Curated by Susanne Schneemann
16.8. – 14.9.2019
Opening Thursday 15th August 2019 18-20h
Processes of imaging
The exhibition at Galerie Bernhard Bischoff & Partner presents the first opportunity to experience Elsbeth Böniger’s oeuvre in fast motion – in the shape of a bound book. A total of 83 pages, the first pages were created in 2004, the final ones in May this year. Due to its fragility, the book comprises the exhibition’s “absent” centre and the 15 years of artistic production are visualised in a film about the book produced for the exhibition.
Bernhard Bischoff tells us that Elsbeth Böniger has always been working with books, choosing them mainly for the quality or texture of the paper that ranges from lightweight paper to paper with braille dots. As a support for oil painting, the books acquire an entirely new function beyond reading, breaking away from their purpose to transport language in the form of text. Böniger’s books convey the language of painting: exploring them is to understand the processes of their creation. And there is no need to learn a new alphabet or to immerse oneself in the artist’s intellectual world. We “only” have to look. A simple task perhaps, but a challenging one when looking at Elsbeth Böniger’s paintings.
In the first room of the exhibition paintings from the series “Inseln” (2018/2019) have been laid out on the floor and can be looked at from an elevated standpoint. The works, gleaming in the silvery light, with expressive titles such as “Zeitkorridore” “Weiterdenken” or “Drei Nüsse” were painted while the artist was standing on a platform. Böniger applied layer upon layer of oil paint, added fluxing agents and many other alchemic additives from her inexhaustible store of knowledge about the changeable nature of oil paint, calling the result “mixed media”. On the canvas the paint appears to flow at times, sometimes to erupt and splinter. Looking for something to hold on to, the eye immerses itself in the boundless superimposed and juxtaposed layers of paint that merge and fuse into each other, thus experiencing the process of painting close up.
In the second room there is a big wooden storage shelf from Böniger’s studio. It is stacked with numerous of the rather small books the artist has been working on since 2004. By applying oil paint the paper has undergone quite a few metamorphoses, the artist pushing the material’s potential to the limits. The large works, on the other hand, lean against the walls, mirroring the conditions in Böniger’s studio where she lined them up or put them on wood blocks as they were drying. The way they are presented here thus conveys a reference point to their past. The drying process is generally an important time factor in oil painting, but for Böniger’s works it is more than a necessity. It takes days, even weeks, for the layers of paint to form an inseparable unit with the support and to develop their final surface structure. Exploring them with our eyes brings us closer to this artist who we could call a philosophical anthropologist studying the essence of painting. The exhibition provides us with the perfect conditions for doing so. And yet, the book remains its absent core.
The book will be exhibited for an hour at the exhibiton’s closing event. The artist will be present.
Susanne Schneemann 2019
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