Diehl Cube On View: 14.12. 2013 - 17.01. 2014


Curated by Mark Gisbourne

Mr Gainsborough presents his compliments to The Gentlemen appointed to hang the Pictures at the Royal Academy; and he begs leave to hint to Them, that if The Royal Family, which has been sent for this Exhibition are hung above the line along with full lengths, he never more, whilst he breaths, will send another Picture to the Exhibition—This he swears by God.
                             Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88), Letter to the Hanging Committee (1783)[1]

The representative intentions behind this exhibition are those of aesthetic gestural expression and historical provocation. The former is represented by the extraordinary painterly expressiveness of the German artist-painter Gonn Mosny, and the latter by the intentionally provoking installation adopted by the curator of the exhibition. Hanging above the line (now commonly called the St Petersburg’s Hang), was a floor to ceiling approach to displaying wall-based art works adopted by National Academies and Salons in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is the antithesis of the now normative twentieth century White Cube hanging polices instituted by Alfred H. Barr at MOMA throughout the 1930s, an approach that has remained largely unchanged in terms of contemporary art installations. Above the Line is an essential challenge to the normative and conventional suppositions of the white cube-modernist approach to display and installation. It suggests a hybrid reality presented in a modernist space that is a seven x seven x seven metres contemporary white cube. The paintings are displayed in two tiers with a British Racing Green (Brunswick Green) line dividing the walls into upper and lower wall spaces of display.[2] The line evokes the polemic and contentious issues that always follow on from the display and installation of art works today.

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The use of expression, the gesture, the mark, and more importantly the question of when to actually make the mark, these are just some of the fundamental issues in the paintings of Gonn Mosny (b. 1930). The current exhibition ‘Above the Line’ Atmen und Malen includes part of the series of extraordinary paintings he created during relatively hidden and quietly anonymous years he spent in Provence from the 1980s to the 1990s. Each painting is an accumulation of differentiating gestures and aspects of time informed by multiple periods of contemplative engagement with the canvas surfaces. With the large canvas pinned to a wallboard the artist applied and erased, added and subtracted, layered and integrated a painterly palimpsest and/or vision that is both intensely expressive, and simultaneously highly poetic. The line, the mark, the splash, and their displacement, the first action and second thoughts (pentimenti), are all made evident within these paintings. They are neither purely abstract nor figurative by intention, but rather process driven experiences that reveal a personal and unique space of self-expression. While there is a clear indebtedness to Cy Twombly (something the artist Mosny would never deny), unlike the American master they are less graphically and more colouristically driven in their final outcomes. One of the last living painting students of Willi Baumeister (1889-1955) at the Stuttgart Academy (1952-57), after first studying lithography in Hamburg, he subsequently became a professor teaching painting and the director (1964-84) of the Pforzheim School. At the same time he was the founder and first director of the National College of Design.

The powerful sense of the psycho-physiology of painting—literally as breathing and painting—in the works of Gonn Mosny, is indebted in some measure to his fascination with the meditative processes of introspection. While every feeling is open to be expressed, the question is what is the nature of what is being expressed, and when is the appropriate moment through gestural expression in which to realise it? In consequence a fascination with Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery (Zen in der Kunst des Bogenschießens, 1948), introduced to Mosny when a painting student at art school, has remained a lifelong text and is continuously read and re-read by the artist.

 „(…) The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art (…)“

In a practice and approach that proves to be an personal excavation of psychical gestures and the mark, and reveals the traces of presence and/or material residue, we gain access to an essential understanding the unique qualities found in Mosny’s paintings. To speak of the paintings being abstract or figurative is somewhat pointless, since pure states of consciousness can never be fully described or encompassed in either categorization. What is clear is that both abstraction and figuration emerge from within the parameters of the artist’s phenomenological experience as a sensational break within the flow of absolute consciousness. The emotional experience of Mosny’s paintings therefore can be said to operate in relation to an immanent engagement with the studio that became and remains his intensely private world. Such an engagement is a confrontation with making in painting, and relatedly has been described by Gilles Deleuze in regards to art and literature, as “…that is A LIFE and nothing else…it is to the degree that he goes beyond the aporias of a subject and object…it is an absolute immediate consciousness whose very activity no longer refers to a being but is ceaselessly posed in life.” (‘Pure Immanence’, Pure Immanence: Essays on a Life, 2001, p. 27) Hence this introspective and creative approach to painting characterizes almost every aspect of Gonn Mosny’s development realized in his paintings. The artist’s drawings similarly possess a highly imaginative dialectical confrontation between mark and gesture, wherein (given the linearity implicit in drawing) the use of line vies against marks of masking and obliteration, their presence exposes the trace, and the marks form their own internal and unique pictorial vocabulary. The scrupulous use of materials and the artist’s potent understanding of them are also part of this vocabulary. They are the necessary pre-condition for the informal freedom that his paintings and drawings possess. In this respect they truly reflect that…he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill

Mark Gisbourne, Curator                                                                             November 29, 2013

[1]  See David H. Solkin (ed), Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836, Newhaven and London, Yale University Press, 2001
[2]  It was named after Braunschweig (Brunswick) Germany, where it was first manufactured (1764), and with the name British Racing Green it became the international motor racing colour of Great Britain