A selection of approximately 100 works are currently on display at Kreis Unna, Haus Operdhicke. The title, ‘der Blick nach Innen’ defines the notion of ‘introspection’ as a core idea – a thread weaving these 20th-21st century works together analytically. Through this reflexive approach, we can inspect interiors and still lives beyond their formal qualities, more closely, from within. The exhibition proposes a shift in perspective: from mere outer appearance to in-depth meanings, from literal to conceptual. We view each painting as a kind of riddle, then, as a visual puzzle pieced together by the artist’s own sense of self. On the one hand, this existential reading of the still life enhances the show’s impact: how introspection can stimulate us intellectually to think again and thus better than our initial response to the work. On the other hand, introspection teases out the limitations of the eye in what it can or rather believes it can see. In other words, the still life operates like a trompe l’oeil. It is a catalyst for the artist to manipulate how we see by painting, or ‘performing’ a peculiar kind of visual trick.

Rooted in the monotony of objects, the still life genre may have lost its appeal today – deemed outdated or dull at best, or lacking substance to properly inspire an artist. Not for David Czupryn though, who seeks to infuse the still life tradition with the ‘energy’ of new technologies and witty references to art history. His chosen motifs range from pop-culture to design, subtly connecting nature and artifice. Warhol-esque camouflage, eerie IT manipulations; Verner Panon designs or collage techniques are integral to his peculiar iconography.

Paired with paintings by Picasso, Braque, Beckmann, Kleinschmidt, or Kallmann, Czupryn’s works acquire a special autonomy and resonance: though in stark contrast to one another stylistically , conceptually these works’ juxtaposition makes sense given Czupryn’s similar taste for the dynamics of space and decor. His aesthetic recalls how Merveldt (Still life with bottle and cards, 1929) and Dobrich (Still life with orange, 1934) zoom in on the peculiarities of a specific set up to re-design it radically. In pale_no_plastics_radio marble for instance, Czupryn imbues the objects with the transfiguring power of new technologies. Location-wise, his work transports us to a surreal setting that seems quite eerie, like futuristic stage riddled with symptomatic signs: the left sharp corner of the wall, tilted to dizzying effect; the jarring mix of materials (greyish marble, brightly coloured carpet on the floor beneath a wooden platform; plastic bouquet of flowers with a hole in the table as its base); the ghostly absence of life.

Czupryn’s technique is indeed quite blatantly idiosyncratic. His version of the still life distances itself entirely from what we might expect: it is unsettling, anxiety-inducing as though walking along a tightrope or in the midst of a film noir.

 

The exhibition’s take on the still life avoids a purely descriptive reading of the genre so as to open up new possibilities for interpretation: we can activate our subjectivity to alter our perception of the still life, discard preconceived notions, and thus trigger a more reactive approach to it – the suspense embodied in the still life may spark awe, curiosity or even fear in the viewer each still life is more enigmatic than presumed at first glance. Picasso, Beckmann, Kleinschmidt, Nussbaum use this codified genre as a template for visual intrigues. By virtue of its pared down structure and single focus, the still life is the perfect blank page for these artists and many more to transcribe a sensitivity or affect – an air of detachment or solitude in a portrait for example; brooding anxieties echoed in the palette; the meditative quality of fruits, or the interplay of lines in the folds of a table cloth… Nothing is coincidental, the artist seeks to extract the essence of things by hinting at an emotion through tone and texture, and depict it implicitly, in muted form.

Der Blick nach Innen may encompass the artists’ grasp of reality in their seeking to capture it: seizing a face, a sculpture, or seemingly insignificant item to create a painted snapshot of it: like a photograph, the still life ‘shoots’ the tangible world in fragments, and thereby brings it to life in glimpses. Each mundane piece of life -a lamp, a radio, a chair- becomes endowed with an introspective life of its own. As it catches the artist’s imagination it enters his mind like an obsessive little tune until the melody is complete and its harmony can be heard by us too, luring us in, our mind and sight together in unison.

The exhibition will remain open until November 19th, 2017 at Haus Opherdicke at Kreis Unna (near Dortmund). For more information please click here.