UN­TI­TLED (2018) BY JAN PLEIT­NER

Young Ger­man Jan Pleitne’s work com­bines as­pects of Jack­son Pol­lock with echoes of Ger­man ex­pres­sion­ism

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE - AIDANDUNNE

Whatisit? Un­ti­tled, 2018, by Ger­man artist Jan Pleit­ner, is a slightly dizzy­ing ab­stract paint­ing, with a psy­che­delic edge. It com­bines as­pects of Jack­son Pol­lock (and per­haps one or two other Amer­i­can ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ists) with echoes of some Ger­man ex­pres­sion­ist artists of the early 20th cen­tury and the more re­cent neo-ex­pres­sion­ists – one of whom, the con­tro­ver­sial Jörg Im­men­dorff, who died in 2007, was one of Pleit­ner’s teach­ers. Howw­a­sit­done? Pleit­ner uses fairly stri­dent pri­mary colours and drags and slides them around on a ground of thick, flat, glass­ily smooth gesso primer, so that they clash and merge in jagged, swoop­ing rhythms. Pleit­ner likes to keep the eye un­set­tled and mov­ing, never quite let­ting the viewer’s gaze rest. Like sev­eral forms of con­tem­po­rary mu­sic, his work cre­ates an over­all mood or en­vi­ron­ment rather than ar­tic­u­lat­ing a par­tic­u­lar rep­re­sen­ta­tional im­age or theme. Where­canIseeit? It is one of a se­ries of works that make up Pleit­ner’s ex­hi­bi­tion, “He­lios”, at the Ker­lin Gallery, Dublin (un­til April 28th, ker­lin­gallery.com). It’s his sec­ond solo show at the Ker­lin af­ter his first, “Wa­ter for the Tribe”, in 2016, proved to be enor­mously pop­u­lar and suc­cess­ful. He­lios is the sun god of Greek mythol­ogy whose char­iot rac­ing across the sky be­gins and con­cludes each day, and it is the bright red pig­ment Pleit­ner uses in the paint­ings. Is it a typ­i­cal work by the artist? It is typ­i­cal, though, that said, Pleit­ner is still a young artist. Born in Olden­burg, he earned his MA at Düs­sel­dorf’s Kun­stakademie only in 2010 and is still based in the city.

Two im­pos­ing rec­tan­gu­lar arches form part of the show. Painted plas­tic is stretched over struc­tural ar­ma­tures to cre­ate sculp­tural paint­ings that the viewer can walk through. These arches or gate­ways ac­cen­tu­ate Pleit­ner’s de­sire to trans­port us into an­other state of mind, re­call­ing Al­dous Hux­ley’s use of a quote from William Blake for his es­say, “The Doors of Per­cep­tion”, on his ex­per­i­ment with tak­ing mesca­line in 1953. In The Mar­riage of Heaven and Hell, Blake had writ­ten: “If the doors of per­cep­tion were cleansed ev­ery thing would ap­pear to man as it is, In­fi­nite.” Pleit­ner’s way of work­ing gen­er­ates a shal­low, bro­ken pic­to­rial space with a kind of flick­er­ing, rest­less light. While he avoids har­mo­nious ar­range­ments of colour, the as­trin­gent clash­ing qual­ity that he favours is very ef­fec­tive, and a cou­ple of very dark paint­ings in the ex­hi­bi­tion, to­gether with the painted arches, sug­gest that he is look­ing to move for­ward. Rather than mark­ing a re­jec­tion of the work of his pre­de­ces­sors, Pleit­ner is try­ing to de­ploy the same es­sen­tial el­e­ments, in­clud­ing pic­to­rial space, colour and light and dark, in search of some­thing un­known. Paint­ing is a point of de­par­ture, but with the aim of ex­plor­ing as­pects of the world rather than aban­don­ing it. Much the same could have been said of Car­avag­gio in his time, and the char­ac­ter and ap­pear­ance of Pleit­ner’s work sug­gests that it has a lot in com­mon with that of Car­avag­gio.

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