Albert Oehlen et al.
Christen Sveaas Art Foundation: This is the Night Mail, selected by Ida Ekblad
Whitechapel Gallery, London
27 August 2021 – 2 January 2022
The dreams, nightmares and twilight landscapes of 35 international artists are brought together in This is the Night Mail, an artist-curated display by Ida Ekblad. Drawing from the personal collections of Christen Sveaas and that of the Christen Sveaas Art Foundation, the exhibition creates a densely-packed mise-en-scène featuring painting, photography, sculpture and drawings.
This is the Night Mail is the first line of W.H. Auden’s 1936 poem describing a train journey across a sleeping Britain as it carries the nation’s mail. It accompanied a documentary film commissioned by the General Post Office with a propulsive soundtrack by a young Benjamin Britten. The slumbering mystery of Auden’s verse inspired Ekblad’s selection of works in the Collection, which the artist arranges across three imagined train compartments.
Ekblad is renowned for her polychromatic, gestural paintings that often expand into immersive environments. Coming from the land of both the longest and the shortest night, she shares a preoccupation with many artists featured in the exhibition, using the nocturne as subject.
The exhibition explores how moonlit interiors, land and seascapes form the backdrop for scenes of dream or nightmare, drama and transgression. Ekblad’s selection includes late 19th and 20th century Norwegian artists whose shimmering and mysterious canvases will be new to British audiences. Ekblad also selects postwar and contemporary artists whose works explore nighttime encounters, escapism and terrors. Their work features alongside beautifully-crafted antique silver and glass objects which Norwegian collector Christen Sveaas has been acquiring for over 40 years. Works by Albert Oehlen and Sigmar Polke are included.
This is the Night Mail is the first in a series of four artist-curated displays borrowing from the Christen Sveaas Art Foundation. Taking place over the course of a year, the exhibitions function as a platform for creative and curatorial experimentation and invite the public to engage with works rarely on public view. Each display in the series is also accompanied by a new collectible publication devised by the guest selector and co-published by the Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery.
Ida Ekblad contributed a playlist to The Commuter Club platform to accompany this exhibition. Each of the tracks in this playlist has played an inspirational role in Ida's exhibition reflecting her fascination with the nocturne.
The Painter, a film by Albert Oehlen, Oliver Hirschbiegel and Ben Becker
Under the direction of Oliver Hirschbiegel, actor Ben Becker on screen impersonates the contemporary painter Albert Oehlen and re-creates a painting that Oehlen himself and in parallel is creating step by step in the background, with the actor improvising the process in front of the camera. The finished on-screen painting is an original “Oehlen” on which the artist himself never laid hands. The off screen blueprint painting was destroyed after principal shooting had finished.
Originally planned to be a performative statement the projects developed into a fully fledged feature film of 92 minutes, crossing formal boundaries and questioning the meaning of the creative process and the struggle for authenticity on various levels.
The Painter follows the artist / actor as he is struggling and suffering along this process with us watching in joyful despair and what might happen next until the white canvas has turned into a finished painting.
The outcome is a one-man rollercoaster that appears to be a documentary but in fact is a staged and guided improvisation with the “real” process happening behind the camera. The Painter is a constant flow of the artist’s journey with elements of farce and comedy topped with emotional moments of truth...in front of and behind the camera and leaving it up to us to decide what is real and/or authentic.
Watch the trailer here.
Albert Oehlen x Sven-Åke Johansson: Rhythm Ace & Slingerland
Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin is pleased to announce Rhythm Ace & Slingerland, which was recorded during a concert conceived by Albert Oehlen with percussionist Sven-Åke Johansson at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg in May 2019.
This new album, a co-production by NI VU NI CONNU and Galerie Max Hetzler, with liner notes by Max Dax is one of numerous collaborations between longstanding friends Oehlen and Johansson, following from their 2003 album Shotgun Wedding, also featuring Mayo Thompson of Red Krayola. This album explores how art infuences music and vice versa – a question often explored in Oehlen’s work.
The idea originated from Johansson’s visit to the artist’s studio in 2018. Oehlen showed the drummer his collection of rhythm machines, American and Japanese, from the 1960s onwards. Oehlen explains “I collect old drum machines because I fnd the contradiction fascinating that you collect devices that can do as little as possible. A drum machine is more attractive to me the more limited it is.”
Johansson responds to Oehlen’s musings and collection by creating the performance for Rhythm Ace & Slingerland. Johansson says of the performance “the situation was an extension of my being and also that of this device. It is a win for both: man and machine. So the experiment was successful.”
This record is available on our publications website.
Collaboration with "Talk About Lebanon"
Galerie Max Hetzler is pleased to team up with "Talk About Lebanon" in the wake of the fatal explosion in Beirut on 4 August 2020. The first in a series of collaborations is a T-shirt featuring a painting by Albert Oehlen from his iconic "Baumbilder" (Tree Paintings) series. All proceeds from the sale will go towards the NGO "Live Love Beirut" whose mission is to provide assistance to those who cannot afford to repair their homes after the explosion.
The T-shirt can be purchased at Talkaboutlebanon.co.uk
Talk about Lebanon