WOLFE VON LENKIEWICZ THE RAFT OF THE MEDUSA
13 September - 20 October 2013
WOLFE VON LENKIEWICZ T: +44 (0) 7903 876522 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Website www.wolfevonlenkiewicz.com
WOLFE VON LENKIEWICZ THE RAFT OF THE MEDUSA
13 September - 20 October 2013
Foreword ‘Re-sequencing history’: nature, science and man depicted through a reconfigured language, staged in convergences of epic scale Wolfe von Lenkiewicz is pleased to announce The Raft of Medusa, an exhibition running from the 12th September to the 20th October 2013. This new body of work builds on the artist’s previous coalescences of disparate imagery: from contemporary to historic, the high art of the Renaissance to icons of popular culture. Among his past re-workings of iconic images, from Michelangelo, Ingres and Cézanne to Warhol and even Disney, Lenkiewicz has imagined But, but I am a Legend (2010), a full scale revisiting – or rather reconfiguration – of Picasso’s Guernica (1937). The artist’s most recent series of work, inspired by the early Netherlands painter Hieronymus Bosch, similarly transformed The Garden of Earthly Delights (ca.1490) into a‚ ‘post-historic’, trans-cultural manuscript. While appearing at first glance as a series of faithful reproductions taken from the original masterpiece, Lenkiewicz’s intervention reveals on closer inspection a densely populated landscape of disparate imagery, destabilising any sense of cohesive narrative and notions of authorship. The Raft of Medusa continues to question what constitutes an authentic work of art. While previously Lenkiewicz has fused contextual imagery together from disparate time periods and geographies, in the current exhibition the scope has been deliberately narrowed. Flattening history, the final paintings are perceived through the lens of the present to become historical deconstructions; challenging our notions of past and present to create a space that lies outside of history. Driving his practice further, Lenkiewicz reduces the number of images combined to a single dramatic pairing. His point of entry is Géricault and the nineteenth century. Re-sequencing history through the existing visual language of Géricault’s images, the artist engages in the elaborate project of creating a new visual syntax through the reimagining of the past.
The Journey’s End YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 600 × 887 cm In The Journey’s End‚ the show’s monumental centrepiece standing six metres in height and almost nine in width‚ the power of Lenkiewicz’s process is most evident through its sheer magnitude. By breaking down the barriers between conventional and discrete groupings, both chronological and categorical, Lenkiewicz radically disrupts the linear historical timeframe, generating new meaning and a new visual language through a startling form of hybrid. Lenkiewicz’s colossal work takes as its fundamental source the nineteenth century Romantic icon The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819), by the French painter and lithographer Théodore Géricault. However, this is no straightforward copy, instead Lenkiewicz’s version transforms the overall meaning of the original through a radical displacement of environment and context. Survivors at peril in open sea shift in Lenkiewicz’s composition to the locus of an arctic polar wasteland, assimilating the image of the raft with the Caspar David Friedrich landscape, The Sea of Ice (1823-1824). Layering one disaster scene upon another and presenting the saga in such dramatically cinematic scale, Lenkiewicz creates in effect an immense mise-en scene. The overarching theme of the two works is thereby maintained; that of man and nature in conflict. Both present the aftermath of a shipwreck , providing a fitting metaphor for the cataclysmic aesthetic at the very heart of Lenkiewicz post-historic practice. The fact that The Journey’s End was painted in San Lorenzo, Rome, the city in which Géricault himself painted his Barbary horses, further underlines the nonlinear aspects of history that pervade Lenkiewicz’s art practice. Questions of why an artist would wish to make work so closely based on the paintings of previous artists would be based on a falsehood: the mythology of originality. Every great painting in the history of Western art emerges from past works by previous artists; the young Géricault took Pierre-Paul Prud’hon’s Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime (1808) as the basis of his own naked, sprawling corpse in the foreground of The Raft.
