Tim Bennett, Beletage, installation view. Photo: Johannes Wende
Tim Bennett, Beletage, installation view. Photo: Johannes Wende
Tim Bennett, Still Standing, 2017,185 x 55 x 55 cm, plaster, steel and lacquer. Photo: Johannes Wende
For his solo exhibition at GiG Munich, Tim Bennett (b. 1973, Rochdale) has created a new body of work, consisting of one large freestanding panel, Untitled (Viel Geld und kleines Glied, kauf’ er sich doch ne Glockenbachsuite), one small type painting, Untitled (Wir wollen euch nicht ihr huhren kinder) and one column-like structure resting on tangled steel, Standing Still. The starting point for the work was the process of gentrification, especially visible in the surrounding Glockenbach area. The plasterboard panels incorporate graffiti slogans, including one seen recently on the side of the newly built Glockenbachsuiten; Standing Still resembles a re-enforced concrete column, as found on a building site, toppled over during a rampage.
Despite its political aspects, the work is not intended to be a critique of the capitalist system of which gentrification is only a symptom. It is neither the kind of critical political art found many cultural institutions, nor a provocative gesture along the lines of urban artists such as Banksy. Instead, by acknowledging the all-subsuming nature of capitalism, Tim Bennett works from within. He takes a graffiti slogan and quite literally, by carefully remaking it in plaster, gentrifies it.
His work engages with the structure of disavowal characteristic of corporate anti-capitalism. Such is the time in which we live that most if not all anti-capitalist gestures have been incorporated within the capitalist system, alternative cultures given space in the mainstream. Graffiti slogans are a particularly ineffectual kind of protest, precisely because they offer us the space for rebelliousness – who doesn’t find these slogans a little bit funny? – while leaving us free to participate in capital exchange without guilt or shame. Their kind of protest leaves our status as consumers intact.
By incorporating corporate anti-capitalism structure of disavowal within his work, Tim Bennett’s Beletage demonstrates how we are participants in the process of gentrification we allegedly deplore. He does so however, with humour and good grace.
Beletage, Tim Bennett’s first show for GiG Munich takes gentrification as a theme. Taking the anger evident in the scribbles and defacement of gentrified property as his starting point, he incorporates these acts of destruction into his formal sculpture. “Yuppies verpisst euch” can be glimpsed in the large, freestanding picture made of plasterboard; a broken reinforced column stands precariously in front of it, as if left behind after some kind of rampage.
The work dissects the mechanisms of protest, to demonstrate the extent of our complicity in the workings of capital. It acknowledges our current inability to offer any viable political-economic alternative to the capitalist system.
Tim Bennetts erste Ausstellung für die GiG Munich – „Beletage“ – setzt sich mit dem Thema Gentrifizierung auseinander. Indem er die Wut, die sich in den Schmierereien und Verunstaltungen von gentrifiziertem Eigentum als Ausgangspunkt seines Werks nimmt, integriert er diese Akte der Zerstörung in seine formellen Skulpturen. „Yuppies verpisst euch“ kann man in dem großen, freistehenden Bild aus Gips lesen; eine gebrochene, verstärkte Säule steht gefährlich nah davor als ob sie so nach einer Randale einfach zurückgelassen worden wäre.
Die Arbeit analysiert den Mechanismus des Protests, um unser Ausmaß an Komplizenschaft bezüglich der Funktionsweise des Kapitals deutlich zu machen. Es bestätigt unsere aktuelle Unfähigkeit irgendeine realistische politisch-wirtschaftliche Alternative zum kapitalistischen System zu finden.
trans. Nadja Gebhardt
Hope to see everyone there!
Exercise as an activity that aims to improve physical, technical or mental performance is not immediately associated with the practice of painting. It is foremost repetitive – mindlessly so – and despite Duchamp’s well-known phrase “stupid as a painter,” painters do not like to think of themselves as stupid. Nevertheless exercise also demands a deeper understanding of the activity requiring improvement and here lies the question behind the exhibition: what can be exercised in painting? What must be determined before embarking on a future exercise programme?
