Playing Angels /Works 2008—2015
12 September—31 October 2015
»[...]And as it’s better up there than down below anyway, where it is always dark, dank and a little musty, we comb them, spin them and weave thick cocoons from them to enable us to play angels.« This passage, from a text König wrote two years ago for his exhibition »Sister September«, inspired the title of the artist’s current exhibition. It could even serve as a guide to understanding his works.
König’s oeuvre to date reveals a penchant for broken, almost tragic pathos, as the quote above shows. Anthropomorphic and animalic figures come together as though to assure themselves and one another of their existentiality. And this existentiality is conceived as highly creatural, it comes from the painting materials, is bound in them and emanates from them. Existentiality is evident in these images, as it describes a necessity, not a mere fact like existence; for these images only have an existence in their material presence. König does not create a pictorial narration in the form of an anecdote or traceable story within the scenes. Instead, he strives to create depictions open to interpretation. The paintings have no before and after, they are not bound by any form of linear narrative, giving them their postulative character, derived both from the visual form and intrinsic figuration.
König’s works reveal a deeply humanist perspective. They reflect a conflict between ideal and reality, as is often the case with human nature and human actions: the search for perfection combined with the awareness of its unattainability, with potentially catastrophic consequences. There is nothing stopping us from taking the imperfect, or even the bad, and declaring them perfect.
We can play angels, for want of better options. This ability to put anything on a pedestal simply by declaring it worthy is what Alexander König alludes to in his works. König’s paintings must be considered postulates. Each on its own, each potentially fallible. And that is what gives each of his works its own piece of perfection.
—By Viktor Wendt /Translated by Brendan Bleheen
Alexander König’s pictures remain in an unaccustomed, ambivalent state between narration and pure painting. His seemingly idyllic pictorial inventions and the lightness of his motifs from fairytales, mythology, and sagas are imbued with a dark-toned mystical tenor, whose roots lie, on the one hand, in the artist’s explorations of the history of European painting and, on the other hand, in the traditions of the occult and spiritual in art.
Along with Goya and Füssli, Lovis Corinth and the Expressionists from the beginning of the 20th century are the godparents of this oeuvre, in which ethereal female figures empty themselves and children seem to be surrounded by the fog of their own imagination, in which composite creatures between life and appearance emerge and their depictions congeal to a contemporary snapshot of psychological disposition. Ambivalent gestalts between human figures and chimeras populate König’s paintings and encounter the powers of a nightmare world of light and shadow, materialization and disintegration, that unfold their effects in the dark. Woven into painterly formation at the boundary between this world and the beyond, they wage a battle between assertion and volatilization and wrestle for their visionary place in a world of sober inventory-taking, scientific verification, and the belief that everything is material.
Alexander König’s themes and his manner of painting are unusually singular in the contemporary canon. Based on the metaphysical traditions of the early 20th century, he has worked out a specific technique of expressive-gestural painting that enables him to develop, in equal measure, pictorial motifs out of painting and painting out of how he deals with the motifs. From furious painterly happenings, bodies emerge; figures and motifs take on expressive shape, only to immediately become part of an autonomous painting. Situated at the indifferent interface between image and its dissolution, König’s works move in a diffuse emotional state of transformation and raise existential questions about the state of the human.
—By Ralf F. Hartmann /Translated by Mitch Cohen
Dr. Ralf F. Hartmann
is Pro-Rector for Research and Tertiary Education
Development at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig
and Director of the Kunstverein Tiergarten in Berlin