The Lower Depths
Galerie Gabriel Rolt is proud to present an exhibition of new works by Nik Christensen. Black ink applied to paper with brushes and the artist’s hands are the age-old tools with which Nik Christensen creates his beguiling works — images which seem to emerge from the subconscious whilst flaunting their own dexterity. The Lower Depths, Christensen’s third solo exhibition with Galerie Gabriel Rolt, finds endless possibilities within the limitations of its media, segueing a range of techniques within single pictures to join the complex with the primordia
Christensen’s influences are as likely to come from cinema, literature and music as much as from art. He seeks out filmic images portraying defining moments containing within them both what has happened and is about to become. The Nietzschean concept of the Eternal Return, which posits that the universe will endlessly recur, flows through all his work. It is experienced here in the exhibition’s title, The Lower Depths — taken from a 1901–2 play by the Russian writer Maxim Gorky and transcribed into films by Jean Renoir in 1936 and Akira Kurosawa in 1957; in the subject matters of individual pictures; and in the way in which they are composed out of numerous reverberating elements. These black and white crystalline fragments bloom like the visions seen through a kaleidoscope, always about to shift into new scenarios whose possibilities are infinite yet liable to occur again.
For Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Christensen has made an entirely new body of work. Many of the images on show are several metres large and contain in them wealth of intricate detail. Christensen has stated that he ‘started working on larger works to expand time a little bit,’ explaining that the greater scale allowed him to combine ‘smaller outbursts of attacking the paper’ within single images. Made using a diversity of Japanese brushes, each demanding a different approach to master, and sumi ink capable of delicate translucency and absolute blackness, Christensen’s images are highly self-reflexive, their titles humorously self-depreciative. A New Way To Work (2011) depicts a man riding his horse facing backwards through water. Concentric circles over-run the image, issuing as a ripple from where the horse drinks and are formally echoed in a stack of top hats the man holds to his invisible head as though acknowledging that a feat of sorcery has been accomplished. Would Be Good If I Could Wake Up(2011) meanwhile is spun out of lines and resembles a Cubist collage, its protagonist divided into multiple facets. Simultaneously dreamy and self-aware, the image mixes fluid expression reminiscent of the depths of the psyche with exquisite precision — a duality evinced by all the works in the exhibition.
Nik Christensen was born in 1973 in Kent. He graduated from the Rietveld Academie in 2000 and lives and works in Amsterdam. He has had solo shows with galleries internationally. His work is included in important international private and corporate collections.