Exhibition review: FREQUENCY by FANT WENGER
Venice | July 13 – August 01, 2021
ITSLIQUID Group, in collaboration with ACIT Venice – Italian-German Cultural Association, is proud to announce the great success of FREQUENCY, a solo exhibition by Fant Wenger that took place during FRAGMENTED IDENTITIES, second appointment of BORDERS ART FAIR 2021, held in Venice, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello from July 13 to August 01, 2021.
In Fant Wenger‘s paintings, nature and technology usually collide in a rugged and momentous way. Not only is the chosen spectrum of colours powerful, the artist also places railway wagons, telephone poles, parabolic antennas or even a satellite in the landscape. They are surrounded by trees with extensive branches and undergrowth. Powerful and often bare, they cross the pictorial space. The paintings show a distinct dynamism, which is intensified by the size of the canvases. Light plays an important role in Fant Wenger’s painting. He selectively dips individual elements into glistening light, which in various works spreads out over the entire picture surface, illuminating it supernaturally and running through the room like jack-o’-lanterns. Which sparks jump here and what is sent or received in this world full of riddles? No casual or linear connection can be read. The artist gives hints through the title, which can nourish suspicions, but without giving a real interpretation.
The works of art of Fant Wenger already give a hint after a short look that this artist masters his crafts very well. He does not leave any of his compositions to chance, but intensively deals with their meaning and implementation, until he finally manages to reproduce all his thoughts in a harmonious interplay on the canvas.
“It’s all about Frequency” – that is the imperative and seemingly programmatic title of a painting from the series of the same name by Fant Wenger. An extensive group of works has been created on this topic since 2016, which includes paintings as well as installations, performances and videos. In said painting, the artist interweaves elements that are characteristic of the whole series, above all the color scheme. The picture is covered by a light whose unreal red and partial yellow and white glazing seem unreal; blur edges and things dissolve. We look into a landscape that oscillates between Mediterranean beauty and abysmal wildness. The motif is reproduced in photographic realism, but the use of ambiguous perspectives and strange juxtapositions as well as this energetic colourfulness suggest an imagined or even dreamed reality.
Wenger uses the term frequency to locate his work in a scientific and technical world. Frequency means a periodically recurring event, something that is characterized by regular repetitions. The artist not only employs radios, parabolic antennas, transmission towers, high-voltage pylons, and televisions in his paintings and videos, they become the real topic in his audio installation “Locating Device” and finally to the room-filling installation “Reconnected 2020 Frequency”, which with its overgrown cabling makes everything localization and localization doomed to failure. The number of strips that Wenger uses for most of his paintings also appear technical. They give the images a hold down, and are based on the frequency bands that characterize old radio devices. Or are we just reading it because the title of the series draws us here? Isn’t it rather attempts to give these complex realities, in which the present and past become fluid, in which the levels are blurred and certainties cannot be offered, a supposedly scientific hold? What can be measured can be classified?
But what is the artist trying to measure or locate here? What messages are circulating, what is being sent or received in this world full of puzzles? Wenger condenses his themes in a pointed form in the video “Frequency”. Here the artist (his alter ego?) roams restlessly, searching for a landscape full of overgrowths, stubble fields and swaying fields of wheat. These sequences are interrupted by the fade-in of a flawless doll, which, wired to its receiving devices, receives its messages in silence. The whole thing is underlaid with music that changes from spherical to disturbing to threatening. What information, perhaps even certainties, the artist is chasing after, remains unclear; that the search will continue, seems certain.
In Wenger’s paintings, nature and technology sometimes collide rudely and with great consequences. A railroad car with a parabolic antenna penetrates the pictorial space in “The Message”. This is overgrown by trees with wide-reaching branches that penetrate the picture space powerfully and bare. The color mood appears at the end of the day, the artist contrasts the rust and orange tones with a poisonous green and turquoise. Dynamics and drama are even more exaggerated in “Radio Fire”; a powerful wave goes through this image that you almost seem to feel physically. It is especially the early works of this series that develop such a penetrating power, the color and light effects of which are so abysmally weather-lit.
Increasingly, however, this violently powerful takes a back seat. The track remains, the color, which lives from strong contrasts, remains as in “Satellite Receiver” or in which a dark purple meets an aggressive yellow. The mighty red becomes the warmth of the south, the track becomes shining (crazy) lights, the towering trees and cornfields envelop the figures in a protective manner, as in the painting “Hotel Paradise”. The pictures become softer, more cautious, they leave space for their protagonists and questions germinate for us as viewers to linger and lose in the depths of the picture and in the calm. Where does this magic come from, from which one cannot escape?
Perhaps it is not so much something magical that captivates us in these images, but rather a resonance of our own body; a response that the artist creates in us with his choice of colors. Warm, earthy red tones, a radiant yellow that is light to the point, contrasted with soft turquoise, shrill green or night-dark aubergine. Red, this energetic color, dominates almost all paintings, where it doesn’t, it’s a warm yellow. The artist does not use color to fill the form, rather it is created from light and color, however naturalistic the representation may be, the expression of the color overlays the physical form.
Wenger‘s paintings are characterized by their complexity on various levels. He makes use of unusual changes of perspective, he oscillates freely between exterior and interior spaces as if there were no borders, he composes his landscapes in such a way that they end in the bottomless. Orders of magnitude have hardly any relation to one another, they are in the service of the respective object. However, none of these breaks are imposed, they are natural and obvious, irritating in some places, but not disturbing. We have long been too entangled in these worlds as viewers. Realities and times merge, magical elements emerge, Wenger creates a kind of “third reality” in his works, in which he depicts a material world, but suggests hidden meanings. They are less dreams than interpretations of a complex world, fragmentary narratives of reality. And so the topic of frequency in the sense of repetition is related to archetypal experiences: memory, loss, belief in the future, destruction, hope. Much remains in suspense, but in an inspiring suspension that sounds like open spaces for thought, but does not provide any final answer.
All the technical equipment that the artist uses in his works, all these installations, machines, train wagons, antennas and equipment, they all seem to have fallen out of time, historical pieces of a bygone era. They are stacked, wired, too many to hear a single message. Wherever they appear individually, they seem robbed of their function, rushing to themselves, no one left to know how to operate them. The protagonists of his paintings, appearances from strange times, seem to be the only ones who know how to establish a connection. Perhaps Fant Wenger is even a romantic with French influences, who challenges the rational ideal of our time with his counter-drafts, who stages an effective world with emotional visions in which reason is deprived of its well-guarded soil.