Hamburg and Berlin

Carsten Fock

Galerie Katharina Bittel/Galerie September

In two simultaneous shows mounted in Hamburg and Berlin, Carsten Fock presented his latest work in the form of all-over installations that group drawings, paintings, and wall treatments into coherent ensembles. The shows shared concerns but did not merely represent formal variations on a theme. It’s better to think of them as two separate, self-contained pictures—and this is precisely what characterizes Fock’s artistic perspective: having space come into its own as a picture and vice versa. “Earlier, my individual wall paintings functioned autonomously,” Fock has said. “Now, for the first time, the entire room has become something like a meta-picture.” Fock’s immersive meta-pictures do not, however, downgrade the individual works integrated within them to mere placeholders. On the contrary, these ensembles sustain and focus the specific qualities of Fock’s framed drawings and paintings. This crossing of boundaries between individual works is underlined by the fact that in some cases the individual pieces them- selves display a distinctly tectonic structure. Fock formerly tended to use typography as a basis for his images but now increasingly uses freer gestures. Figurative allusions emerge as well: a hint of landscape, for instance, or motifs drawn from Christian iconography. Fock aspires to achieve a precise equilibrium between reduced pictorial gesture and shading that lies somewhere between Hartung-style informel and the suggestion of three-dimensionality. The emphasis on process helps each painting and drawing develop its own characteristic all-over rhythmic structure.

The two shows put these principles into practice in differently tempered but equally valid ways—which was what made their juxtaposition so interesting. In Hamburg, Fock created a somewhat cooler, abstract chamber with a spread of wall paintings that rhythmically alternated between violet and black, along with a third wall painted a dense black. Taking this backdrop as his starting point, he implemented a hanging strategy of ironic self-reference—as when a framed pastel drawing was placed in isolation and repeated, on a smaller scale, the motif and color tone of the wall on which it was hung. The Berlin installation, by contrast, had an almost sacred feel to it, suggesting a chapel devoted to abstract painting: The wall painting, regular in structure but multicolored, evoked light streaming in through church windows, and an abstracted picture of Christ against a violet background on one of the central walls contributed to the spiritual effect. And yet all of this remains not so much a theme as a template, applied to produce first a picture and then a pictorial space. “Transcendence without pathos” is Fock’s own term for it.

Jens Asthoff

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.