Natalie Czech / Friederike Feldmann
KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin
September 1, 2019 – February 2, 2020
The double exhibition Natalie Czech / Friederike Feldmann brings together two artistic positions that deal specifically with pictorial and linguistic topics and question how meanings are created. The exhibition in the Maschinenhaus M2 at the KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art brings selected series of the two artists’ works into a dialogical context. In her conceptual photographs, Natalie Czech develops new meanings in the aesthetic interweaving of different levels of text and image. The artist examines the interaction between linguistic and visual information and uncovers poetic potential. In the series Poems by Repetition (since 2017), Czech doubles or multiplies photographed objects and rearranges them, in some cases divided into individual segments. By repeating relevant parts of sentences and words, highlighting them in colour, or covering unimportant elements, she reveals minimalist poems-for example, in the lyrics of Beatles songs.
For the series Poet’s Questions (2018/19), inscriptions on objects provide the necessary repertoire of letters to form anagrams. By recomposing the letters with Scrabble tiles, for example, Czech reconstructs poetic questions that she has previously found in works by contemporary poets. The respective substrate-a stack of copy paper, a vinyl record, or a kitchen knife-in turn embeds these in completely new contexts. For instance, the artist responds to Gilbert O’Sullivan’s album title “I’m a writer. Not a fighter” in A poet’s question by Charles Olson (2019) with his open question “What if I am more, am I”- thus opening up a multilayered range of meanings. For the series Negative Calligrammes (2018), the artist invited international authors to write a text in the first person-though they had to strictly adhere to a drawing that was blocked off on the document as an intermediate space and could not be written on. The text had to adapt precisely to these specifications and thus paraphrase the drawing. With her series of double projections Cigarette ends (2019), Natalie Czech is presenting her latest work at the KINDL.
She combines literary and pictorial strategies in large-scale photographs by shaping the brand names of smoked, variously arranged cigarette butts into visually readable “minimal poems”. Friederike Feldmann’s paintings and drawings, which look like manuscripts, cannot be read literally, even though it initially seems as if individual letters can be deciphered: on closer examination, the powerful lines and sweeping arcs, which are based on the Latin script, prove to be abstract strings of symbols without a standardised system of reference. In her works entitled Schreiben vom… (2010 – 11), Feldmann condenses the sequence of graphic symbols into compositions that fill entire sheets of paper and look like handwritten letters. The addition of a particular date reinforces the impression of looking at a complete text in the artist’s own handwriting. By contrast, the cloudy arcs and flourishes in the 2012 series lyrics recall old manuscripts from the Baroque period up to the 19th century.
The characteristic ornaments in the writing refer to the oscillation between (supposedly) fixed language and beautifully designed illustration. The varying density and accumulation of bundles of lines cause individual works to take on almost figurative characteristics and negotiate questions on the relationship between pictures and written characters or handwriting transformed into pictures. In the ink drawing entitled Dürer (2019), this idea is further deepened due to the fact that the artist moves Albrecht Dürer’s signature from the edge of the picture to the centre. Feldmann’s series oneliner (2014–19), in which the strings of characters are applied to the paper in a single stroke, clearly reflects the fact that the characters are not intended to reproduce readable information.
Rather, they refer to the various gestural strokes as a form of expression, with which the mechanisms of seeing and deciphering are visualised per se. Friederike Feldmann creates a striking accent with her site-specific ceiling painting Headlines (2019), which she realised in collaboration with Manuel Kirsch. The colourful strings of characters seem to move over and under each other like individually written-on, enormous sheets of paper. The exhibition is curated by Andreas Fiedler.