Artists: Sophie von Hellermann, David Ostrowski, Andreas Schulze
Exhibition title: 3 Zimmer, Küche, Bad
Venue: Braunsfelder, Cologne, Germany
Date: September 5 – December 7, 2019
Photography: All images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Braunsfelder, Cologne
3 bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom. Schulze, von Hellermann, Ostrowski as a painters flat share at Braunsfelder: a get-together of three generations of Rhineland painters. The word ‘generation’ is usually deployed to highlight difference, and at first it does seem hard to discern any common ground between these artists.
There is a shared aesthetic rigor, of course, but the Schulze-von Hellermann-Ostrowski matrix works more through the distance between its individual points – between idiosyncratic salon painting, playfully poetic figuration, and abstract syntax. There is one thing that links these positions, however, and that is their affirmation of a theoretical perforation of the painted canvas, an approach many of us would now consider self-evidently valid. But you do still sometimes meet older Greenbergians with
subscriptions to Kunstforum(“But that’s not in the picture!”) who remind you that this was not always so. In practice, this means all three indulge in extensive site- and context-specific references so that (their) painting is always drawn out of the absolute realm it would otherwise inhabit. This takes place almost incidentally, with a casualness that belies such major theoretical restructuring – another thing the three have in common. Schulze achieves this via painting spaces precisely tailored to the space in which they are presented, usually including something extra, in this case the painted floor. Von Hellermann also uses architectural interventions – such as murals – to merge her painting with the space, an osmosis reinforced by producing much of the work in and for the specific space. David Ostrowski, too, divides exhibition spaces into new floorplans with his pictures; for him, hanging always involves architecture.
Ostrowski, Schulze and von Hellermann paint, one might say, for eyes that sit on top of bodies (which is the norm, of course, but often ignored). Their works address the restlessness, the urge for physical movement in the flesh beneath the eyes, understanding painting as architecture, which sounds more casual that it actually is. Because it makes a difference whether one merely positions oneself with regard to surfaces, or if one grants them a physicality beyond all pictorial space. After all, space is always the first order of context, to which the pictures relate, with more following all the time. Beyond the more programmatic aspects, recreating the warm, vis-à-vis encounter with the works that takes place during their production (where they are a genuine dialogical presence) in altered form in the exhibition introduces an intimate, at times even sentimental tone. It is this cosiness of the relationship with the viewer that the show’s title underlines: it may be untidy, but when three people share an apartment, each does what they consider to be the right thing. They live separate lives, but in close proximity, with the door to common ground always open.