The Jette Rudolph Gallery is pleased to announce its fourth solo exhibition by artist Alex Tennigkeit, which features new paintings.
The exhibition's title "Para Bellum" is taken from the Latin adage "Sic vis pacem para bellum" ("If you wish for peace, prepare for war"), which can be found in the political, ideological treatise "Epitoma rei militaris" ("Concerning Military Matters") by Roman military theorist Vegetius (4th century A.D.). In view of Tennigkeit's images, the exhibition's title resounds like a battle cry and one that is inspired by an artistic, psychological and gender- specific rebellion.
In her latest series of small and large-format self-portraits that have an unusual Baroque style, Alex Tennigkeit's stylistic means is the allegory, which she uses to stage various role-playing games involving imaginary objects, protagonists and masquerades, thereby rendering images of herself. In the series of works entitled "Selbst als Allegorie: (...)" ("Myself as allegory: (...)"), there is one painting featuring the artist as a symbol of temptation with a red, heart-shaped praline on her lips, which awakens desire in the threatening yet equally awkward-looking blue-green monster standing behind her; and in another work, the artist is portrayed as a metaphor for shame when she offers the viewer a grotesque grin - justified on both sides - since a giant dove-blue wreath of feathers frames the artist's face. Tabooless humor and mental cruelty are Tennigkeit's tools, which she uses with a sense of reason that knows no limits, to uncover where, today, refined and cultivated beauty surfaces as a masquerade constructed by the media, and as something that captivates and seduces us.
For viewers, Tennigkeit's large canvases open onto staged areas that - with several figures and their detailed dramaturgy - are typical for the artist. Here, the central motifs are a stigmatized monumental hand and the bed scene - created through the very divergent gestures - of a "sinner"; the artist uses these motifs to explore the Christian iconography of devotional objects and votives. Here too, the function of personal devotion is staged using the artist's self-portrait and in addition to iconographic symbols from art history like the snake for original sin, their meaning is supplemented with contemporary interpretations, including the male sinner seduced by money as well as his failure in the face of the self-confident woman's preference for same-sex love in modern media and pop culture.
In her new works, Alex Tennigkeit shows people in their reality, in their fight with the passing of earthly time: be it on their deathbed surrounded by various temptations that are devilishly consuming them or surrounded by floating bubbles about to burst. In the end, the people in Tennigkeit's images remain in control of their natural drives and passions, trapped in the material world, tempted into pleasures by omnipresent carnal desires, robbed of dreams - a ghost of oneself. Tennigkeit's paintings look at us. They become a parable of life - Para Bellum!
"Here, painting employs a critical-and-aesthetic distancing strategy, and it is characteristic and a specific quality of Alex Tennigkeit's paintings that the author's identity goes far beyond the "self-portrait" and in its psychological intensity knows how to stage social progress by having fun with the cynical course of history."
(Axel Heil: "Über die Malerei A. Tennigkeits in Strong Woman - Dead Man," in the catalog Ursurper's Choice published by Kerber Verlag, Berlin, 2009)
Alex Tennigkeit was born in Heilbronn in 1976 and lives and works in Berlin.