Man Proposes God Disposes YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 240 x 140 cm In Man Proposes God Disposes Lenkiewicz conflates Edwin Henry Landseer’s eponymous painting of 1864 with an icescape from Frederic Church’s The Icebergs (1861), with the addition of a corpse from Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. Church’s original painting is devoid of all living beings and instead evokes the glories of the pristine environment as God’s temple. Landseer’s work made just two years later, presents the grimly materialistic potential for equating man and beast. By referencing this nineteenth century shift in notions of the sublime, Lenkiewicz crafts a non-linear history, and by doing so reconfigures the normal rules of narrative structure.
Fearful Symmetry YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 200 x 120 cm In the work Fearful Symmetry tigers, lions and leopards from Landseer’s Isaac van Amburgh and his Animals (1839) have invaded the Géricault’s raft, replacing humanity. These seamless orchestrations create new worlds of meaning and insights into the human condition, revelations that could only occur when two or more paintings are synthesised into a single vision.
The Race of the Barbary Horses YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 200 x 120 cm In 1817, Géricault took residence in San Lorenzo, Rome where he witnessed the spring carnival horse race, where fifteen to twenty riderless horses, originally imported from the Barbary Coast of North Africa, ran the length of the Via del Corso. Géricault initially planned to paint a monumental canvas of this subject more than thirty feet in width; he completed twenty small oil studies before abandoning the project when he was called back to France on short notice. In The Race of the Barbary Horses, von Lenkiewicz re-imagines this unrealised work employing the motifs that originally inspired Géricault from Michelangelo, Raphael, Poussin and his contemporary JacquesLouis David.
PORTRAITS OF THE INSANE
ART, DEATH AND MEDICINE
Introduction Alongside these epic and cinematic works, the exhibition demonstrates the artist’s post-historic practice through portrait and still life paintings. Lenkiewicz’s reappraisal of Géricault’s ‘Portraits of the Insane’ combines disparate elements of the original portraits with other sources. What at first appear to be straightforward Old Master portraits are in fact subtle collages of different works. The five extant works from Géricault’s studies belong to a series of ten portraits of the insane inmates of Salpetriere asylum in Paris. Géricault made these nearly at the end of his career and the five remaining portraits from the series represent the painter’s last triumph. Psychiatrist Eâtienne-Jean Georget, one of the founders of social psychiatry, asked Géricault to carry out these studies that would represent what at that time was seen as each clinical model of mental illlness. Georget conjectured that dementia was a modern disease, which depended in large part on social progress in industrialised countries. He believed that the mentally ill needed to be helped and played an important part in gaining recognition for the dignity of psychiatric patients. Instead of bringing patients to a classroom to examine their physical characteristics, the young psychiatrist instructed Géricault to paint ‘models’ representing different types of madness. Dr Georget much appreciated the objectivity in this series of works that established a link between romantic art and empirical science. Lenkiewicz has taken features and postures from the remaining works of Gericault and recombined them to create a new series of portraits showing different characteristics and nuances of madness. Images of monomaniacs with delusions of grandeur, such as a make believe Napoleon and a woman who considers herself to be a bird, appear as strange companions to the original works.
Above shows two rows of portraits of the insane, the bottom row represents the w
works Gericault made and above, the re-interpretations by Wolfe von Lenkiewicz.
Monomania, Identity Amnesia YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 70 x 85 cm In Monomania‚ Identity Amnesia a patient suffering the delusion of being Napoleon has his delusion confirmed with the addition of a suitable hat from another painting. The process is more nuanced than just grafting a head onto a different body. In Georget’s circles the concept of monomania was conceived as a “single pathological preoccupation in an otherwise sound mind”, or a form of partial insanity against the traditional notion of total insanity, meaning an illness that made patients suffer from one particular obsession or delusion such as kleptomania or erotomania.
Religious Melancholia and Convalescence YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 70 x 85 cm In Religious Melancholia and Convalescence, a man wears a womanâ€™s hat. The face is a combination of a man and a woman from different paintings. Lenkiewicz takes features and postures from the original works and creates a new series of portraits showing different nuances of madness, subtlety underlining once again an ontological distortion, this time founded upon notions of scientific developments in psychiatry.
