Renowned Berlin artist Piotr Nathan, creator of the huge wall drawing installation „Rituale des Verschwindens“ (Rituals of Disappearance) in the foyer of Club Berghain, which has impressed visitors for years now, surprises at the Galerie Laura Mars with a cleverly devised exhibition installation.
Nathan’s intellectual cosmos circles around subjects such as transience, Eros, myths, phenomena, existence, nature, world creation and world history, time and space just as agilely as the slide carousel “Der verwunschene Garten” (The Enchanted Garden), installed within the exhibition: images of plants in various stages of withering are projected on a urine stain and correspond with a male torso appearing from a different perspective. It is a spatial installation equally irritating and fascinating, acoustically complemented by purist Japanese lullabies and the clatter of the rotating slide carousel. The veiled connecting door allows for visitors to hear those sounds as well in the adjacent room while they look at the three new, thematically linked, enigmatic pictures there.
The rotation of the slide carousel, the circling of thoughts, the cycle of life – Nathan throws things into an imbalance, a transformation, confusion – he forces them into comparison. An intersection is what his works are. Plus, he is in love with rupture, that severe incision which destroys logical connections and perspectives. Consequently he has turned towards collage, the artistically-formal unification of matters completely alien to one another. Nathan’s sophistication in this: he paints collages. Here he does not allow for some demarcation in the shape of, for instance, varieties of image representation, cut-out edges – here his choice of colors connects flowing boundaries – all things become one. Nathan’s daring painting technique is a stunning symbiosis of the craftsman’s perfection and the tradition of the old masters, meeting the fractured world of collage.
Piotr Nathan’s artistic thirst for knowledge, his wish to understand life and the isolation of being, as well substantiates his working procedure. It is possible, and intended, for pictures to be displayed in an unfinished state – the process of a work in the making is of importance. Which begs such questions as: When is a picture finished? When will the last picture in one’s life be finished? Will it be painted complete, and what will such a picture then look like?
Recently Nathan discovered for himself Jacopo da Pontormo (1494-1557), the Italian painter and main representative of Florentine Mannerism. A revelation.
Indeed the idea systems of both artists, while historically so far apart, do show a striking kinship.
First of all, it is the play with so many small contradictions: things are being removed from meaningful positions; traditional connections derived from statics, like, for instance, façade elements, or spatial constructs, are being dissolved. Nathan lets religious structures proliferate boundlessly, or he spirits away supporting columns. Perspectives are being ignored deliberately. Sublime color compositions compete with smart special effects and, combined in such a way, underscore the dissolution of existing systems of order. Particularly in architectural landscaping the love of Mannerism for the grotesque is evident – and Nathan, too, joyfully plays with bizarre glacier landscapes, irritates conventional perception by happily swapping images of sky and earth or dispensing with the sky right away. It is pure allegory. Nathan’s works contain an extensive wealth of metaphors and descriptions with a touch of Symbolism to them, these supported by ironically fractured digressions into the fantasy genre.
His cryptic Hercules painting depicts a drunk, peeing Hercules removed from his stone pedestal, toppled by a modern muscleman. The mythic hero of classical antiquity, a model of virtuous conduct in the culture of medieval Europe, is shown weak and dethroned. Mythological traditions thus take on a human aspect in Nathan’s narrative pictures. Piotr Nathan investigates and researches the scientific relation between the world and its artistic interpretation. His oftentimes autobiographically inspired image-inventions he transforms sensitively into mythological dimensions. And this he accomplishes on an ambitiously reflexive level.
Nathan’s works may well be compared to the classic puzzle picture, too. In his diary Franz Kafka wrote in 1911, “The thing hidden in a puzzle picture shall be both clear and invisible. Clear for them who have found what they were asked to look for, invisible for them who do not even know there is something to look for”.