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Observation of Nature

Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin
June 26 - July 30, 2011

A catalogue has been published.

Observation of Nature, by Thomas W. Kuhn

"Hybrid creatures populate the new paintings by Angelika Trojnarski. They are architectures of movement, which are prominently staged in exterior and interior spaces. Mounted on stilts, it is uncertain as to whether or not they are being built or demolished. There is something unfinished and incomplete about these vehicles, which should otherwise exemplify the three major spheres of modern human action: land, water and air.

Missing its tires, an elevated tractor Schwarz looks heavy enough to collapse its seemingly fragile, roughly hewn support. Its presence evokes a powerful animal that might release its energy at any time, like a frenzied rhinoceros in a zoo. A ship Rot appears to be resting in the dry dock of a boatyard. Planks of wood or another flexible material form an exoskeleton that partly covers the ship's metallic-like hull. They seem to bind the vessel like a corset, stabilizing below the points from which above, the superstructures dissipate into the fog or beneath camouflaging paint. The super- structures themselves are not so much those of a freighter than of a war ship. An inadequate number of stilts beneath the bow suggest an instability that stands in contrast to the ship's massively constructed body, powerful like that of a whale.

Migration and Weiß (Wolpertinger) are hybrid creatures. Migration depicts a wooden construction, reminiscent of a shantytown shack, atop a boat. Weiß (Wolpertinger) looks like a double-decker bus that has been merged with a hut. While the boat threatens to capsize with its daring addition, the bus seems to be successful in its new state, transformed into an improvised living quarters. The painting Zeppelin leaves open to question whether or not its gondola has yet to be attached to the somewhat asymmetrical, cylindrical body hovering in the air, or if this has torn off and plummeted to the ground. In both variations, the majestic effect achieved by the deliberate gliding seems fitting to the floating architecture.
An airplane, on the other hand, such as the one depicted in Fahl, seems like a projectile waiting to be launched at its target.

Two-piece installation, Buttermilk on glass & used wood, 350 x 520 x 40 cm, 2011

In dystopian science fiction films, Trojnarski's vehicles could serve as transportation; in their performance on the stage of the painting, their effect is unequivocally symbolic. Generally free from a narrative or other ornamental context, they are like an emblem, an allegory for an idea that has yet to be discovered. The painting series Serosa follows this emblematic concept in its title. The Tunica serosa, or serous membrane, lines the chest and stomach region as well as the heart, ensuring the free movement of the organs and other functional body parts. Here, rooms that also seem to be in the process of deterioration are furnished with more or less mobile objects. The metaphorical transfer of medical terminology to the room interior belongs to a visual logic with which Angelika Trojnarski opens up a deeper semantic level beyond that of painting and of objects. A brief historical overview might help elucidate this.

Even ancient rhetoric was familiar with the possibility of revealing an issue or an idea through a different thing or person. Until well into the 18th century, allegory, a particular form of metaphor, was an integral part of general education. Today we are versed only in the remains of this complex cultural system. The allegory of justice, with its bound eyes, balance scales and sword, counts among the few representations that can still be comprehended by a greater number of people.

With early Christianity, the pre-Christian symbols that could be translated into allegories were revived. One of their most significant and longstanding sources is the prophetic Book of Revelation of St. John the Divine from the first or second century AD. Among the uncanniest figures of this scripture about the end of the world are its harbingers, the Four Horsemen. The first horseman is associated with the color white and signals the war of - what is for him - conquest. Throughout the centuries, this horseman in particular has been contradictorily interpreted, as opposed to the three other horsemen, who stand exclusively for the misfortune that overcomes mankind. The color red of the second horseman represents the blood that is shed in the wars between men; the black of the third horseman points to famine and need while the fourth pale horseman evokes death.

Exoskelett, Paper and oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm, 2011

Interestingly, in the transition from Late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages, there was an Irish natural philosopher who undertook great efforts to explain the wonders and visions of this Holy Scripture according to objective scientific criteria. Augustinus Hibernicus completed De mirabilibus sacrae scripturae [Engl. On the Miraculous Things in Sacred Scripture] around the year 655, and holds a unique place in history for his rationality that was exceptional for the times. In his treatise he also addresses various natural catastrophes that had an impact on human existence.

Along the further course of history, these natural forces have been accompanied by human devices, ranging from the early, comparably primitive machines such as water mills, to the steam engine and then atomic energy.

Angelika Trojnarski refers to such technological and civilizing achievements as testimonies to a 'megalomaniacal hubris'. That her own pictures have been abandoned by mankind is an implicit nod to the potentially ultimate danger of self-annihilation. Passive decline and active deconstruction are exemplified by the variable and the ephemeral in her painting, sculpture, and more recently, photography.

The transitory aspect of these processes is not restricted to the motifs alone. True, the paint is peeling, buildings are missing their stairs, walls and constructions deteriorate. But also in the painting itself, contours and surfaces dissolve, sketchlike, into the abstract. In this one may also see a positive commitment to painting itself, whose contents are conveyed not only intellectually, but also palpably. The experience of the sublime, which in German is translated with the word Erhabene, captures this sensual dimension that reaches beyond the beautiful with an amalgamation of awe and fright.

The artist has developed a personal repertoire of motifs and themes that she integrates in a kind of an alternate allegorical syntax. Uniting the concept of allegory with the thoughts of Augustinus Hibernicus, one can also derive from her signs of the real a higher, possibly visionary, meaning. A critical tendency cannot be denied here, yet her painting does not entirely succumb to pessimism. New opportunities for action and biotopes grow from things in decay. Literally as well as figuratively, the debris can become the building material for new modes of transport and habitats, and the fright can be followed by an awakening."

Migration, Oil on canvas, 53 x 75 cm, 2011
Weiß (Wolpertinger)
Oil and paper tape on canvas, 160 x 180 cm, 2011
Oil and paper tape on canvas, 160 x 200 cm, 2011
Oil on canvas, 160 x 160 cm, 2011

Serosa II, Oil on paper, 45 x 60 cm, 2010

Serosa V, Oil on paper, 45 x 60 cm, 2010

Serosa VII, Oil on paper, 45 x 60 cm, 2010
Solo exhibition
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