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'Pygmalion‘s Garden' by Maximilian Roedel at Studio Picknick, Berlin

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In an age where everything is promptly identified, categorised, contextualised, liked, evaluated and put up for discussion, emptiness tends to frighten us. We feel this urge to fill it with external content, to cover it with instant reactions, associations, comparisons. In times of all-encompassing communications, confronting ourselves with such emptiness causes distinct discomfort: It suggests the disappearance of the person in the emptiness of being. We cannot just leave it be, this emptiness – a socially non-acceptable state, devoid of contents or references, completely left to its own devices. At the same time, this discomfort has caused us to forget about emptiness as a state of desire, as a creative force of impartiality – as an empty glass waiting to be refilled. When he started out painting his new series, Maximilian Rödel deliberately embraced this sense of emptiness; there is no stated topic or theme, no structure, no obvious pattern to the new works. Instead, he confronts the canvas in its pure materiality, completely bare of any individual or concrete impression. His canvas receives a traditional priming, a tentative foray into emptiness, to establish first contact and thus grasp its nature as a surface and space. Then, Rödel waits, gives the canvas time, doesn’t expose it to anything or anyone, to let it evolve and develop freely, according to its intrinsic nature. He leaves the canvas to its own devices, to its innate rules, since the base coat does not dry in a uniform manner. Instead, it covers, accentuates and occasionally reveals the canvas’ underlying structure and character. Now, unencumbered by any structure, Rödel intuitively reacts to what he finds as part of a process that draws out the paint-related aspects inherent in the picture and unshackles the essential substance of painting from itself. Rödel doesn’t smother the canvas in references, doesn’t cover it in meaning. Instead, he faces and tackles the emptiness slowly. With careful, contemplative strokes, he carves out its character and makes it visible. He highlights it with an energetic shade of yellow, lending it its very own space, surrounded by its origins. This yellow pushes across the primed surface, engages it in a dialogue, creates a clear contrast, occasionally submits to it, only to overwhelm it in a non-referential organisation that follows its very own rules. Rödel’s painting happens within the picture; his works evolve from within themselves. Primer and paint enter an interplay that involves the audience through the almost painfully bright use of yellow, embracing it and turning it into a counterpart. In their exposed ambivalence, Rödel’s works are eminently expressive – they conjure up a self-contained relevance that easily emancipates itself from any given preconceptions. 

— Denise Moser 

31.3.18 — 8.4.18

Photo by Trevor Good

Studio Picknick

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