Sunday, March 29, 2009

Martin Borowski at Stellan Holm Gallery

Martin Borowski exhibition of new paintings at Stellan Holm Gallery March 7, through April 30, 2009.

Martin Borowski was born in Hoyerswerd, East Germany in 1970 and studied at the Dresden Academy of Fine Art. Somehow this seemed relevant to me in retrospect, an awareness of an artists roots in place and time,

My first impression of Mr Borowski's paintings evoked memories of Edward Hopper, not so much in their stylistic appearance, but in their quiet melancholy and stillness. The gallery press release uses the German word Sehnsucht, "that literally means "longing" or in a wider sense a kind of "intensely missing"

The photograph has changed representational painting, shifting it's focus towards a visual semiotic by allowing ones attention to subtly shift away from the capturing of a constantly shifting image. The image may be the same but the painter has the option to explore other structures and associations.

At the same time, the photograph is a cruel taskmaster with its insistent focus on "the correct detail of a single point reality." Painters know this isn't true and that they must "own" the photograph, if not, why bother?

I spoke with Martin Borowski at the exhibition opening, and he works with the painting images in Photoshop as a guide for the paintings. I do a similar thing, in a different way, and this "preprocessing" provides a visualization structure of the final image which leaves the painter free to just paint.

In this respect, Martin Borowski's paintings are deceptive. They are masterfully understated, with an attention to what detail is necessary and what is not, thus simplifying the image and honing its focus. This process of simplification abstracts the image creating a tension between the abstract structure and the representational space in the image, the paintings flicker between the two, shifting ones experiential focus.

However he starts on the paintings, they feel willed into existence using a brush masterfully guided with an absolute minimum of corrections. Again this is deceptive, it looks so right one accepts the painting as inevitable in its final state. There is a sense of Germanic 'control' in its execution, but it is as offhand as Velasquez in its directness of depiction.

Painting as Poetry

Borowski's paintings create their own world, a distillation of the artists memories and feelings at some point in time, hence my earlier reference to his youth in the GDR. His paintings have what I've always considered a Northern Germanic light, a cool grayish light, even in the summer. This chromatic paradigm establishes a certain psychological state, a distanced melancholy we pretend does not exist.

Each painting evokes a particular emotional or psychological state, one which is frequently incomplete in its resolution. It is ones sense of this missing element which evokes an inner response that longs for completion within the viewer.

There is a certain generic quality to Borowski's images, duplication of images, as well as extensive series such as Museum 11. In a way it is this generic quality which helps make his images universal, a brick is a brick. This creates a stage setting, Borowski's world, which the viewer can explor his own experience from the same stimulus. This is a form of poetry, this evoking of a psychological experience through images.

After some tens of thousands of years, we must ask ourselves why is it that man still makes paintings?

Martin Borowski
Landscape with Tent 2009
Oil on canvas
64" x 85.5" 168 x 217 cm


Martin Borowski
Oekohof 2009
Oil on canvas
77.5" x 161.5" 197 x 410 cm


Martin Borowski
American Academy 2 2008
Oil on canvas
51.25" x 74.75" 130 x 190 cm


Martin Borowski
Museum 11 2008
Oil on canvas
77.5" x 161.5" 197 x 410 cm


Martin Borowski
Abgrund 2008
Oil on canvas
51.25" x 74.75" 130 x 190 cm


Martin Borowski
Provence 2008
Oil on canvas
59" x 39.75" 150 x 100 cm


Martin Borowski
Pool 2008
Oil on canvas
77.5" x 119" 197 x 302 cm


Martin Borowski
Still Life 1 2008
Oil on canvas
18.75" x 23.75" 48 x 68 cm

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