14 September – 10 November 2012
White Cube Mason's Yard
Known for his paintings that oscillate between abstraction and figuration, Plessen’s new body of work focuses on rotation as the means of re-ordering the relation of the viewer to the painting.
These paintings simultaneously feature figurative elements that are ostensibly recognisable – hands, heads, feet – combined with abstract passages that serve to re-structure order and dimensionality within the painting, creating a palpable sense of disorientation. This effect is reinforced by a deliberate illogicality; representational aspects of body parts are fragmented and disembodied, elusive and transitory, unbound by any particular viewpoint or frame of reference. This is combined with added or subtracted sections of paint to imply spatial depth within the image, such as curved bands, which suggest dynamic rotation or movement. As Plessen notes, ‘For me, the key to understanding inner and outer space in painting is the space of the revolving door; at its centre there is no one looking back at you. The line between inside and outside is indifferent to appearances. Representation in abstraction… All things present without being recognised’.
During the process of making the work, Plessen often physically turns the canvas 90 or 180 degrees as a means of re-positioning or confounding a resolute arrangement of the image. As he explains, in one position ‘my relationship to the painting feels familiar/grounded; when I turn the canvas, this familiar relationship – facing an object that faces me – is dissolved. In this process the location that I am used to occupying when looking at a painting is moving away from me to reappear at the centre of the painted image, unpopulated’. In doing so, Plessen’s aim is to liberate the image from a stable, singular reading to multiple and simultaneous viewpoints.
The paintings mark a further development in the range of techniques and resources adopted by Plessen in recent work. Gestural washes of colour, absorbed into the canvas, fuse with precise delineations rendered on the surface of the picture plane, while the hues of bright orange, acid yellow and hot pink palpitate against dark blues and greens, luminescent and transparent, as if lit from behind.
Magnus Plessen was born in 1967 in Hamburg and lives with his wife and three sons in Berlin. Solo exhibitions include Art Institute of Chicago (2005), Espace 315, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2004), K 21, Düsseldorf (2002) and PS1, New York (2002). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions internationally including ‘Images in Painting’ Museu Serralves, Porto (2007), ‘Imagination Becomes Reality’ Sammlung Goetz, Munich (2006) and the ‘Venice Biennale’ (2003).
A fully illustrated catalogue featuring an interview with the artist and an essay by Katy Siegel accompanied the exhibition.