During my residency at Gleis70, I produced a group of new paintings. They were from different series, but all dealt with the relationship between picture-making and contemporary social/cultural conditions.
Two paintings from “Free Enterprise Painting” series were completed during the residency. This series appropriates abstract painting by contemporary painters, and reproduce them in order to examine the relationship between painterly gestures and financialized economy. Today, generic, gestural abstract painting derived from Abstract Expressionism are ubiquitous. The position of inoffensive landscape paintings that adorned the walls of the 19th century bourgeoisie is occupied by these generic abstract paintings. Every year, several young painters are propelled to fame with their derivative and rather forgettable abstract paintings, only to be replaced and discarded a few years later.
The popularity of gestural abstraction prompted me to ask whether there is a correlation between the painterly gesture and the speculative financial market. In other word, if the players in the unpredictable and deregulated financial market who often work instinctively and make irrational decisions see images of themselves in messy and usually quickly produced gestural abstract paintings.
This hypothesis is reflected on the title of the series, “Free Enterprise Painting”. It is taken from Nelson Rockefeller’s comment on Jackson Pollock. During his involvement with the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a CIA-funded cultural organization that promoted Abstract Expressionism as a propaganda tool against Soviet Union and its Socialist Realist art, Rockefeller described Pollock’s paintings as “free enterprise painting”. I took this expression as an apt term testifying to the affinity between gestural abstraction and financialization of society.
By reproducing these paintings using the painstaking and excruciatingly slow process of 4-layered Plexiglas technique, I reproduce these speedily produced painting in super slow motion.
I also worked on a new series called “Accommodations”. The image of private home, especially that of a bourgeois interior, has been one of the most common motifs in western painting. From Dutch Golden Age painting to modern masters such as Matisse and Lichtenstein, painted images of interiors represented the lives of (usually well-to-do) people of the era, their aesthetic preferences and the temperament of that age in general.
From its outset, as its development coincided with the advance of the bourgeoisie class, an image of interiors implied privacy, security, comfort, inner life, seclusion, etc., in short the cherished private realm.
However, in today’s digital economy and culture, a picture of an interior has a totally different, in fact a polar opposite meaning from the traditional painting motif. In an age where so many of us sublet our apartment, and literally billions of images of people’s accommodation flood the public space of the internet, the images of interiors signal public availability, flexible economy, insecure housing situation of (especially young) people. In the contemporary digital visual culture, the image of one’s home is one of the most public images. It symbolizes the loss of privacy.
The image of interior still looks more or less the same as they did in historical paintings, but their meaning is now inside-out.
The appropriated generic abstract paintings of “Free Enterprise Painting” series comfortably belong to this no-longer-private interior.
During the residency, I had a solo show at Kiosk Tabak in Zurich in October. In this show, I exhibited three paintings from my “Portrait” series, which explores the network and social constellations necessary for artists to operate.
Furthermore, I had an exhibition at Anna, a project space in Vienna, where I showed works produced in Zurich.