Multigrade / Object
March 8 – April 15, 2018
Opening: Thursday, March 8, 2018, 7-9pm
as part of ________ in conversation with _________
#1 Katharina Wendler in conversation with Stefan Alber
KW: Tell us how you had the idea to work with umbrellas in the first place. You had mentioned briefly that everything started with a photograph.
SA: To be precise, it began with a photograph that I took in Hong Kong. I saw an umbrella merchant on the street and took a photo of an opened umbrella. Suddenly, this coloured circle was available to me as an image, fitted into the format of the photo, and it abstracted immediately – although the object, the umbrella, is very familiar and clearly discernible. It is not about garbling the photographed item; the photo shows too many details like the structure, the seams and the textile of the umbrella. In any case, I showed this photo in my first exhibition, titled “Umbrella”, at the HfBK in Hamburg. The photograph from Hong Kong became the lead image of the exhibition and was also part of the exhibition, however, developed and cambered on the stick of an umbrella, like a real one.
KW: So the motive was transformed from an object into a photograph and back into an object.
SA: Exactly. It is a fundamental motive that is reflexive, but also definable in different ways. I can name it clearly: “umbrella”, then it is about the umbrella. But I can also rename it and, for example, refer to the coloured circle, whereby the motive attains a different meaning in terms of art theory.
Concurrently, the motive has become a kind of stock photo – a small witty wordplay on the side [“Stock” meaning “stick” in German]. I have created a stock photo database, in which I collect images as this one that I can use and title repeatedly in new ways. The motive itself is varied only
KW: Does this mean you collect “model images” that stock photos essentially are, or better: prototypes?
SA: Right. The only variation consists in changing the perspective when taking the photograph or to reduce the colour values to black and white, but apart from that, I go with the geometry of the umbrella. With these images as starting points, I continually abstract, making image objects for which I pin large-format photos of the umbrellas to the wall and add elements of a real umbrella to it, such as a stick or a handle. So I point out time and again: It is indeed about an umbrella. It is what it is. We only encounter it in various stages of the alteration – be it as a real umbrella, be it as a reproduction, be it as an image object, be it as a sculpture.
curated by Katharina Wendler
translation (German to English): Kristina von Bülow
Dieter Roth & Karin Sander
September 18, 2016 – January 28, 2017
Opening: Sunday, September 18, 2016, 1-5 pm
The last exhibition in the Safn Berlin art space, which this time extends over two floors, presents two artists who have close ties with the collection. Both Karin Sander and Dieter Roth spent a lot of time in Iceland, leaving their mark on the country's artistic landscape through co-operations with Icelandic artists and curators, through their commitment to Iceland's Academy of the Arts, and not least through their friendship, extending over many years, with Pétur Arason and Ragna Róbertsdóttir.
Karin Sander (born in 1957) came to Iceland for the first time at the invitation of Pétur Arason and Ingólfur Arnasson, since when she has exhibited in a number of the country's institutions and project spaces. Karin Sander works in a range of media and materials, spaces and situations, each of which provides a starting point for her artistic deliberations. Sometimes her interventions are on a large scale, architectural in dimension. Sometimes her modifications are almost imperceptible as she integrates into her work the activities of exhibition visitors, natural influences, or temporal processes such as the journey of a Mailed Painting or the accumulated tarnish on a Patina Painting.
Dieter Roth (1930-1998) moved to Reykjavik in 1957 and became an important figure in the local art scene. From the beginning of his creative life, Roth worked in a wide range of media, to include drawing, painting, sculpture, film and music. In addition, he was active as a writer and publisher, producing more than 200 books on a vast range of topics, to include volumes of poetry, novels, theoretical pamphlets, children's books, and diaries. The Safn collection includes a large portion of Roth's artists' books, created in particular from the 1960s onwards, as well as numerous prints, vinyl records, drawings and art objects.
The Mixed Media exhibition presents a selection of works by both artists from the Safn collection as well as more recent works by Karin Sander. The latter include an artist's book recently published by the Salon Verlag publishing house in Cologne, in its ex libris series – directly based on Dieter Roth's Kinderbuch [Children's Book], published in 1957 in his own forlag ed publishing house in Reykjavik.
However different their work may appear at first sight, one thing both artists have in common is their use of everyday materials not normally associated with artistic creativity – for instance a slice of sausage in Roth's Kleiner Sonnenuntergang [Small Sunset] (1972) or Sander's polished hen's egg (1994). Another shared interest is participatory art: processes, materials, performative actions, and the observer's own perceptions are all directly integrated into their works of art.
