post-title Hortensia Mi Kafchin | Death is Not a Piece of Cake | Galerie Judin | 15.02.-11.04.2020

Hortensia Mi Kafchin | Death is Not a Piece of Cake | Galerie Judin | 15.02.-11.04.2020

Hortensia Mi Kafchin | Death is Not a Piece of Cake | Galerie Judin | 15.02.-11.04.2020

Hortensia Mi Kafchin | Death is Not a Piece of Cake | Galerie Judin | 15.02.-11.04.2020

until 11.04. | #2690ARTatBerlin | Galerie Judin shows from 15th February 2020 the exhibition Death is Not a Piece of Cake by the artist Hortensia Mi Kafchin.

2015 was an important water­shed in the life and work of Hort­ensia Mi Kafchin (*1986 in Galați, Roma­nia). It was the year the artist, who grew up in a male body with the name Mihuț Boșcu Kafchin, declared her trans­sexu­al­ity and began the lengthy pro­cess of tran­si­tion­ing. First, she short­ened her name to the gen­der-neu­tral Mi Kafchin. Then in 2019 she chose her new female forename, borrowed from the Roma­nian poet Hort­ensia Papa­dat-Bengescu (1876—1955).

The chal­leng­ing steps in this tran­si­tion came along­side a change in her artis­tic practice. Kafchin, who had been exper­i­ment­ing with differ­ent mate­r­i­als for some years and exe­cuted most of her paint­ings on unusual sup­ports, grad­u­ally turned to the tra­di­tional canvas, while her palette became markedly brighter. In 2016 and 2017 a flurry of small formats reflected the emo­tional rollercoaster that the artist was expe­r­i­enc­ing at the time. Since then, the paint­ings have grown in size and intensi­fied in color, and in them Kafchin has addressed the many-faceted ques­tions and hopes that have accompa­nied her self-real­iza­tion. She impres­sively builds bridges between the tra­di­tional and the con­tem­po­rary: In terms of technique and com­po­si­tion, these paint­ings could hardly be more clas­sical, but their themes and urgency are hard to match for con­tem­po­rary rel­evance. These works tell compelling sto­ries, demon­s­trat­ing just how pow­erful and rel­evant fig­u­ra­tive paint­ing can be in our times.

With the four larger paint­ings in this exhi­bi­tion, her sec­ond at Galerie Judin, Kafchin symbol­ically pays trib­ute to her recent per­sonal devel­op­ment. The pre­lude is Social Anxi­ety. It is a self-por­trait, with the artist con­ceal­ing her face whilst trying to escap­ing from an aggres­sive flock of winged eye­balls. Flee­ing is futile, how­ever: Clouds coa­lesce into gap­ing, grimac­ing faces and darken the sky, her body has been sev­ered in the mid­dle by a fly­ing sawblade—and the next step leads down into the abyss. This is Kafchin’s mer­ci­less resumé of the last few years. The first major steps of her tran­si­tion had not led to the longed-for freedom and light­heart­ed­ness. She was par­alyzed by a feel­ing of not liv­ing up to her own expecta­tions or those of other people. In the paint­ing Ana Aslan, Kafchin again addresses this dark side of her self-lib­er­a­tion. It describes the dou­ble fear of hav­ing missed out on her own youth and now, as a “sec­ond youth” emerges, find­ing her­self ambushed and held back by age­ing. Kafchin tackles this dilemma in the form of a mod­ern myth. The face sus­pended in space is that of the Roma­nian doctor Ana Aslan who, in the 1970s, caused an interna­tional sen­sa­tion with a ther­apy designed to slow down the age­ing pro­cess. Many celebri­ties under­took the pilgrim­age to her institute in Bucharest, among them Salvador Dalí, Mar­lene Diet­rich, Indira Gandhi, and Mao Zedong. Kafchin por­trays Aslan as a bringer of light who sees off the per­son­i­fica­tion of death trying to enter top right. The Blood Count­ess I is a more dras­tic interpreta­tion of this long­ing for eternal youth. It depicts the Hungar­ian count­ess Elis­a­beth Báthory, who was con­demned to death as a ser­ial mur­derer in 1611 and became the stuff of leg­ends. Báthory was said to have lured a dozen young girls into her cas­tle, tor­tured them to death, and taken a bath in their blood in order to remain eternally young.