The exhibition “exercises” brings together two artists, Jenny Forster (b. 1979, Germany) and Mary Ramsden (b. 1984, Harrogate, England) precisely because they take these questions as a starting point for their practice. Both painters produce their abstract compositions analytically, breaking down painting to its constituent components before exercising them separately. For the exhibition Mary Ramsden shows a series of smaller works on panel together with one small canvas. These consist of as little as one or two black marks, some partially erased, hovering above a sweep of off-white glossy paint. Her work’s characteristic tension between doing and undoing is created through the slightest of shifts in intensity or scale. In contrast, Jenny Forster works with a much wider range of elements. Her three large paper pieces include multi-coloured ink swirls, dramatic cuts and smudges of pastel. Unlike Ramsden, Forster also engages with painting’s capacity for illusion, treating the traditional perspective of her sources as yet another element in need of potential exercise. She does however share Ramsden’s concern with the processes of doing and undoing, often wiping or cutting away painted elements to reveal the ground underneath. Ramsden might cut out and paste a single black piece of paper; Forster carves up and recombines large parts of her work. If the ink swirls and watercolour drips of Forster’s pieces seem almost accidental this collage technique lends the work control. The need for control is also present in Ramsden practice, but here it is more apparent in the repetition of certain elements and gestures.
GiG Munich is delighted to present “Exercises,” an exhibition that brings together new work by two painters, Mary Ramsden and Jenny Forster.
Taking their abstract compositions as a starting point, “Exercises” attends to the different ways these two painters build up a practice over time. It sets up a dialogue between the works to note how these developments may occur.
Mary Ramsden (b. 1984, Harrogate, England) presents a series of smaller works on panel, where each mark made and cancelled counts towards the creation of a tension between doing and undoing. In contrast, Jenny Forster’s (b. 1979, Germany) larger, more exuberant works on paper enjoy the drama of each swirl of ink, sudden paper cut and smudge of pastel.
The exhibition was not meant to be called “EASY.” As is often the way, it started with the opposite idea. At the time I was reading Deleuze’s late essay on Beckett, “The Exhausted,” and wanted to do a show, which would make use of its definition of the image. “It is extremely difficult to make a pure and unsullied image, one that is nothing but an image,” writes Deleuze and seeing the late Beckett plays I could believe this was the case. “Of course it is not easy to make an image…”
As all four artists – Jonah Gebka, Hannes Heinrich, Steffen Kern and Janka Zöller – work with images, Deleuze’s definition seemed appropriate. Things changed after I visited them in their studio. We were talking about the possibilities available to contemporary painting and I gave the example of Gerhard Richter – how at the time, to do both, abstraction and figuration, was a challenge that filled him with anxiety. To which Janka replied, “What, only two? Bah!”
Painting now is not difficult in the same way it was 40, 30 or even 10 years ago. Opening up to new possibilities, expanding some pre-conceived notion of what painting might be, what it might do in a contemporary critical context no longer holds the same kind of urgency. And if not, if painting is no longer defined by that kind of hardship and struggle, it would seem painting must be easy instead.
In various ways, Jonah Gebka, Hannes Heinrich, Steffen Kern and Janka Zöller acknowledge this lack of anxiety in their work. For them the fact that painting might seem easy is a strategy, offering a means with which they can engage with the viewer.
Jonah’s work is about surface. Through a variety of means (digital manipulation, engagement with printing processes, the use of mixed media) he makes the surface of the image, specifically its physical aspect, apparent to the viewer. For GiG, he shows a watercolour on paper, stretched around its wooden frame. The image is of a generic blue and white checked deck chair, like those found around pools in holiday resorts around the world. Yet the image is not found, but carefully constructed by the artist.
Janka’s interest lies in contemporary cultures, both high and low, traditional and post-digital. For her current project – and she has many – Janka combines lyrical, Matisse-like abstractions with paintings of eyes taken from her Instagram selfies. Always starting from scratch, always on the move, she paints with restless energy, quickly and directly. The two components of her work, abstraction and figuration, sit next to each other without speaking, never coming together to form a coherent whole.
Hannes works with painting’s capacity for illusion. At its most basic, a grey patch can be a shadow; a few crisscrossing lines make it clear that one lies on top of the other. Is it surprising how little it takes to produce the impression of an endless sunset? He paints wooden frames around his paintings and uses paintings of wood to make sculptures. But unlike the mythical Parrhasius he never tries to trick the viewer into believing that what he sees, might be real. For Hannes, illusion is something very obvious and in its obviousness, intimidating.
Steffen likes to transform one visual register into another, often changing the original narrative along the way. For his drawing “O.T.” he takes a performance by Ana Mendieta and describes it in a few lines of text, referring to the filmed nature of the piece through the introduction of VHS type glitches. In “Props” he takes some tools he found abandoned in an attic and covers them in black paint. They now exist in a no-man’s land, never quite achieving their fictional potential because never quite losing their status as useful objects.
Magdalena Wisniowska, 2017