Future Tense Of The Past, Barbé-Urbain, Gent.
Barbé-Urbain in Ghent is currently showing the exhibition "Future Tense of the Past" (until 7 March). It exhibits the work of three female artists: Nokukhanya Langa, Almudena Lobera and Ellen Pil. All three of them make use of elements from the past while, the same time, they seem to be referring to the future. Together, their work is being described as a time machine that travels through space and time.
Nokukhanya Langa, You've gone mad, 2021, Barbé-Urbain.
Nokukhanya Langa: "I work with abstraction because it is about the loss of the image, about losing the world and trying to construct it in another way."
Langa was born in Maryland (USA) and lived in South Africa and India for a while. She currently divides her time between Groningen - where she graduated cum laude from the Frank Mohr Institute - and Ghent, where completed a residency at the Hoger Instituut Voor Schone Kunsten (Higher Institute for Fine Arts). In her art practice, which sometimes seems to overlap with conceptual art, she reconciles the plurality of her personal story with different political and cultural histories and (time) perspectives. She is always looking for new ways to get a grip on that by means of an exploration of figuration and abstraction. Langa: “For me it functions as a denial of representation, which constantly leads to the unknown, from where it takes shape again in a sense. When I start on a painting, I have no specific idea in mind, other than that I'm going to make a painting. The steps I take - drawing, etching, painting and then drawing again - are ways I can focus on how my hands work and how they know how to paint, but also leave room for surprises.” Yet her work is not completely abstract and sometimes her paintings read like a puzzle; you see graffiti tags, smiley faces, cartoon-like eyes, signs and drawings that seem to have been made by cavemen. Sometimes she also uses larger format texts, which often refer to her personal experience. For example, on one of her works she wrote “This gallerist wants me to be another gallerist's artist”. During Art Rotterdam 2020, she gave a performance in which she cut the hair of fair visitors, complete with a certificate. She also breaks with traditional conventions within the medium of painting when it comes to form and technique; in a process that is not always easy to trace when you look at her work. Langa: “I sometimes draw, etch, or paint whatever drifts into my mind, often making it an intuitive process. I counterpose these abstractions with more pointed gestures – whether critical, humorous, or questioning – by working in an open and lucid manner. As such, they become carriers through which private histories, political and cultural undertones, allegories, subversive narratives, and humour reveal themselves.” She has referred to her work as being Soft Political Abstract Art, but the preconditions for this genre have not yet been finalised, which offers substantive scope for the future. Her work has been included in various collections, including that of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Almudena Lobera, Non-Volatile Memory, Barbé-Urbain.
Almudena Lobera: “I think that art has to generate questions. As Quantum Physics explains about perception and reality, by the mere fact of observing something, you are already modifying it; each one with their perceptual experience is creating their reality. In this way, the exhibited work is hopelessly destined to be completed by the viewer. I try to emphasize this fact. I try that the work elicits both a reading and a real experience with it, whether physical or mental.”
Human perception plays a central role in Lobera's work, especially the ways in which perception relates to political, economic and socio-cultural structures. What codes and hierarchies underly these concepts? Her practice based on a series of trinities. For example, the combination of the Renaissance, analog photography and virtual reality - important themes within her work - but also space, time and subject/body. She also focuses on the aspects that are not visible, that the eye cannot perceive. “My work questions the nature of the image (not always visible) and the place of the observer in various fields and from various formalizations. I consider the space-work-spectator experience as an essential question of my practice.” Her work is conceptual in nature. For example, for an earlier work, she was inspired by a self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer from 1498. A series of fingerprints from the painter were found on the work, which is hung in the famous Prado Museum in Madrid. Dürer made use of his fingers to perfect the ways in which the hands are portrayed on the work. Lobera enlisted the help of a ceramicist, who made a 3D sculpture of the hands, that included existing distortions that were created by the perspective in the painting. Lobera then took a photo in which she touched the sculpture, which she subsequently printed on a microfiber cloth, that is usually used to clean camera lenses. In doing so, she refers to digital photography while connecting the Renaissance to the present, in which fleeting and virtual images often take center stage. She adds an extraordinarily personal element to this. She uses her work to propose new ways of understanding the world around us: our relationship with images and the visible, but also the changing standard logic of exhibition spaces. For another project she asked visitors if they wanted to become the wearer of a tattoo that she designed. Lobera studied art history and research in Madrid and Berlin and has completed several residencies at the UCL Slade School of Fine Art in London, the Hoger Instituut Voor Schone Kunsten in Ghent, Les Récollets in Paris and the FAAP in São Paulo, among others. In 2011 she collaborated with the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, where she taught in the summer of 2011.
Ellen Pil, The Adventures of Self-preservation Mundane and routine task, 2021, Barbé-Urbain.
Ellen Pil graduated in art history at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. She specialised in painting, but refuses to be defined by that narrow medium. She often makes animations and installations that collectively add up to being a world on their own, that her paintings subsequently become a part of. She also describes herself as an archaeologist and inventor, which means that you as a viewer are also invited to look at her work from a broader perspective. She connects digital archives with a distinctively analogue way of working: painting. She also uses industrial materials such as spray paint. In the exhibition you will see sculptures by Pil that most resemble minimalist printers, reduced to their bare essence, in which sheets seem to spit each other out (or swallow?), depending on your perspective. These sculptures are part of the series "The adventures of self-preservation: everyday and routine tasks". Through these works, pill tries to convey how we as a society strive for perfection by endlessly manipulating and reproducing processes.