The Otherer YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 70 x 85 cm The Otherer fuses together Géricault’s Portrait of a Kleptomaniac (1822) with another in his series of psychiatric studies Portrait of a Man Suffering from Delusions of Military Command (1822). The later is distinct within the surviving works in that it is the only work containing any visual reference as to the nature of the sitter’s condition - the make shift medallion and tasselled military cap pointing to his delusions of military grandeur. The concept of ‘The Other’, those individuals that society often wishes to exclude as they do not fit into it’s existing order is central to the psychology of self. Here two such ‘others’ are fragmented and re-combined into a fractious amalgam.
Dementia Praecox and Early Senility YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 70 x 85 cm Dementia Praecox and Early Senility coalesces elements from Géricault’s Portait of a Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy (The Hyena) (1822) and Portrait of a Woman Addicted to Gambling (1822). The use of the discredited term ‘Dementia Praecox’ in the title of the work presents a further fragmentation, this time in the history of psychiatry itself. The concept of Dementia Praecox, developed around 1896 by German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, was supposedly an incurable psychotic disorder, “the terminal cancer of mental diseases” and was frequently diagnosed on the basis of quite arbitrary evidence.
Orlando YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 70 x 85 cm Orlando is the only re-imagined portrait in the show that takes as its starting point not the work of GĂŠricault but of the founder of the revolutionary neo-classical style Jacques-Louis David. Based on Davidâ€™s self portrait painted in 1794 while the artist was in prison after the fall of Robespierre, Lenkiewiez has added a skull to cover the face of the artist, an aside to the Great Terror of the French Revolution.
Introduction At the same time as working on the ‘Portraits of the Insane’ series Géricault carried out a number of anatomical studies based on human remains from Parisian Morgues. This came from his increasing interest in the naturalistic rendering of distressed anatomy. He began making frequent trips to morgues - in particular, that of the Hospital Beaujon in Paris. Initially these trips were intended simply to sketch body parts, however Géricault eventually found beauty in the severed limbs and heads he was studying, and began rendering them as subjects in their own right. At the time, there were programs in local morgues to lend human remains to art students for anatomical study - something like a lending library of body parts. Géricault would take them back to his studio to study them as they went through states of decomposition. He was known to stash various heads, arms, and legs under his bed - or alternately store them on his roof - so he could continue to render them in increasingly putrid states and in various angles. In the arts, vanitas is a type of symbolic work of art especially associated with still life painting in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, though also common in other places and periods. The Latin word means vanity‚ and loosely translated corresponds to the meaninglessness of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. In these works Lenkiewicz has combined the literal death still-lifes of Géricault with the works of quintessential still life painter Chardin, along with a work by his contemporary Roland de la Porte. Throughout this body of work, Lenkiewicz proves himself as an artist not only proficient in the skills and understandings of a painter, but also one who in his practice embraces history - or the scope to challenge it - alongside those more cerebral notions of mysticism, philosophy and theology. By bringing together disparate elements into one, notions of the modern and the postmodern and conjured, and from the power of the idea is born a new language, narrative and meaning.
Still Life (Truncated Limbs And Cats) YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 140 x 84 cm In Still Life (Truncated Limbs And Cats) Lenkiewicz conflates Géricault’s gruesome Study of feet and Hands (1818 - 1819) with elements from several still lifes by Chardin. The result is a scene in which startled cats step over severed limbs, arranged amidst piles of game. The artist makes explicit the implied ’deathliness’ of the ‘vanitas’ still life, and furthermore the ‘memento mori’, reminding us of the transience of human life.
Still Life (Peaches and Guillotined Head) YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 140 x 84 cm In Still Life (Peaches and Guillotined Head) the theme is taken to an extreme with Roland de la Porte’s delicately rendered Still Life (c 1765) of peaches, along with elements from Chardin, sharing a table with a severed head, the shock of the juxtaposition rendered palpable. Géricault’s Head of a Guillotined Man (1818-19), in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago, is one of the studies that is most recognisable from the multiple paintings produced by Géricault on this subject and is believed to be the head of a thief who died in the insane asylum of Bicetre. Géricault painted this head from multiple viewpoints over the two-week period he kept it in his studio.
