On show from 10 April to 18 August 2019, the exhibition ‘BEYOND’ features works by seven international artists in the Olbricht Collection, who use their respective art forms to explore the subject of the afterlife. Each artist fills a separate space with art in their chosen media, ranging from painting, sculpture, video, installation to printmaking.
As a kind of vague assumption, sinister threat, or blissful reward, the idea of the ‘afterlife’ has gripped mankind since the beginning of time. Religious promises of salvation, manifested psychosis, and ominous memento mori conjure a nebulous concept of the ‘beyond’. While the depiction of agony and death evokes the transience of earthly life, mythical illusory worlds oscillate between the here and the there, catastrophe and dream-like beauty, the material world and the hereafter. The ‘other side’ is also invariably always much farther removed than that casual phrase may make it sound, something illusively much greater than ourselves that is there to be attained, understood, and discovered.
As early as 1810, Francisco de Goya, the prophet of modernism, captured on paper the Disasters of War – memento mori born of cruel experience. This series subsequently serves as the blueprint for British brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman’s contemporary dystopias, which are populated by dismembered body parts, mutants, and Nazis. In the mystical, theatrical paintings of Berlin artist Jonas Burgert, the figures move in front of a membrane of cultural symbols and archaic patterns that seem to come down to us from another dimension. They lure the viewer in, yet also appear to be seeking a way out for themselves. The installation by the artists’ collective FORT brings illusions to life as if from a fever dream, leaving the question of illusion and reality unanswered. In their video works, Swedish artists Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg thematises social ills as a kind of nightmare; at once traumatizing and humorous, they question the mental health of both perpetrator and victim. The portraits by renowned American painter George Condo speak of a completely different afterlife: a mental, psychotic state of inner conflict with grotesquely distorted characters that seem to be crying out to the viewer. Belgian conceptual artist Kris Martin strikes a softer note with his finely tuned memento mori aimed at the collective cultural memory. Serving as an overall counterpoint is his monumental sword, whose deadly message is taken to a point of absurdity through the sculpture’s sheer size.