March 09 till April 14, 2012

The fact that a glance through the front window of a young contemporary art gallery is met with the image of the prehistoric bird Archaeopteryx – a painted one in fact, rendered on a 200 x 170 cm canvas – would certainly take even the seasoned art flaneur by surprise. After all, doesn’t the majority of the most current contemporary art we are confronted with present us with conceptually-minded attempts at “art about art,” in other words more or less visually translated, pre-devised cross-media references or network constructions that only ever seem to comment on themselves?Moving beyond the discourse of “Painting Beside Itself” (David Joselit) or “Expanded Painting,” Kim Nekarda’s recent paintings of a famous fossil, a jellyfish or other underwater creatures – which shift between representation and abstraction – look beyond the art industry and open windows, so to speak, to “another” world, to larger contexts that are just as real and grounded in the physical world, even if we are unable to see them directly and cannot grasp them in any immediate way. He confronts us, in a certain sense, with our own blindness towards such phenomena. So the exhibition title does not point to a supernatural, surreal sphere, but rather to the wondrous impressions that our world itself has to offer, wonders that are often known and accessible only to specialists such as paleontologists and marine biologists.

Kim Nekarda culls his subject matter from reading, from his immersion into such visually powerful literature as that of Herman Melville, Victor Segalen, W.G. Sebald or current research literature, historical expedition reports and diaries. Nekarda knows exactly why he paints and why he paints any specific subject matter. He is well aware of the risk of representational imagery and completely lucid when it comes to his actions. He is also not interested in a superficial treatment of any visually appealing subject matter, nor any especially “exotic” subject; his interest lies rather in the unique capacities and abilities of the creatures he represents, as well as their mythical connotations. Parallel to reading Nekarda also develops own text works, works in which he very consciously allows his own thoughts to merge and melt with those that are “external”.The painter also manifests this “merging“ in his paintings, which – like a false bottom – almost always take their cue from a life-sized imprint of his own body, which appears to varying degrees of clarity through the layers of paint on the later “finished” paintings. Thus, even before Nekarda has meticulously rendered the representational image on canvas using found photographs, he engages in an act that might be characterized as a ritual in which he places his own naked body on the unprimed, wrinkle-crossed canvas, either to leave with paint an impression or by spraying around himself a negative. The result of this in a certain sense experimental and process-based contact with the canvas could be seen, after Georges Didi-Huberman, as a “critique of classical representation – though it is one that strikes out a fundamentally different path than the one set out by abstraction, since rather than turn away from the object represented, from ‘the real,’ the image radically turns towards it” (see “Ähnlichkeit und Berührung”, Cologne 1999).

Thus another level comes into play, a „surreal“ tendency that results in something reminiscent of cave paintings, perhaps even Robert Rauschenberg’s and Susan Weil’s “Blueprint Portfolio”, Jasper Johns’ “Study for Skin“, “Diver“ or – transposed into the three-dimensional, his “Target with Plaster Casts“ or Paul Thek’s “Fishman“ – though it is one that points mostly to the artist’s longing for both, self-questioning and self-assurance. By signing his works with his own body, he is both, present and absent as an artist and as an author, but at the same time one who claims an „intertextuality“ with the creatures or scenarios painted either on top of or adjacent to his body imprint. He presents himself in a broader context and illustrates his view that man is only an animal among animals, the product of billions of years of and ongoing evolution.The fact that Nekarda’s previously-mentioned painting depicts the Archaeopteryx’s body as almost congruent to that of his own is certainly amusing. Because these days, without a certain humor-laced pathos, the work of an artist who understands „art as a vehicle for understanding and deciphering the world“ could easily come up as unbearably didactic or even „missionary“. In this case, however, the imagination almost begins to wander skyward when, for example, the age-old human dream of flying paradoxically re-appears in the image of a fossil or – spurred by the other works on view – starts to plunge into the water’s surface, as if to catch a glimpse of the cradle of all life in the crusty fossil shells or corals and, in so doing, the origins of man as well.

Barbara Buchmaier