The Overbeck Gesellschaft and the Kunstverein Lübeck are showing the exhibition "Cornelius Völker: Verflüchtigungen" from 16 April to 30 May 2021.
The oeuvre of Düsseldorf-based artist Cornelius Völker (* 1965) is characterised by an exploration of numerous traditional genres of painting. Like Dieter Krieg (1937-2005), with whom he studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1989 to 1995, he always moves outside the fixed boundaries of any stylistic conventions and constantly explores new painting methods in terms of form and content. Whereas, for example, numerous art historical predecessors considered the reproduction of a person in a frontal view or in profile to be the ideal positioning for a portrait in painting, Völker tries to depict his protagonists in a casual activity or posture, the situation of undressing a jumper, parts of the mouth as a fragmentary cut-out or views of the back of the head. He also pursues a similar approach in his still lifes, which, although in part inspired by historical predecessors in terms of subject matter, are not based on an idealised view in art history. The exhibition Verflüchtigungen is the first to focus exclusively on this genre in the artist's oeuvre, which is documented by numerous cycles and individual works on the subject.
Although Völker's compositions are staged for each pictorial idea, the things depicted nevertheless convey an everyday casualness without following a consensus-based aesthetic taste. If, for example, the contents of a rubbish bin are thoughtfully put together and poured out accordingly for a painterly realisation, as happened in advance in the series of rubbish or laughter pictures (from 2006 and 2012), the procedure of staging for an appropriate template can be repeated several times until Völker considers the result a painterly challenge. This process makes it clear that he is not concerned with idealising what is shown, but with making visible supposedly insignificant aesthetic peculiarities, which, however, conceal the essence and the very essence of things. The painterly quality of his pictures can be seen in Völker's distinct feeling for colour and his understanding of its mode of action on the one hand, and in his broad repertoire of painting techniques on the other. Völker's application of paint varies between glazing and impasto, from almost sensitively delicate to expressively stormy. Where the possibilities of the brush reach their limits, they are overcome with the help of brushes, squeegees and palette knives.
In art history, the still life is one of the traditional modes of representation whose compositions are determined by objects, everyday objects, plants, fruits and inanimate animals in a carefully arranged spatial structure. With the exception of individual works, Völker's interpretations of still life do without a defined space. Rarely is the detail of an overall situation chosen to suggest a larger spatial context. Rather, individual subjects are often reproduced in isolation. This emphasis on a snapshot is also reflected in the titles of the individual works, which are limited to the simple naming of the objects on view, without any further frame of reference. The titles thus have more of a cataloguing character; the story, the mood and the intention are told exclusively by painterly means. In this context, Völker's high-contrast use of colour is striking, in conjunction with a deliberate painterly use of light, which - sometimes more, sometimes less - creates reflections of the pictorial objects and thus increases their plasticity. "These extreme contrasts with the backgrounds come from the fact that I wanted to do something that, in principle, one would probably rather try to avoid," says Völker. "Both, figure and background, separate from each other in such a way that it is difficult to then re-establish a connection in the picture as a whole. That was interesting for me because I noticed that by isolating the figure in this way, a painting surface of its own, a picture within a picture, is created that is categorically detached from the background." Through the way Völker uses colour, the choice of his subjects, which usually allow a localisation in the present, as well as the staging of the motifs, which suggests a closeness to current media-effective image compositions, he makes clear the necessity of painting as a possible form of image articulation in the 21st century.
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