Birds Sing the Echoes of Fragmentation
GRIMM is pleased to present Birds Sing the Echoes of Fragmentation, a solo exhibition of new paintings by German artist Matthias Franz (b. 1984, Ilmenau, DE). This is the Vienna-based artist’s first exhibition in Amsterdam (NL) and his second solo exhibition with GRIMM, since joining the gallery in 2021.
On view in the exhibition are a group of paintings that examine various aspects of contemporary existence, reflecting on the human condition and the increasing fragmentation of society. Using this notion of fragmentation as both a conceptual and pictorial framework, Franz explores the inherent contradictions of modern life. In this latest body of work, Franz creates open-ended narratives that provoke the boundaries between work and leisure, the transient and permanent, the monumental and the invisible.
For Franz, painting is a necessarily slow and thoughtful process. Inspired variously by literature, cinema and critical theory, the artist uses paint to visualise an interior notion or question, first realising the composition on smaller canvases, testing different perspectives and palettes, before tackling the subject at a large scale. Building up his images over several weeks through layered oil paint, each scene has a palpable weight, lending the textured environments a charged, psychological atmosphere.
In the group of paintings Genehmigung eines Unsichtbaren, the artist depicts a nocturnal, moonlit interior scene, recalling an office or waiting room. In the foreground are two spectral figures, hunched over and exhausted, indicative of figures at the margin of society, the overlooked and invisible. Behind them are two workers, seated at desks. The relationship between the figures is unclear however their compositional division suggests how they might represent different societal roles. The workers seem to perform some bureaucratic function, processing paperwork through the night, whilst the couple that face the viewer appear to be stalled, waiting for some action to unfold that may never arrive, altogether recalling an almost absurdist tableau vivant.
In another group of paintings, Repertoire, we enter into a dark room. Gentle light pours through the single door at the back of the space, amidst cobwebs that traverse the composition, flanked by musical instruments; an upright piano, double bass or disassembled drum kit. It appears to be a space for communal celebration, creation or performance, and yet is abandoned and inaccessible, hinting at some more inscrutable aspect or darker history.
Across another set of canvases titled Roots, Franz depicts a pair of shoes with heavy bricks tied to their soles by the shoelaces. The painting visualises the contradiction of ‘putting down roots’ in a place, highlighting the simultaneous freedom and restriction attached to the aspiration or societal value that privileges making long lasting ties to a single place. The painting has in a sense a deliberate quality of naive illustration, disarming its seriousness with a more fantastical quality.
This aspect, present in varying degrees in Franz’s other works, lends to their narrative the quality of a fairytale, occupying the liminal space between comfortable familiarity and something threatening or otherworldly.
A publication on the work of Matthias Franz is forthcoming from GRIMM, available Spring 2023.