Comprising the Dutchman’s painterly tradition-inspired oil renditions of what feels like contemporary renaissance, and the Slovenian’s humorous yet overpolished commentary on contemporary culture, the exhibition constructs a web between street culture, alternative lifestyles, fashion, and fine arts.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the rapidly developing industrialization and the increasing detachment from our natural origins had prompted the development of Romanticism, the glorification of the past, and the urge to discover and appreciate beauty in its purest forms. Two centuries later, during which we’ve moved further than imaginable from being in coexistence with each other or the ecosystem we’re part of, Möhlmann is pursuing the search for beauty without a grain of cynicism. Driven by the passionate love for the traditional figurative painting and the materiality of the paint itself, the Swiss-based artist is discovering and documenting such beauty everywhere from brand logos, fashion, to fellow humans. Fully seizing the opportunity to construct his own version of reality, he is often pushing his impressions of the contemporary world beyond the rectangular format of the canvas. Influenced by his youth as a skateboarder/punk, as well as masterly oeuvres by the likes of Van Dyke, Rubens, Gainsborough, Velasquez, Tizian, Tintoreto, Carvaggio, etc, the 21st century vistas are somehow warped back in time of intense light settings, evocative expressions, theatrical compositions, and the monumental, divine-like ambiance. Such informed interest in both classical and popular culture extend his search for references all the way to Georges Remi’s iconic Tintin (The Aair, 2021), André Franquin’s Guston (This, 2022), or skateboard graphic (One Rises To Meet The Challenge, 2021), while paying homage to personal heroes and friends such as Virgil Abloh (The Aair, 2021), real-life experiences, and internal jokes (One Does One’s Best, 2021). Transformed into timeless oil paintings that eortlessly blend comics’ pathos, Roland Emmerich’s atmosphere of impending cataclysm, or the social media-imposed shifts of personalities, the works are speaking of the fashionable and stylish existence in the age of apocalypse.
And this same fashionable and stylish existence happens to be the core of Êopi GoriÊek’s oeuvre in which he creates hyperbolized homages to modern-day heroes, items, and surroundings, while providing a subtle critique to the actual value of those seemingly important aspects of life. So, while Möhlmann is sincerely glorifying and romanticising the beauty that exists all around us, the Berlin-based artist is providing a punchy commentary about the way our lives have been stranded, driven by our obsession with appearance and aesthetics. Reducing the human appeal of his sitters to stickman-like grins, his portraits are exaggerating the material things we associate with value to caricature-like plasticity by adding unnatural shine and sense of glamour to clothing, furniture, etc. Employing the indirect painting technique that is airbrush and the associated lifeless hues of acrylics, the images are transforming his muses into otherworldly beings sporting universally popular brands and outfits. And while the depiction of these shiny surfaces and branded patterns feels like a most prominent component of his visual cocktail, it’s the attitude and the trendiness that are the key ingredient for the artist. Permeated with personally important clues, nods, and homages to people, brands, or activities that Êopi GoriÊek grew up with, they are subtly putting forward the appreciation for the work by favorite fashion designers (Forever, 2022), love for the skateboarding scene and/or hip-hop culture (No Complaints, 2022), or the importance of style and fashion during the careless teen years (Survivor, Mystery Man, both 2022).
And just as the robust concrete of brutalism imposes self-confidence and a clearly artificial and dehumanized sense of utopia, these two individuals raised in the urban jungle and on the concrete surface of skateparks are now recognizing the beauty and the self-confidence oozing from our stylish existence in the world that is epochally falling apart.
Text written by Sasha Bogojev