Recomposing Chardin YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Oil on canvas DIMENSIONS 70 x 85 cm Recomposing Chardin combines in a synthesis three still-lifes by Jean Siméon Chardin, namely Vase of Flowers (1755), Glass of Water and Coffee Pot (1760), and Still Life with Attributes of the Arts (1766). Chardin was well known for composing his objects in an organised and calculated manner and was adamant that they should never be moved. The act of recomposing multiple Chardin’s to make a new one is integral to the post historical method of Lenkiewicz’s art practice.
The Journeyâ€™s End YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Pencil on Japanese restoration paper DIMENSIONS 840 x 594 mm
Fearful Symmetry YEAR 2013 MEDIUM Pencil on Japanese restoration paper DIMENSIONS 825 x 565 mm
Biography WOLFE VON LENKIEWICZ (BRITISH, B. 1966) SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2012 The Fountainhead, 33 Portland Place, Frieze Art Fair, London 2012 Hieronymus Bosch, All Visual Arts, London 2011 The Beast and the Sovereign, Michael Haas Gallery, Berlin 2011 Liberation – Their Story Begins, Sebastian Guinness Gallery, Dublin 2011 I Have an Excellent Idea.... Let’s Change the Subject, All Visual Arts, London 2010 Victory Over the Sum, All Visual Arts and the Triumph Gallery, Moscow 2009 The Descent of Man, All Visual Arts, London 2008 Nu-Trinity, Simon Dickinson, London 2007 Mutagenesis, Mimmo Scognamiglio Contemporary Art, Naples 2007 Mutagenesis, Paradise Row, London 2007 Emblematic Psychosis, Ingalls & Associates, Miami 2001 The Park, T1+2 Artspace, London 2000 Hangman, T1+2 Artspace, London SELECTED GROUP SHOWS 2012 Between The Lines, All Visual Arts, London 2012 Metamorphosis, All Visual Arts, The Crypt, One Marylebone, London 2012 Babel, Beaux Arts de Lille, Lille 2012 Everywhere and Nowhere, Villa Jauss, Obersdorf 2011 The House of the Nobleman, London 2011 Zwei Sammler (Two Collectors), Deichtorhallen, Hamburg 2010 Vanitas: The Transience of Earthly Pleasures, All Visual Arts, London
2010 The House of the Nobleman, London 2009 The Age of the Marvellous, All Visual Arts, London 2009 The Embassy, 20 Hoxton Square Projects, London 2007 Avatar of Sacred Discontent, 9 Hillgate, T1+2 Gallery, London 2007 Avatar of Sacred Discontent, Port Eliot LitFest, St Germans 2006 End of Civilization, Port Eliot Castle, St Germans 2006 Wolfe Lenkiewicz, Kristy Stubbs Gallery, Great Eastern Hotel, London 2005 Go Between, Magazine 4, Kunstverein, Bregenz 2005 Redux Gallery screening of Get Newton and Otto Muehl film interview 2005 Screening of The Park, Channel 5 TV 2005 Screening of Desum, The Horse Hospital, London 2004 Screening of Desum, Port Elliot Literary Festival 2004 Screening of Desum, Redux Gallery, London 2004 Screening of Desum, ICA, London 2004 Screening of Scopophobia, ICA, London 2003 Worlds First Congress of Fork Lift Trucks, Atlantis Gallery, London 2002 100,000 Newspapers: Gustav Metzger, Stewart Home, Wolfe Lenkiewicz, T1+2 Artspace, London 1999 The Constant of Variation, T1+2 Artspace, London
Contact WOLFE VON LENKIEWICZ T: +44 (0) 7903 876522 E: email@example.com Website www.wolfevonlenkiewicz.com
Above: Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa, 1817-18, Oil on canvas, Louvre, Paris
WOLFE VON LENKIEWICZ T: +44 (0) 7903 876522 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Website www.wolfevonlenkiewicz.com
WOLFE VON LENKIEWICZ
Published on May 28, 2014
Catalogue of works for the exhibition 'Wolfe Von Lenkiewicz: The Raft Of The Medusa', London 13 September – 20 October 2013