But whereas Roth's art always betrays a penchant for self-presentation, one may search Sander's works in vain for privatist propensities. Roth, who declared his entire life to be a work of art and whose creative production, in particular after 1965, was based on the principle of copiousness, stands in this respect in direct contrast to Sander, the strength and impact of whose art is characterised by precise, purposeful intervention. The profusion apparent in Dieter Roth's work is also particularly evident in this exhibition, in contrast to which Karin Sander's art creates an orderly frame of reference without sacrificing idiosyncrasy and perspicacity. Both positions represent a concept of art marked by a tireless search for new discoveries and new beginnings.
text / curated by Katharina Wendler
translation (German to English): Stephen Richards
Visiology / Methodology
Bjarni H. Thorarinsson & Hanne Darboven
March 18 – July 17, 2016
Opening: March 17, 2016, 6-9 pm
"You do not have to be literate to enjoy my pictures. One Visio-Rose is like nuclear fusion; writing, linguistics, imagery and sound, some with a clear meaning and others with less clear meaning. This is like a small glossary, and I play with language”, says artist BJARNI H. THORARINSSON (b. 1947) in an interview from 1997, a decade after he began creating a personal philosophical universe, which has occupied him since. His original intention was to come to a better understanding of forms and their composition. He soon began to explore form by using sound, language and concepts as constituents for building a panoptic system. The oldest products of this discipline are his Visio-Rose (Rose of Wisdom) drawings, hundreds of mandalas, reminiscent of ancient magic symbols. In his drawings, he plays with the rhyming of self-invented words and with the ways language can be portrayed visually. He develops and identifies keys to linguistic forms by using a taxonomic system for his new words, resulting in new texts comprising strong rhythmic components, aligned to phonetic poetry. Thorarinsson has systematized his research, as a whole system of thought; Visiology. This field of research forms the beginning of an academic discipline collected in the Visio-Academy. As dean of the Visio-Academy, with his findings performatively mediated through his Visio-Congresses, he refers to himself as a Visio-Congressman.
The faculties of the Visio-Academy are: Visio-Mannerism, Bend-Philosophy, Visio-Manuscriptology, Visio-Literature, Visio-Linguistics, Visio-Explanatory Studies, Visio-Formalizing Studies, Visio-Patternology, Visio-Symbolism, Visual Constructive Poetry-Donnets and Visio-Biology.
In a recent interview, thirty years after he received access to his Bend-Visio Da-Visio secret code, Thorarinsson states; “My Visio-Academy has become a volcano and will erupt at any moment.”
Bjarni H. Thorarinsson Studied Fine Arts at the Icelandic School of Arts & Crafts (1973-77) and at Jan van Eyck Academy of Fine Arts in Maastricht, Netherlands (1974-75). He has since then been occupied with many art forms, such as drawing, performance and ojperas. His works have been presented at all major art museums in Iceland, and widely in Europe.
In a separate room, Safn Berlin presents “Welttheater” (theatre of the world, 1979), a single work by German Conceptual artist HANNE DARBOVEN (1941-2009). On 366 plates, Darboven systematically portrayed little objects and figurines, each of them placed on their own individual theatre stage.
text / curated by Birta Gudjonsdottir and Katharina Wendler
translation (English to German): Katharina Wendler
Alan Johnston & Stanley Brouwn
September 25, 2015 – January 30, 2016
Opening: September 24, 2015, 6-9 pm
ALAN JOHNSTON (b. 1945, Edinburgh, Scotland) is considered one of the leading British geometric abstract artists. He is best known for his large-scale wall and ceiling drawings and architectural interventions. His subtle pencil works are characterized by a rigorous minimalistic style and a tendency towards the invisible, or, as the artist puts it, an “ever-present engagement with the creation of shadow."
The exhibition Invisible Lines at Safn Berlin will feature several wall drawings as well as a number of small scale paintings. The wall drawings take the form of short irregular pencil marks, closely interwoven to form geometric shapes. These delicate shapes, although hardly recognizable, are prompted by the walls around them, heightening our awareness of the architecture. The exhibition space undergoes a mundane, yet powerful and almost magical act of transformation.
This effect extends to the smaller works, which consist of wood or canvas on which heavy beeswax and pencil lead is applied. Often these works are constructed with a similar attention to space and/or negative space, while at the same time containing a much higher density of black in contrast to the muted wall works.
Johnston’s installations create an active relationship between the observer and the work which somehow lies between the visible and the invisible, the optical and the physical. His works are undoubtedly demanding on the viewer, bringing into play the complex connection between mind and eye.
