Artist: Birk Bjørlo
Exhibition title: ABIOGENESIS
Venue: Gether Contemporary, Copenhagen, Denmark
Date: May 3 – June 1, 2019
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Gether Contemporary, Copenhagen
Like a serpent eating up the exhibition space to create its own, the 12 paintings spiral through the gallery – with a DNA string like structure. The two strands of paintings are composed of six units, which are all connected while each simultaneously carries a unique and individual narrative of materials. Algae, minerals, streams, oceans and cell formations are the main inspiration for the boiling soup of materials that burn like acid through the architectural frame to create a space without walls. In this space of potentials, the panels of the paintings serve as points of origin for fluids to merge and create compositions that balance between chaos and control.
The immediate flatness of the panels is only a cover for a mental space of perceptual exploration that invites their audience into the many layers of investigations they contain. Investigations that time travel to the origin of life, abiogenesis, long before our watery bodies emerged from the oceans.
Like a time ocular gazing into the past, the paintings place their viewers in a primordial soup of organic molecules and bacteria and let them dive into a world before life emerged – a time before our ancestors shed their gills, developed hands and feet, and walked on land. Before there was life, there was a potential of possibilities, in the same way that a blank canvas carries with it a future of possible compositions. The compositions of these paintings look for the future in the past.
Starting from this zero point of departure, long before value was attached to art history’s famous medium, the paintings seek to be liberated from former readings. Their point of reference is placing them in a space that makes their frame a watery ground that floats into the gallery space – like life started floating out of bacterial matters. A liquid position they carry in their substance as well as their position in the space in which they are placed.
Released from the walls, the paintings infiltrate the audience from the centre of the space but upon looking closely behind them, one will discover a gap that no one can enter. Like nucleotides connecting the two DNA like strands of paintings, untouchable drawings are seen hidden behind the frames in a space protected from the bacterial culture on the front. Like cave paintings concealed from human acid, they appear like fragile mysteries. Like a life that started too early; a body too small to be carried out in the sun. As if they might disintegrate if put in contact with the world. The paintings thus become their guardians while simultaneously containing a bacterial culture of destructive nature and life.
Representing their creator’s process, each painting demands time for investigation. A slowness that provides an unusual pace for contemporary society and already seems like an ancient fossil of intention. The mind and body seem to crave that space, a rewound world in which fragile new life is brought in the space of hope.
– Mette Woller
Birk Bjørlo was born 1986 in Hønefoss, Norway. He lives and works in Copenhagen. In 2014 Birk Bjørlo graduated from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art in Copenhagen. His work has been shown at, amongst others, Elephant Kunsthall, Lillehammer, Trignac Projects, FR, Gether Conmtemporary, Copenhagen, &Model, Leeds, Galerie Weissraum, Kyoto, Showroom, Malmö. His work is acquired by the public collections of The New Carlsberg Foundation and The Danish Arts Foundation.