Exhibitions

The elephant behind the clown

TAL R

April 9 - June 13, 2011

Tal R, Blind date, 2009/10, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto: Jochen Littkemann
Tal R, We are the elephants, 2010, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto: Jochen LittkemannTal R, Haute Couture, 2010, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto: Jochen Littkemann Tal R, The Levant, 2010, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto: Jochen Littkemann Tal R, The Call, 2009, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto: Jochen Littkemann Tal R, The Lilly pond, 2010, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto: Jochen Littkemann Tal R, The elephant behind the clown, 2011, Installationsansicht / installation view, Kunstverein Hamburg, 2011, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto / photo: Fred Dott / Kunstverein Tal R, The elephant behind the clown, 2011, Installationsansicht / installation view, Kunstverein Hamburg, 2011, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto / photo: Fred Dott / Kunstverein Tal R, The elephant behind the clown, 2011, Installationsansicht / installation view, Kunstverein Hamburg, 2011, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto / photo: Fred Dott / Kunstverein Tal R, The elephant behind the clown, 2011, Installationsansicht / installation view, Kunstverein Hamburg, 2011, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto / photo: Fred Dott / Kunstverein Tal R, The elephant behind the clown, 2011, Installationsansicht / installation view, Kunstverein Hamburg, 2011, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, Foto / photo: Fred Dott / Kunstverein

Works—whether collages, drawings, or paintings—by the Israeli-Danish artist Tal R (*1967, lives in Copenhagen) are characterized by the sheer quantity of elements and meanings they present. His complex visual worlds are composed of innumerable abstract forms together with representational figures in a balanced relationship, so that the chaos the many colours and forms could be expected to produce is kept at bay. The pictures are structured in keeping with an inner logic and make a light and carefree impression. The artist describes it as "wild minimalism without Puritanism". The point of departure for this painted universe of images are not so much precise preparatory sketches but complex sentences the artist composes in his head. In words he describes the happenings on the canvas and the future picture before carrying it out. However, this transformation process should not be thought of as a visual one-to-one translation. He tries rather to come as close as possible to language—its structure, phonetics, and ambiguities—on the visual level.

But his works "speak" without concrete written characters and develop their own narration, which cannot be fully read by the viewers. The graphic compositions unite cultural references from foreign cultures, myths, and our everyday world, and open up a broad spectrum of interpretation. Not everything can be learned in detail, much is merely hinted at and points in various directions. In recent works, for example, motifs from the circus, the theatre, or oriental tales repeatedly appear. Places and situations are associated with the dream worlds of earliest childhood, which give much scope for one's own fantasy and for playing with identities. At the bottom of the picture runs a coloured bar providing the stage for what is happening in the picture and a border for the formal organisation of the surface. It forms a calm basis for the wild spectacle that unfolds above.

Tal R takes his ideas from a range of everyday sources, such as periodicals, publications, and films. The collage is often the appropriate technique. It makes it possible to preserve widely ranging elements in their own materiality-paper, photos, rags. The formal discourse, however, always takes place in relation to the canvas. Tal R sees himself quite consciously as a painter who plays with the variations and possibilities that painting offers. For the current complex of works from the past two years that are on show at the Kunstverein Hamburg he has used a mixture of rabbit-hide glue and various pigments, which, sometimes supplemented by wax chalk, he applies directly to the canvas. Since the glue dries quickly, a specific idea of the final result is required. What has once been "painted" cannot be changed. The paint is applied very thinly and flatly, brushstrokes are not apparent. The works lack the special style, the aura of oil painting owing to the dry and rough surface.

The Kunstverein Hamburg is presenting the some 20 works in a newly erected pavilion on the first floor. This creates a "space in space" situation for the circa 2.50 m x 2.50 m canvases, which intensifies the meeting with the works. The artificially reduced space imposes a closer encounter than would take place in the full space of the exhibition rooms. Confrontation with the overdimensioned formats cannot be avoided.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Snoeck with an interview between Florian Waldvogel and Tal R.

Interview with Tal R at WhiteTube.de
Extract from the artist talk on April 27, 2011 at the Kunstverein

The exhibition is funded by Danish Arts Council.