The Archive – The Raven Diaries
September 12 – November 9, 2014
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition in Canada of work by acclaimed German artist Jürgen Partenheimer. Reflecting the diversity of the artist’s practice, the exhibition comprises works on paper, text, printmaking, ceramics and sculpture, much of it produced in Vancouver in spring 2014 during his recent residency as the Audain Distinguished Artist-in-Residence, hosted by Emily Carr University of Art + Design.
Partenheimer’s work is essentially abstract; his drawings and paintings, caught seemingly on the verge of dissolution, are remarkable for their fragile beauty, whilst sculpture and ceramic work, suggesting some usefulness, remain elusive with respect to any specific function. His artistic proposition is philosophical, encouraging us to challenge the distinction normally made between reality and imagination. Drawing is used as a means to suggest new pictorial space, linking our experience of place through mapping and gesture, through mark-making. His visual language, the particular form of poetic abstraction, creates a system of open, meditative boundaries. As such this conceptual approach, his life-long interest in notions of representation and his thoughtful, meticulous consideration of locality, space and place, suggest a key resonance with artistic practice in the city, asserting continuity between these forms and an experience of daily life.
The conceptual framework for the exhibition is “The archive” as the artist’s physical and mental “storage”, uniting the remembered and the present, as well as individual and cultural memory. Just as the publicly institutionalized archive is a medium of memory, a place to which cultural works are entrusted, human memory is an archive that constantly creates new relational meanings from changing perspectives. The imaginary archive that gives the exhibition and associated book its title has at its disposal the visually experienced basis of a materially tangible and visually representable inventory: it is based on the oeuvre of the artist, on works that were created in different places, are currently part of public or private collections, and form meaningful relationships between people and spaces. At the same time, artworks as “archival materials” are clearly more than mere repositories of information. They are the visible expression of both intellect and emotion; they carry traces of their process of creation and their temporality and correspond with other objects, whether through their motif or the context of their creation. To this end, in Vancouver the exhibition has a subtitle, The Raven Diaries, referencing the symbol and characteristics of the Raven to west coast First Nations culture, while simultaneously drawing analogies to similar figures in cultural myths elsewhere in the world, and especially to the role of the artist as trickster, representative of a catalyst for change in life, for wisdom, creativity and humour.
Partenheimer’s unique approach to art-making opens new possibilities of understanding an essential interconnectivity between disciplines and fields of thought, insight into the permeability of abstraction into daily life, as well as offering a consideration into how art can incorporate audiences in its very structure. His work is abstract while suggestive of other tangible forms; historical yet refreshingly contemporary; intimate yet public and oscillating within these seeming dualities Partenheimer produces layered, poetic works that speak to social systems of communication and expression while acknowledging the specificity of place.
Alongside the exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery, we have worked in partnership with the Museum of Anthropology. In their Koerner European Ceramics Gallery, housing a unique 600-piece collection of 16th-19th century European ceramics, we present two recent works by Partenheimer. These porcelain vessels are part of an extensive series of forms made in 2013 at the Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenberg, Munich, Germany, as part of their annual invitation to a contemporary artist to work with the factory and skilled artisans to produce a body of new work. Seen here juxtaposed with objects from the same manufacture but of a different time, they provide a counterpoint to the historical collections, connecting us back to a space of the imagination through the perception of the world of things.
Four institutions joined together in a partnership showing various aspects of Partenheimer’s work: the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, the Falckenberg Collection, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver. All four exhibitions have independent installation concepts related to their locations and spaces, and open up various subjective and reflexive realms of experience to visitors. The accompanying book provides a “fifth space” where through a series of commissioned essays, philosophers, historians, artists and poets, reflect on the multi-faceted nature of Partenheimer’s work through an examination of ideas and themes present in his practice.
The exhibition is generously supported by Jane Irwin and Ross Hill, and the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Vancouver. With assistance from Niki Design and Glass Studio Inc., North Vancouver.