Alan Johnston lives and works in Edinburgh. He has taken part in numerous exhibitions and biennials; solo exhibitions include Tate Britain (London, UK), Henry Moore Institute (Leeds, UK), Sleeper (Edinburgh, UK), U8 (Nagoya, JP), New Bedford Art Museum (New Bedford, USA), Arts Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory (Tbilisi, GA), Museum of Fine Art Houston (Texas, USA), Haus Wittgenstein (Vienna, AU), The Living Art Museum (Reykjavik, IS), Museum of Modern Art (Oxford, UK), Von der Heydt Museum (Wuppertal, DE), Shimada Gallery (Yamaguchi/Tokyo, JP).
Safn Berlin is also featuring one piece and a selection of books by Dutch conceptual artist STANLEY BROUWN (b. 1935, Paramaribo, Suriname). In his work Brouwn deals with distances, measurements, and spaces between two points, persons, or places. The results are delicate drawings, text works, and artist books which oscillate between the visible and the invisible - yet again.
text / curated by Katharina Wendler
Notions of Time
Hreinn Friðfinnsson & Roman Signer
March 20 – July 25, 2015
Opening: March 19, 2015, 6-9 pm
“Time, or notions of time, are always compelling. I read what comes my way about physics and mathematics, but I read as one who’s uninitiated. It’s very difficult to get your mind around these concepts, but it is possible to read about them with fascination. My interest in the essence of time is serious, but my dealing with time is not knowledge-based; it’s more exploratory and feeling-based." (H.F. 2007)
HREINN FRIðFINNSSON (b. 1943, Dalir, Iceland, lives and works in Amsterdam since 1971) is considered one of Iceland’s leading conceptual artists.
His works consist mostly of mundane and familiar everyday objects and materials. In rearranging, combining or transforming these seemingly insignificant materials, Friðfinnsson identifies and activates their conceptual potential. Through minimal interventions he reveals the poetic dimensions within the already existing.
Friðfinnsson’s art is rooted in his memories and experiences of his homeland, oftentimes echoing aspects of its nature and its lyricism, its legends, rumors, secrets, and dreams. The use of narrative and storytelling is combined with a stark, minimalistic and unobtrusive visual language. Friðfinnsson works within a wide range of media such as photography and text, drawing, painting, installation, and in the last a few years video and film. All works seem to be linked by a common sensibility which leads one to contemplate the possibility of discovering something extraordinary within each work. It is precisely this durational approach to looking, thinking and experiencing with which Friðfinnsson is engaged – time seems to be standing still for just one moment…
Time can be considered one of the central themes within Friðfinnsson practice. It seems that his individual approach to, or rather understanding of time is the starting point for many of his undertakings. The artist reflects on subjective and intuitive notions of time within the contexts of physics and astronomy and is not afraid to touch upon the essential questions of life. Hreinn Friðfinnsson experiments with the possibility of parallel constructs of time and intersections between them. In his art works he visualizes time leaps and accelerates or decelerates temporal processes, thus questioning the concept of linearity.
Friðfinnsson’s works often appear as excerpts from an overarching story line or as little episodes of everyday life. They are characterized by a captivating serenity and intriguing calmness which makes them stand out amid the flood of images that we are confronted with every day.
In a separate room, Safn Berlin presents works by Swiss artist ROMAN SIGNER (b. 1938, Appenzell, Switzerland, lives and works in St. Gallen). Time, as in process, change, and transformation, is an essential part of Signer’s art works:
“I prefer to use the term ‘events’ to characterize my work. Something has happened, and is now simply there, as evidence – evidence of a force that exerted itself in the space. Always in my work something is going to happen, is happening or has happened. Or could happen.” (R.S. 1984)
text / curated by Katharina Wendler
Cause and Consequence
Kristján Gudmundsson & Donald Judd
September 12, 2014 – January 21, 2015
Opening: September 11, 2014, 6-9 pm
"I am trying to work within the field of tension that exists between nothing and something." (KG)
KRISTJAN GUDMUNDSSON is considered one of Iceland’s most well-known contemporary artists. A pioneer of Icelandic conceptual art, he played a vital role in the short-lived but enormously influential avant-garde movement called SÚM, which radically challenged and ultimately transformed the understanding of art-making in Iceland in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His artworks can be described as minimalist or conceptual, concise and clear. They explore issues of time, nature, and art in a very direct and often humorous or playful way.
The exhibition at Safn Berlin introduces early works by the artist that can be considered milestones in Guðmundsson’s career and his overall understanding of art and material. Part of the exhibition title refers to a work series from the 1970s, “Cause and Consequence”, in which Guðmundsson went through numerous possibilities of cause and consequence within geometric line structures.
