until 18.02. | #3732ARTatBerlin | Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin presents from 10. January 2023 the exhibition “Peering at the Edge of Daydreams” by the artist Martine Poppe.
Sun-drenched canvases with huge, colourful blossoms and entwined stems conjure up a sense of lush, jungle-like space. They are not visions of Eden, however, at least not in the conventional sense; Martine Poppe’s sultry landscapes are distorted and glittery, with pixelated surfaces and strangely shimmering shapes. “Peering at the Edge of Daydreams”, the artist’s sixth solo exhibition at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, combines Poppe’s ongoing interest in climate issues and ecofeminism with tropical approaches to bubblegum minimalism – bright colours, flowers, sunshine – designed to convey a sense of joy and lightness. The results are quietly complex works that celebrate playfulness and creativity as powerful tools that can change the way we see and interact with the world around us.
The title of the exhibition, which is based on a poem by the Irish writer and eco-feminist Rosemarie Rowley, refers to a slipping away from reality, a wavering in-between space. When we daydream, our imagination lifts us out of reality, and although this is a form of escapism, it can also be an enlightening experience. As Poppe notes, “you end up being honest with yourself in a way you’re not otherwise”. For her, the process of creating these latest paintings felt like a necessary daydream, a retreat to a happier, brighter place that allows for experimentation and the simple beauty of nature. “If ever there was a moment for defiant glee, it’s now,” she says, but at the same time the paintings’ determined positivity points to the artificiality of their own making. On closer inspection, after all, the huge, peach-coloured petals of the lilies are unhealthily speckled with green, the soft, ruffled centres of the hydrangeas are yellowing and the bright seed heads look sickly infected.
This altered sense of perspective is the result of process and materiality. In this latest series, Poppe has heavily manipulated her photographs, which serve as the inspiration for the oil paintings, not only to enhance the light and distort the colours, but also to reduce the shadow areas. The remaining dark areas appear as isolated pixels when printed in large format and are further enhanced when transferred from the digital image to the painted surface. In the process, Poppe temporarily positions the printed photo behind the stretcher frame while painting and uses a slightly translucent canvas for the actual painting instead of the classic canvas. With quick, textured gestures, she paints on the cloth and applies only one layer of oil with her unique half-moon brushstroke technique – this resulting structure evokes a distorted effect while simultaneously recording her physical movements. In this way, the dark areas symbolise not only the transience of nature, but also our part in its demise. As Poppe notes, her “accidental pollution” of the perfect image is also, in a way, a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the wilful blindness in current politics regarding environmental change. The purpose of these images, however, is not to pass judgement or evoke guilt – instead, they seek to demonstrate the subversive power of the positive.
Poppe first came across the term “bubblegum minimalism” in the context of a certain style of pop music and literature, but what she finds most interesting is how the avoidance of negativity doesn’t so much eliminate feeling as create a void. In other words, we become hyper-aware of the unreality of the situation, the performance or, in Poppe’s case, the image. In turn, we are able to reflect more clearly on what we are missing. “My art history teachers said there was something similar in the fun-loving art of the 1910s and 20s, when movements like Art Deco and Art Nouveau were very influential,” says Poppe. “However, they would also criticise these movements for being blind to what was coming, whereas I believe that art responds to the needs of the time in which it is created.”
Against a backdrop of global environmental problems, political upheaval, human rights issues and financial crises, Poppe’s radiant paintings are meant to offer not only a welcome sense of relief, but also reflection and hope. Art may be a “daydream”, but it is also a way of motivation to act and change things in real life.
Vernissage: Tuesday, 10. January 2023, 6:30 – 9:00 pm
Exhibition period: Tuesday, 10. January – Saturday, 18. February 2023
Image caption: Martine Poppe: A flower challenging a rock, 2022, oil on polyester restoration fabric, 160 x 105 cm
Exhibition Martine Poppe – Kristin Hjellegjerde Berlin | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Exhibitions Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin