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Düsseldorf: Thomas Musehold, Katja Tönnissen, Angelika J. Trojnarski

September 6, 2019 - October 27, 2019

BIOPHILIA exhibition


Artists: Thomas Musehold, Katja Tönnissen, Angelika J. Trojnarski

The greatest muse of art has always been nature. Consistently throughout the history of art, it can be identified as a multifaceted source of inspiration, object of investigation, material, motif and projection surface – it accommodates, locates and reflects man in his earthly existence. Particularly in the Anthropozoic era, when the human footprint was irreversibly inscribed in the earth, the gaze of art increasingly turns to the confrontation with nature. The range of artistic approaches is almost limitless, corresponding to the incomprehensible, universal wholeness of nature.

Kunst & Denker Contemporary unites the three artists Thomas Musehold, Katja Tönnissen and Angelika J. Trojnarski – in the direct vicinity of Florapark, which as early as 1860 presented exotic, tropical plants to its citizens in a palm house – whose view of nature rekindled our astonishment at nature. From 6 September to 27 October 2019, objects, sculptures and paintings will be exhibited under the title “Biophilia”, which goes back to the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s term for “Love for the Living” (1964). These contemporary tributes to the creative power of nature will be devoted to the exhibition. For what the three artists have in common is their fascination for the wonder world of nature, for its spectacle, its creative potential, its diversity and originality, but also for its regularity and its enormous power.

For a long time this was regarded as inviolable and self-evident: flora and fauna conquer even the most inhospitable regions and are resistant in their ability to natural mutation. But despite this resistance, the effects of human intervention in nature are becoming increasingly visible. Awareness of the sensitive sensitivity of nature increases above all when glaciers melt and temperatures in Europe rise above 40 degrees. Then we look back at our original attachment to nature, our appreciation of it and its immeasurable beauty.

With the sensitivity of a palaeontologist, Thomas Musehold devotes himself to biological forms of growth, which he translates into contemporary sculptures. In the exhibition space we encounter an amorphous object that evokes associations with a root form or an unknown organism. The multiple view through the reflection in the mirror table underneath emphasizes the complex, organic form and the sculptural qualities of the work, which refers to the impressive growth wealth of biology. On a flanking poster, the figure is described with scientific meticulousness by a biologist and once again depicted as a shadow robbed of its specifics. The scientist’s perspective is readably different from that of the exhibition visitor – the text reveals how much perception, classification and interpretation depend on the viewer. It is these shifts through the translation of visual perception into language that the artist investigates – but especially also questions about meaning and knowledge that lie hidden in the sculptural character. How much information does an enlarged, abstract form transport from its reference object? In Musehold’s multi-stage working process, media peculiarities are consciously incorporated that are increasingly omnipresent in our technically highly developed society. The plant and object replicas, scanned in 3D and often fragmented and printed in high magnification, show flaws and technology-based grids that are used as aesthetic means. The biological form has, so to speak, adapted to the conditions of the digital, artificial habitat.

Angelika J. Trojnarski, on the other hand, deals in her painting with the great physical phenomena of nature and their appearance. Her contrasting and colour-intensive works testify on the one hand to the emotionalising potential that natural spectacles such as thunderstorms, rainbows, volcanic eruptions or northern lights possess through their visual power, and on the other hand they thematise their fascinating physical laws. In Fiat Lux III (2019) she breaks with them by uniting aurors, lightning and rain and bringing about a simultaneity of the non- simultaneous. With this fictitious disturbance of the natural forces, she indirectly evokes a very real end of nature as we know it. A similar picture is drawn by the photograph of a cloud, digitally processed by the artist and refined with a swath of soot. Do the remnants of a combustion escape in gaseous form or does the cloud itself fall from the sky? Both scenarios are living in a natural and at the same time utopian destruction.

However, the discharging force of physical tensions is balanced not only in nature, which repeatedly places us in silent contemplation, but also in Trojnarski’s work. The expressive motif is often framed by unprocessed pure paper and canvas or, in the case of the smoking cloud, by an otherwise bright sky with a rather delicate colour gradient. Thus the poetic title of two works, Psithurism, in Greek means the rustling of leaves as the “whispering” of the wind.

The melancholic, almost melancholic elegance of nature, which is above all shown in the colours of the sunset, can also be seen in the sculptural works of Katja Tönnissen. The strong pastel gradations of the sinking evening sun appear on Tönnissen’s floor lamps and are also appropriately illuminated – the motifs immediately evoke associations with a romantic South Sea island. This supposed sentimental triviality, like the carefree transition to design, is consistently pursued in the work of Tönnissen: Ceramics in the form of exotic shells are “functionalised” into fountains, stylized plastic sandbox shells in noble bronze accommodate disco lights. The artist is well aware of the cultural-historical significance and symbolic content of the floral motifs and is ironic when, for example, a shell-shaped ceramic apparently associates female genitals. A recurring motif is also that of the palm tree, which as a bronze object on the wall or as painted wall tiles carries on its signet character for victory and peace just as much as it stands as a pure “icon” for the exotic distance. Tönnissens’ abstract approach to nature seems paradigmatic for our contemporary perception of nature, which is designed for rapid reception and expressed in the flatness of the photograph. At the same time, however, the real longing for nature is subversively located in Tönnissen’s flat, partly superficial impression.

Thus we walk through the exhibition – as in the former palm house, which brought us closer to the rare beauty of exotic diversity – and ask ourselves how nature in general will soon behave.



Kunst & Denker Contemporary
Florastraße 75
Düsseldorf, 40217
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