På udstillingen Sequences viser den østrigske kunstner Richard Zeiss (bosat og arbejdende i London) en serie malerier, der både udvider og udfordrer vores opfattelse af sted og tid.
Projektet udspringer af Richard Zeiss’ fascination af anonyme steder. Steder uden særlige kendetegn, associationer og historik. Karakteristika (eller mangel på samme) der er forbeholdt de blanke midlertidige opholdssteder, vi alle færdes gennem regelmæssigt - uden tid, lyst eller overskud til at skabe et dybere tilhørsforhold.
Zeiss tager udgangspunkt i denne flygtige løse følelse, man oplever undervejs i blandt andet: lufthavnsterminaler, på tankstationer og på motorveje, hvor vi befinder os midt imellem start- og slutpunktet for vores rejse. Og med Sequences bryder han disse steder ned i enkelte billeder, der med en pålydende nøgenhed fremhæver det essentielle (kendetegnende) lag og dermed stedets egentlige karakter. Nøje udvalgte vinkler og detaljer bliver som ikoner for, hvor han har passeret.
Udstillingen er en undersøgelse af steder, vi opholder os på som midlertidige beboere med et bestemt formål. Steder som derfor forbliver i en fase af en uafbrudt gennemgang.
In the past years the focus of Richard Zeiss’ work has oscillated between the concepts of time and place/space. His investigation into these two principles has taken him from a series of works dealing with the ramifications of speed as discussed by the French philosopher Paul Virilio (physical speed, military operations, Internet, surveillance) to a more broadly based, dispersed look at vaguely disturbing narratives found amid urban civilisation.
In his latest series of paintings, on show at the Asbaek Showroom, the artist has shifted his focus slightly towards the concept of place, while his approach of working in sequences on the basis of a single motif, which also led to the production of a short animation, does re-introduce the time principle, albeit from a different angle.
The artist’s recent work shows his interest in the cultural and sociological aspects of place – and non-places, as described by Marc Augé in his “anthropology of supermodernity”. Augé argues that supermodernity creates non-places. He defines non-places as having no identity, no history and no urban relationships. Non-places are temporary spaces for passage, communication and consumption. Prime examples of his rationale are the motorways seen from inside the car, motorway restaurants and petrol stations, large supermarkets, duty-free shops, and the passenger transit lounges of world airports.
In SEQUENCES, Zeiss investigates into the range of locations and places that may qualify as non-places, to what extent they have to comply with all of the aforementioned features as outlined by Augé, and whether, based on considerations of relativity or subjectivity, places could be considered “partial non-places”. The artist postulates that in many cases the classification as non-place will be a relative and subjective one, spawning various shades of grey rather than a clear demarcation line. Along these lines, recent technologies such as the Internet will provide fertile soil to the gradual urbanification of the world (via WWW) and thus to the emergence of many partial rather than only “pure” non-places.
The two main series in the show, Prudhoe Bay and Pulse, approach the issues raised above from different angles. Prudhoe Bay is based on a series of photographs the artist took at the Northern coast of Alaska during wintertime. The small town or settlement of Prudhoe Bay exclusively caters to the needs of the oil industry, which gives every single activity in the region a very particular bias.
The workday is by and large set in a way to fulfil the requirements of global oil consumption, allowing only a few little pockets of a sort of daily routine the average person in other parts of the world could relate to. The local amenities are scarce, and there is an overall sense of temporariness, with work crews staying put for a few weeks and then travelling home again. Augé’s criteria of no identity, no history, and no urban relationships apply to a certain extent, but less so than they do for example in the case of an airport. Hence Zeiss’ contention of a “partial” non-place.
Pulse, the series based on the work “The Forgotten Garden” by the Chinese artist Wang Huai Qing, tackles the issue on a more conceptual level. The entire series focuses on the same motif as depicted in Wang Huai Qing’s painting, the repetitions charging it with a new signified that is superimposed onto the original one. The forgotten garden that the original work promises and that the corridor supposedly leads to, is never reached. The observer remains forever stuck in a transitional phase, i.e. in transit: a non-place has been created.
One of the main principles in Richard Zeiss’ practice is the sequential approach to every motif or theme, which he takes through a number of variations and peels away layer after layer in an effort to examine the essential characteristics of the chosen subject. Relying on light as his principal medium, he modulates the degree of figurativeness in his work not the least by implicitly carrying over and presupposing information from the more figurative of his paintings to the less figurative ones. Zeiss also uses light sources as an aesthetic principle and as a means to underscore the darker ones of his scenarios, which in their reduced nature seem so uncanny.