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I Want to Breathe Modern Air

More than once the corona pandemic has been compared to the Spanish flu that swept through Europe just after World War I. The "roaring twenties" that followed have received a contemporary translation as "slutty summer. The 1920s "Florida land boom" looked suspiciously like the speculation bubble now being pumped up by Bitcoin cowboys. And the left and right are already foreshadowing hyperinflation and another Great Depression.Our present age is eerily similar in many ways to a repeat of the last century. There are also parallels and similarities in cultural-historical and artistic terms. Although progress optimism still dominates - then industrialization would bring salvation, now information technology - there is also a countermovement. It manifests itself in a revaluation of the traditional and the physical. Not in a nostalgic way but as a pass-the-parcel in a rat race that drags us along and can make us forget who we are.Especially with Omar Koubaa, the interaction with the material is a digging into his own soul. In his paintings, which balance on the border between figurative and abstract, pigment swirls in a visual language that seems fragmented yet coherent. They sometimes seem like landscapes, but of the fantastic kind, through which the spirit blows. Koubaa works intuitively and in a state of light trance. This tension is also palpable in his painting, which, with its rhythmic, short touches, enters into a direct and physical relationship with the viewer.Claus Hugo Nielsen's sculptures align with the formal language of Omar Koubaa - but also of Max Ernst, for example - in the sense that they are not rectilinear and unambiguous but rather round and ambiguous. A certain humanity emanates from his figures, however surreal they may look. This is due to their enormous tactility, which invites you to make a connection. At the same time, they open a door to the world of the subconscious, and the fears, desires and lust that simmer there on a level that even the most advanced supercomputer cannot make chocolate of.The concentrated attention to material and its processing is evident in the latest work of artist duo V&B. They meekly accept the fact that in postmodern times "everything has already been done once," as the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty stated. So they recast themselves, as it were, by compressing plaster scraps from their studio and endlessly working the resulting lumps of material into multicolored sculptures. Their repetitive actions produce tranquility that is palpable in the perfectly smooth surfaces. At the same time, each sanded layer brings out new colors and echoes of earlier work, like a kind of archaeological exercise.The work of Kouba, Nielsen and V&B exudes the atmosphere and spirit of the modern era even before decay set in and the idea of linear development landed on the dump heap of history. There is a robust confidence in one's own ability, a conscious slowing down of action and a deepening of concentration. At the same time, the world anno now - like the interwar period - feels like a vestibule, an interim with an uncertain future. But rather than lose themselves in potentially disastrous vistas, these artists choose to rethink being in the here and now by focusing on making that is an expression of that being.


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