Critics’ Picks

Simon Mielke, Untitled, 2021, pencil and colored pencil on paper, watercolor on paper, clip frame, 15 3/4 x 23 5/8''.

Simon Mielke, Untitled, 2021, pencil and colored pencil on paper, watercolor on paper, clip frame, 15 3/4 x 23 5/8''.

Düsseldorf

Simon Mielke

Lucas Hirsch
Birkenstrasse 92
March 29–June 25, 2021

There’s a peculiar temperature in Simon Mielke’s debut at Lucas Hirsch. The intimate show, consisting of four drawings and two larger paintings (all works untitled, 2021), is full of generic imagery, but never comes across as cold or distanced. On the contrary, it exudes a reserved warmth. The two paintings, hung close beside one another, show nothing more than sections of empty rooms, such as those one finds by the million on real estate portals. However, Mielke painted them with swift, allusive strokes that allow the mundane subject matter to carry an intimate, diaristic charge. The canvases are poorly primed and sloppily stretched—the charm of the personal awakened by an almost extravagantly flippant approach to the medium.  

But Mielke is also able to change keys: The four color-pencil drawings in the show are expertly wrought, streaked with whispers of fluorescent color that pleasantly scratch the eyeballs. These works are bordered by washed-out watercolor mountings that come in different formats and are never really in sync with the click frames. Three drawings present an older woman seated at a piano; the fourth shows her behind a computer desk. Black bars running along the top and bottom edges of each composition suggest that the source images could have been video. In fact, we are seeing the artist’s mother here, and it is not quite clear whether we are witnessing an open display of filial affection or its Brechtian distanciation, catalyzed by the shift from one medium to another. Either way, nothing comes across as saccharine or calculated. It’s this very undecidability, in fact, that gives Mielke’s work its honesty, and its genuine charm.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.