After these two ambiva­lent works, in which Kafchin addresses her hopes and fears about her sec­ond youth in equal measure, the last of these large pie­ces fea­tures a bearer of hope in the shape of a bold and eye-catch­ing ani­mal. Elaga­balus’ Lover por­trays the for­mer slave Hie­rocles, who as a char­i­o­teer in the Cir­cus Maximus won the atten­tion and the heart of the Roman emperor Elaga­bal—prob­a­bly the first trans­gen­der per­son ever to head a state. Hie­rocles became the lover and favorite of the incom­pe­tent emperor. Their liai­son wrote history: An allegedly “per­verse” sexu­al­ity dovetailed with polit­ical power to symbol­ize deca­dence in Late Rome. Kafchin under­mines this narra­tive by plac­ing a rainbow-col­ored horse burst­ing with energy and joie de vivre between the char­i­o­teer and the mon­arch on the tri­bune. It reminds us of the famous por­trait of the racehorse Whis­tlejacket (ca. 1762) by George Stubbs, one of the mas­ter­pie­ces in London’s National Gallery. This rep­re­senta­tion of a strong crea­ture unre­strained by civ­i­liza­tion’s pressures became an icon of British Romanticism. Kafchin has cre­ated a twenty-first-century counterpart: Her splen­did rainbow horse is brimming over with pride, queer self-asser­tion, and emancipa­tion. It eas­ily dom­inates the great stage of the Cir­cus Maximus. As an opti­mistic antipode to Social Anxi­ety this paint­ing completes the spectrum of Kafchin’s large formats. It is a kind of tal­is­man for the final step in Kafchin’s self-real­iza­tion, taking on the pub­lic and any mor­al­izing expres­sions of reac­tion­ary views.

ART at Berlin - Courtesy of Galerie Judin - Hortensia Mi Kafchin 2020
Hortensia Mi Kafchin, Elagabalus’ Lover, 2020 / © The Artist / Courtesy Galerie Judin, Berlin 

Kafchin’s sensual updates of mytho­log­ical and histor­ical themes not only invite us to ques­tion habit­ual read­ings of the past and pre­sent. With these mon­u­mental paint­ings the artist has forged a new genre. Tra­di­tions of art history, narra­tives passed down the cen­turies, and progres­sive social demands conflu­ence in Kafchin’s idiosyn­cratic repertoire of motifs to take history paint­ing in a new direc­tion: Kafchin’s works are the foun­da­tions of Queer History Paint­ing.

Hortensia Mi Kafchin (*1986 in Galați, Romania) graduated in 2010 from the Department of Ceramics, Glass and Metal at the University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She then assisted the painter Adrian Ghenie, whose studio space she later took over. Following solo exhibitions in Cluj-Napoca, Stockholm, Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest, the National Gallery of Contemporary Art in Bucharest has dedicated a comprehensive show of her work to her in autumn 2016. In addition, Kafchin’s works have been shown in numerous highly acclaimed group exhibitions, including at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris (2019), the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2018), the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna (2015), the Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton in Paris (2013) and at the Biennale in Prague (2013). The artist lives and works in Berlin.

From 15 May to 5 June 2020, Ele­phant West, the London exhi­bi­tion venue run by Ele­phant mag­a­zine, will show a selec­tion of Kafchin’s lat­est paint­ings, accompa­nied by a cat­a­logue.

Vernissage: Friday, 14th February 2020, 6:00 – 9:00 pm

Exhibition period: Saturday, 15th February – Saturday, 11th April 2020

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Image caption: Hortensia Mi Kafchin, Elagabalus’s Lover, 2020 / © The Artist / Courtesy Galerie Judin, Berlin

Exhibition Hortensia Mi Kafchin – Galerie Judin | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Exhibition Berlin Galleries | ART at Berlin

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