until 30.10. | #3160ARTatBerlin | BBA Gallery shows from 18th September 2021 (Vernissage 17.09.) the solo exhibition Quest to Bloom with works by the artist Renata Kudlacek. Curated by Giulietta Coates.
is is the first solo show of Renata Kudlacek at the BBA Gallery and represents a body of work spanning the last three to four years. Her work explores the age-old story of our expulsion from the Garden of Eden in light of the scientific knowledge through which we now understand life, death and dreams of immortality. The fine art prints and hand-made screen-prints combine the artist’s own photographs and drawings, made to simulate old engravings or paintings of flora and fauna, with original historical scientific drawings.
Glossy dark flowers, butterflies with their ghosts and shadows, snakes, and ambiguous natural forms tumble across the paper, crowd the picture plane, or spill over frames which are unable to contain them. The forms are lush, flamboyant, excessive, and yet the petals are aged and curling and the colours autumnal. What is abundant and alive is on the point of decay
Born in the Czech Republic, Kudlacek comes from a Catholic family with roots in the old Eastern Europe. The different cultural histories of East and West, as well as the confrontation between faith and science, informs all her work. ‘There is this constant struggle’ Kudlacek says, ‘between ethics and science – belief and facts – old standards and the new unknown. Where we stand on life’s essential moral questions requires constant revision in the baffling speed of an ever changing world.’
In 2017 Kudlacek participated in the Art and Ethics Research Group at Edinburgh University, which was a turning point for her. A selection of the circular works resulting from this exchange are presented here, the ‘Tondo’ series and from the series ‘Tales of Telomeres.’ Tondo is a Renaissance term for circular paintings symbolizing birth, life and eternity. Kudlacek’s Tondos are displayed horizontally under glass, evoking a laboratory setting – the petri dish, the view through a microscope. The title, ‘Tales of Telomeres,’ refers to cellular degeneration and the science of ageing, but the images resemble magnificent dome paintings found in Renaissance churches. The work hints that the scientific quest for immortality is as much a tale as the Garden of Eden.
In ‘Menageries’, butterflies, funghi and flowers float precariously on the white paper, and the exotic Tulip repeats itself in obsessive cascading garlands and bouquets, rendered in a Northern European late Baroque style. Again, the artist links a historical moment with a contemporary one. The notorious Tulipmania of 17th century Holland was one of the earliest market ‘speculations,’ in which the desire for rare tulips pushed their market value to more than the worth of a house and led to bankruptcy and financial collapse.
This tale of boom and bust capitalism has sinister overtones for our own time of consumerist excess in the pursuit of beauty and youth. Melancholy, loss, nostalgia and desire permeate these images. Their fragmented forms, and the rupture of a coherent pictorial space, signifies loss of a place to call home. The white of the paper is a no-mans land, a lost world and a death space. There is no way back into Eden. Banishment from God leaves us with the mere appearance of things, a world without meaning.
In the series ‘Metamorphosis,’ the tulip motif appears again and again in interlocking convolutions, not unlike forms in the microscopic world, but on a menacing scale. The flowers aggressively fill the space or knot themselves across it, and the dark crevices between them are like wounds.
In ‘Blue Velvet,’ the palette is reduced to blacks and dark blues and greens with alarming stabs of red, whilst the drawing is excessively ornamental, suggesting the cold, violent side of hedonistic decadence and the impossibility of the dream. The promise of the Garden of Eden, like the promise of consumerism, is all an illusion. In ‘Quest to Bloom’, giving the title to the show, the garlands are satiny and rich, mounted one on top of the other like a Tower of Babel. The latest work ‘Spectacluar Specimen’ in the show resembles, fittingly, a wreath. It glows out of the dark like a Rachel Ruysch flower painting of the 17th century, heavy with melancholy, the blooms folding like shrouds into themselves.
There is a real sadness in these images. They evoke an exuberant, dark, chaotic world, and the hope that life may yet be beautiful. There is also something manic in the way the artist gathers together her flowers and butterflies and spills them out before us, a profusion of life on the brink of death, forewarning, perhaps, of the loss of the natural world to ecological disaster..
But Kudlacek is defiant and longs for reconciliation, between ’ethics and science, belief and facts’. The quest to bloom is not only a desire to create paradise on earth, but a longing for the myth of Eden itself, that original impulse towards wholeness and the ideal. These floating fragments, garlands and creatures are of this world, complex and sensual. The artist relishes the mix of fragile attenuated forms and a rich baroque palette. Her nostalgia for the fading natural world is sweet and worked with tenderness. Ultimately, this body of work is also her personal celebration of beauty and wonder, and the belief that in Art, these are still concepts worth holding on to.
Renata’s work has been exhibited widely across Europe whilst actively working for various art and education initiatives including project management and curation. She is co- founder & director of the BBA Gallery and holds a Master of Art in Fine Art / Printmaking from the Royal College of Art London.
Text: Giulietta Coates / Karen Raney
In partnership with Fleurop Germany / Fine Art Services Berlin
Vernissage: Friday, 17 September 2021, 6:30 – 9:00 pm, the artist is present.
Artist / Curator Talk: Sunday, 19 September 2021, 16:00 @Gallery and Instagram live.
Extended opening hours during Berlin Art Week: Sunday, 19 September 2021, 11:00 a. m. – 6:00 p. m.
Finissage: Friday 15 October 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Exhibition dates: Saturday, 18 September to Saturday, 16 October 2021 – ATTENTION: extended until Saturday, 30th October 2021!To the Gallery
Exhibition Renata Kudlacek – BBA Gallery | Contemporary Art – Kunst in Berlin – Exhibitions Berlin Galleries | ART at Berlin