Also in the 70s, the artist began to experiment with drawing, although he did not do so in the conventional sense. By expanding his drawings to the three-dimensional, he pushed the limits of the medium while at the same time denying its decisive two-dimensional quality. The act of drawing was replaced by arranging industrially produced materials, such as pencil leads and entire rolls of paper. Guðmundsson’s drawings, or his "lines and objects", were independent of the paper or any other surface and became their own inherent support.
Also on display are various artist books, in which Guðmundsson refers to both natural and artistic phenomena, again within the context of the inevitable law of cause and consequence.
For the artist book “Punktar” (“Periods”, 1972), for example, Guðmundsson selected periods from a book of poems by Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness and enlarged them 1500 times. In doing so, the artist examines the concepts and imagery of “poetry” and literary principles of structure and process. Like many other early works by the artist, his books often have a strong reference to the literary culture of Iceland.
Kristján Guðmundsson was born 1941 in Snæfellsnes, Iceland. He lives and works in Reykjavik. Solo exhibitions include: National Gallery of Iceland (2009), Safn Reykjavik (2007), Reykjavik Art Museum (2001), Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft, Nürnberg (1994), Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (1993), Kunsthalle Rostock (1993), American Scandinavian Foundation, New York (1986); group exhibitions include: Boden Arts Center (2013), MOCA Los Angeles (2012), Haus der Kunst, München (2012), Reykjavik Art Museum (2011), Heidelberger Kunstverein (2008). He was the 2010 recipient of the Carnegie Art Award.
In a separate room, Safn Berlin presents another minimalist yet very different approach to drawing by artist DONALD JUDD (1928-1994, Missouri, USA), a pioneer of American Minimal Art. These drawings, which are dominated by variations of colourful and geometric patterns, are typical of the late work of the artist.
text / curated by Katharina Wendler
The Light of Day – Magma Works
Lawrence Weiner, Ragna Róbertsdóttir & Richard Long
March 14 – July 31, 2014
Opening: March 13, 2014, 6-9 pm
LAWRENCE WEINER (b. 1942, New York), a central figure in the conceptual art movement of the 1960s, is considered one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th century. He drastically challenged traditional assumptions about the status and nature of art by dematerializing objects and reducing art works to ideas and concepts. His works are mostly language-based and often take the form of descriptive, typographic texts. He composes works that describe process and material, often evoking a poetic vision which unfolds the viewer’s imagination. Weiner first came to Iceland in the early 1990s when invited by Pétur Arason and has spent a notable period of time of his life there, creating works that correspond to site-specific natural phenomena and processes.
RAGNA RÓBERTSDÓTTIR (b. 1945, Reykjavík) is among the most well-known and respected contemporary artists in Iceland. Her main topic is landscape, which she encounters in an unconventional, conceptual and minimalistic way. Her material ranges from natural resources such as mud, stones, and sand which she collects from the countryside in southern Iceland, to industrial materials such as glass and plastic. Directly applied onto the wall and therefore corresponding to the exhibition space, these works not only quote the place of their origin but create new imaginary abstract landscapes. Róbertsdóttir examines contrasting characteristics of landscape such as light vs. dark, chaos vs. order, plenitude vs. emptiness, and translates them into her works.
SAFN is the private collection of Pétur Arason (b. 1944, Reykjavík). From the early 1960s, when he started collecting art works, he was interested in both Icelandic and international art which followed a conceptual and/or minimalistic approach. In 1987 he founded his first gallery called 2nd floor together with the Icelandic artist Ingólfur Arnarsson in Reykjavík, to which he invited artists to create works in situ. Since 2007 Arason runs his space Safn (Icelandic for collection) in Reykjavík, exhibiting art works from the collection. Starting in Spring 2014, Safn Berlin will serve as a new platform for both Icelandic and international artists and aims to introduce the collection to a broader audience.
Safn consists of more than 1200 art works, including pieces by Carl Andre, Birgir Andresson, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Stanley Brouwn, Alan Charlton, Olafur Eliasson, Dan Flavin, Seal Floyer, Hreinn Fridfinnsson, Hamish Fulton, Franz Graf, Katharina Grosse, Kristjan Gudmundsson, Sigurdur Gudmundsson, Roni Horn, Alan Johnston, Donald Judd, Ilya Kabakov, Ragnar Kjartansson, Richard Long, Sara Lucas, Max Neuhaus, Ragna Róbertsdóttir, Dieter Roth, Karin Sander, Roman Signer, Richard Tuttle, Günter Umberg, Gillian Wearing, Lawrence Weiner, and others.
The Light of Day – Magma Works is curated by / text by Katharina Wendler