/2014/jonas-burgert
Maxine Kirsty Sapsford, Arts Editor