until 23.10. | #3166ARTatBerlin | Kristin Hjellegjerde Berlin shows from 17th September 2021 (Opening: 16.09.) the exhibition Birds of Paradise with the artist Sinta Tantra.
In search of distant lands, a fleet of Spanish ships set out on a voyage around the globe some five hundred years ago, in 1519. Among the many wondrous things they brought home were the skins and feathers of birds of paradise and various stories mythologising their existence. For her latest solo exhibition entitled Birds of Paradise at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin, Indonesian artist Sinta Tantra combines paintings, sculptures, slides, sound recordings and archival material in which the viewer is taken on a journey through three merging rooms that trace the bird’s historical transformation in the context of contemporary discourse on otherness and postcolonialism.
The exhibition begins in a darkened room with a multi-sensory installation created in collaboration with scholar and historian Dr Natalie Lawrence. Two whirring vintage projectors play a curated selection of slides of archival images, historical illustrations and maps, some of which Tantra has augmented with her own playful drawings to give them a sense of colour and dynamism, while a voiceover narrates the transformation of the bird of paradise from sentient creature to coveted decorative object. “The bird of paradise is not native to Bali, but I saw this beautiful animal as a metaphor for my own identity. Recently, I have been captivated by thematic areas between East and West, and the bird of paradise became representative of all this cultural history and contemporary issues around colonisation, as it became a commodity for sale and trade since the 16th century,” says the artist.
Sinta Tantra: New Order / Madness of the Age, 2021,
Tempera und 24 Karat Blattgold auf Leinwand, 160 x 200 cm, 63 x 78 3/4 in
In the second room, Tantra alludes to the mythical and exotic qualities of the bird of paradise with an immersive installation of pink-painted walls and vinyl film on the windows. A new series of large-scale paintings uses muted, monochromatic tones with delicate hints of gold leaf. In a departure from the more minimalist language of the artist’s earlier works, amorphous, curving forms suggest the silhouette of birds, while others evoke fleeting, dance-like gestures. The painting titled Lovemaking & Cirri, for example, implies the mysterious courtship ritual of birds through soft, sensual forms rendered in muted tones, while the artwork Black and White is Writing, which borrows its name from Jean Arp, balances organic and geometric forms. Throughout the exhibition, there is a palpable tension between movement and stillness that resonates with narratives about the bird of paradise. Hunters in New Guinea traditionally removed the legs of the birds before drying the skins to adorn themselves for tribal dances. When these skins were brought to the West, it led to a distorted view of the birds’ mobility; some felt that since the birds of paradise could not land on earth without legs, they must remain eternally airborne, and so they were equated with ‘fallen angels’.
In the final room, Tantra draws on the bright, saturated colours of the birds’ flamboyant plumage to create refreshing visions in emerald, yellow and pink alongside a collection of brass sculptures protruding from the wall, evoking cosmic shapes that refer to the mystical status of the bird of paradise (in 1598, Dutch astronomer Petrus Planchius made the bird a new constellation). The space is highlighted by the sounds of two birds of paradise mating. Here, the birdsong deliberately replaces the human voice in the first room – and aims to imbue the viewer with a sense of freedom, which is not least continued by the mural created by Sinta Tantra in the gallery garden open to visitors.
Opening: Thursday, 16th September 2021, 6:30 pm.
Exhibition dates: Friday, 17th September – Saturday, 23rd October 2021to the gallery
Exhibition Sinta Tantra – Kristin Hjellegjerde Berlin | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Exhibitions Berlin Galleries | ART at Berlin