Artist: Johanna von Monkiewitsch
Exhibition title: arisen
Venue: Berthold Pott, Cologne, Germany
Date: November 16 – December 15, 2019
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Berthold Pott, Cologne
Johanna von Monkiewitsch could be described as a ‘Licht-Bildner’ or ‘light sculptor’ (see: Stephan Berg, Rittrato/Copia, Museo Ca’Rezzonico, Venice, 2017). And with her new series of canvases, she once again does justice to this description. In her usual minimalist manner, both in terms of the visual language and the use of resources, she now works with canvases for the first time. In the current exhibition, titled arisen, she presents four works in which light-white geometric forms emerge on dark-white canvases, reminiscent of light entering a space through a window. And indeed, the process of creating the works confirms this impression. Covering parts of the canvases, the artist exposed them to the sun of Sardinia for several weeks. Not the artist’s application of paint or gesture, but the energy of the sun creates an image in which the impermanence of the material also suggests the aspect of transience.
Time and again, Johanna von Monkiewitsch addresses the interplay of light and shadow. The surfaces of her new wall sculptures made of MDF also create shadow surfaces in their corners and fissures. In addition, the artist has applied shadow illusions to the material with dark pigments that capture a certain moment at which the shadow in her studio drew exactly these lines and which now create a confusion with the actual shadows cast. Image and reproduction, the real and the illusionary can hardly be separated from each other. What is genuine about what we see, what is illusion?
In the current exhibition, von Monkiewitsch introduces another new series of works which she calls Billboards. Using her mobile phone, she photographed parts of large-format advertising posters in the city, which in turn have been enlarged and printed on poster paper. Image content and image carrier are thus identical. The artist has wallpapered two of these blue-and-white works, over three metres in size, on the gallery wall, one very high, close to the ceiling, the other flush with the floor. The entire gallery space is utilised, the classical principle of the hanging of pictures at eye-level is thwarted. From a distance, these Billboard works appear as graphic compositions, coloured surfaces and cut-off letters stand side by side. A closer look reveals the creases, dents and folds that were on the posters and that the artist captured in the photograph. The wallpapered poster panels appear like a second skin on the gallery wall. Unevenness, dents and joints in the concrete wall press through the paper, so that photographed material surfaces and actual surfaces overlap.
As the fourth medium – alongside photos on poster paper, MDF sculptures and bleached canvases – von Monkiewitsch is presenting a video projection, which was created during her fellowship at the German Study Centre in Venice. In this city, the intensity of light is especially high, and the incidence of light is particularly versatile due to the narrow alleys, canals, palazzi and squares. On a wall, the artist discovered a patch of sunlight reflected from the water surface of the canal into the building – iridescent and constantly in motion due to the dynamics of the waves – and filmed this. This approximate two-minute-long, transient ‘light image’ was thus preserved and can be reproduced again and again. The artist has now projected it onto the gallery wall with a beamer, where it moves like an immaterial, intangible sculpture in an almost dance-like manner, constantly taking on new, changing forms before the loop begins after again.
The exhibition thus features a wide variety of light constellations and materials: from the sculptural-spatial to flat, from static moments to moving sequences of light. These include the most diverse properties of light, which the artist has deliberately combined and placed next to each another or in groups: Different angles of incidence (e.g. diagonal or frontal) and light intensities (from soft, fog-like light clouds to hard shadow edges) create an irrational image that eludes rational classification and regularity. A kind of ‘light-image-reproduction’ collage of intangible arrangement interweaves itself in and with the space!