Johanna von Monkiewitsch at Kunsthalle Bremerhaven

Artist: Johanna von Monkiewitsch

Exhibition title: from different places

Venue: Kunsthalle Bremerhaven, Bremerhaven, Germany

Date: March 29 – April 25, 2021

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists, Kunsthalle Bremerhaven and Berthold Pott

Shortly before the end of her twelve-month ‘Bremerhaven Fellowship’ (Bremerhaven Stipendium), Johanna von Monkiewitsch presents her solo exhibition from different places at the Kunsthalle Bremerhaven. Previous fellows include, among others, Gregor Schneider, Ceal Floyer, and Alicja Kwade.

Von Monkiewitsch works with incidents of light, which she photographs, films, and reproduces in various ways. To do this, she uses diverse media such as photography, panel painting, sculpture, installation, and video.

On view in the foyer of the Kunsthalle are two photographic works by the artist: Cologne and Jaffa. For this series, the artist photographed one and the same empty picture frame in different lighting situations and at different locations (Cologne and Tel Aviv/Jaffa). The empty frame itself becomes the subject of the picture, again framed and hung. In it, time and space become visible, whereby location and light constellation create different images of the frame’s interior.

In the entrance hall of the first floor of the Kunsthalle, visitors are greeted by three canvas works that reach almost to the ceiling and have only minimal, nearly white surfaces. The artist placed the untreated canvases in the sun with only individual geometric areas exposed to light. After several weeks, the bleaching power of the sun left a delicate but distinct image on the canvas: compositionally controlled by the artist but created by the decomposing energy of sunlight. Von Monkiewitsch reverses the classical painting process: Something is not ‘applied’ to the canvas as in the conventional sense (i.e. paint), but rather something is ‘taken away’ (i.e. the natural colour of the canvas) – and this by the power of the sun. In this context, the artist also speaks of a process of exposure, a term generally applied to photography.

Von Monkiewitsch placed four sculptures in the main space of the Kunsthalle. For the first time, the artist is presenting sculptures composed of both material and immaterial elements. The sculptures reveal different materialities, such as large foam cuboids shrink-wrapped in plastic, a black MDF board, and a block of marble, which von Monkiewitsch stages/arranges together with light projections as elements on equal footing. Projectors are mounted under the ceiling and on the walls, casting the videos from the sunlight mostly as static surfaces directly onto the foam elements or MDF surfaces. Although the projection is usually aligned centrally with the sculptural bodies, it also touches surrounding surfaces such as the wall or the floor in a stepped manner. Planar and three-dimensional, material and immaterial, direct or indirect images of light create a complex, multi-layered installation in the space. Light seems to materialise, while analogue bodies seem to dissolve or appear virtual. Here, the bodies lie not only in the light, but in a certain way also in another time that repeatedly ‘passes’ over them, abducting them from the present moment.

Among these works in the main apace is also Restructure, consisting of a white marble cuboid lying on the floor, which is also ‘illuminated’ by a projector. In this case, the projected video is not static, but shows a movement of light, suggesting an incidence of light on a cloth swaying in the wind. Lightly and almost dance-like, the depicted light moves across the heavy marble, the original material of ancient sculptural art, transforming heaviness into playful lightness and the analogue into the digital.

In the back room of the Kunsthalle, the so-called ‘graphics cabinet’, von Monkiewitsch positioned a black molleton cloth on the wall, onto which a video depicting light (black out, 2021) is projected. The black fabric, however, seems to completely extinguish or neutralise the light, for only the video image areas overlapping the edge of the black cloth can actually be perceived as light, allowing flashes and incidents of light to flicker on the wall.

What is real, what is reproduced, what is extinguished, what is actually present, what is happening at this moment, and what merely repeats the past? With the ‘light works’ in her exhibition from different places at the Kunsthalle Bremerhaven, the artist confronts us with such philosophical questions – timeless and yet quite topical!

Johanna von Monkiewitsch (b. 1979 in Rome) lives and works in Cologne. Her works have been exhibited or are

currently on view at, among others, the Kunstverein Bochum (solo exhibition May/June 2021); the Kunstmuseum Bonn (presentation of the museum’s collection 2020–22); the Leopold-Hösch-Museum, Düren (beginning in September 2021); the Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; the Kunsthalle Bremerhaven (solo exhibition); the Photographisches Museum Braunschweig; AK Raum, Cologne (solo exhibition); Kunstraum Alexander-Bürkle, Freiburg; the Museum für Konkrete Kunst, Ingolstadt; Berthold Pott, Cologne; the Museo Ca’Rezzonico, Venice; and DAMA – Palazzo Saluzzo Paesana, Turin.