"Muster" is the German word for pattern. Using it untranslated deprives it of its meaning and turns it into something more akin to what it speaks of: a formal element without content. But it equally means "sample", a small-scale test for something larger or more real, equivalent to the Dutch word "monster" that has a second connotation of its own: monster, ogre. This ambiguity of the exhibition title is more than a product of mere coincidence. The worlds of Norbert Bisky are traditionally populated by bodies that ever so often show an unmistakable inclination towards the dysfunctional, the deformed and monstrous. Their coldness, frequently mentioned, exists in stark contrast to their visceral nature and physical presence. Up to now this inclination towards disfiguration seemed to stem from the paintings' subject matter. It appeared to be a consequence of what it is Bisky wants to narrate. The incomplete bodies, entangled corpses and severed limbs would enter into the one narration of the physical human relationship being inevitably stretched between the two poles of affection and aggression.
But what happens if we approach this monstrous quality of Bisky's representations from a different angle, an angle equally suggested by the show's title: as inquiries into the formal qualities of painting. "I wanted to stay away from both emotion and narration", states the artist about this show. "I wanted to focus on formal issues", on painting – as one could simplify – as the generation of patterns. Coming from this direction, the attack on the human figure takes on a different meaning. Frank (2012), for example, seems to show a mutilated human head. One ear is easily recognisable, as are the lips and a shock of brown hair. But these are about the only distinguishable features in what is otherwise, at best, a heap of flesh; a face in extreme distortion. But Bisky's attack is not directed at the depicted, but at the depiction. Regularly using photographs, the artist took a page from a magazine, crumpled it up and painted what remained visible from the face reproduced on that very page. It is a painted collage of sorts and as such a premonition of Bisky's actual attack on one of his own canvases of a male torso, cutting it into pieces and gluing them back onto a painted sheet of paper in a somewhat dishevelled manner.
Muster thus exemplifies Bisky's simultaneous focus and attack on the human figure as an integral part of his interest in the caveats of representation, the procedures of reception and, above all, the means of painting. Correspondingly, he ventures into the expansion of these means by combining two materials he used separately so far: oil and paper. Bridging the gap between works on canvas and watercolours, these new works exemplify Bisky's play with what one can call accident, chance or spontaneity. Exploring the self-will of his tools, the works in the show demonstrate the artist's intention to respond to his materials and their inherent logic, more than to command them.
Opening reception in the presence of the artist:
Sunday 24|11|13 between 16:00 - 18:00
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