David O'Kane

Ways out of the loop     
LVZ, 02.10.2012 - The Irishman David O'Kane spans temporary visual axes from Lindenau to Connewitz. David O'Kane's exhibition at Villa Schomburgk, where he brings motifs from his video animation back to the original location, runs only until Thursday. However, selected works by the artist, including the video »Der Spieler /The Gambler«, will be present at the Josef Filipp Gallery for a little longer.

The villa is not a ruin, but it has been unused for years. Cables hang out of missing ceiling tiles, shafts are chiselled into the walls. In between, David O'Kane's paintings and graphics, sparsely hung. Several times a young woman from behind, her long hair partially braided. Charcoal drawings of hands in rotation; the villa from a bird's eye view in the middle of a labyrinth, crumbling portraits of men.

In an animation, composed of around 6000 individual images, all this comes together once again. The viewer wanders through the empty rooms, some doors lock themselves as a precaution. The girl's plait is briskly braided and unbraided again; the maze of the surroundings unfolds from strips of paper; hands circle. Antiquarian books conquer a room, pile up; at the very top, Dostoevsky's »Spieler /Gambler« is picked apart. Meanwhile, words appear on the wall that the artist did not understand at first when reading Flann O'Brien's »At Swim-Two-Birds« in the German translation.

If you come out of the darkened video room, the game repeats itself. Still these rooms, these images. You only have to take care of the movement yourself. In a fascinating way, O'Kane nests objects, situations, perceptions. What is real, what is fictional? And how do you find your way out of the loop?

The best way is to talk to the artist. He has just finished his master's degree in the class of Neo Rauch at the HGB. The artist, who was born in Lifford, Ireland, in 1985, had previously studied in Dublin. Now he is still living in a foundation's residency programme in Berlin. »There will be a final exhibition there in February, and later one with the other master students in Aschaffenburg.« It is not yet clear whether he will stay in Berlin; perhaps Leipzig will be his new place of residence. In any case, a return to the Emerald Isle is not an option for the time being. The conditions for an artist's existence there are not optimal at the moment. The large O'Kane family, consisting almost entirely of creative people, has to manage without him.

Some paintings stand out in their monumentality. The series is called »Blindsight«. The seemingly paradoxical title refers to a special kind of blindness in which the sufferer nevertheless has visual impressions. Depicted is a carefully painted man who appears gigantic not only because of the lush canvas format but also because of the way he is viewed from below. He is bound with strips of cloth and his eyes are also blindfolded. Nevertheless, he encounters himself several times. Here, too, the artist is not only interested in offering a possible narrative, but, like his famous compatriots Joyce, Beckett and O'Brien, in allowing infinite spaces of interpretation between great drama and absurd banality.

David O'Kane is not afraid to use terms like »the sublime«. In a positive sense, without irony. This may come as a surprise to someone not yet 30, but it has nothing to do with backwardness. Rather, it has to do with a new freedom to make use of the vast history according to one's own tastewith reverence, but without servility. This sovereignty is also evident in the fact that he did not follow Rauch's advice to tone down the good readability of the pictures.

He can calmly accept accusations of being conservative or even reactionary. As traditional as the way of painting and drawing may seem, O'Kane's linking of different media is innovative. The static pictures sometimes seem to be only preparatory work for the animations. He harks back to Eadweard Muybridge's famous photo series, but also gives nimble legs to Duchamp's no less well-known staircase nude.

The completion of the master class at the HGB is a biographical caesura. David O'Kane now wants to draw more than paint. But animation remains, there are new projects and ideas. The fact that the installation in the former Connewitz factory owner's villa in the grounds of the St. Elisabeth Hospital can only be seen for a few days has an internal logic: the difficulty of grasping time and space is one of the artist's main themes.
—By Jens Kassner

Dr. Jens Kassner
Diploma in Political Science
Doctorate in art history
Author, editor, cultural manager
Lives and works in Leipzig
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