Returning for its second edition this year, UPRISING is an entirely unusual and broad-ranging exhibition taking place in a beautiful, dramatic and historic 18th-century German castle. The show weaves through the ground floor of the crumbling, enchanted building, ambitiously bringing together 38 international artists across painting, sculpture, textiles, works on paper, and installation, with the title speaking to the spirit of revolution against silence and the power of creation in many different contexts.
The artists included in the show herald from a broad range of locations, from Morocco to Chile, to Singapore, to Ethiopia and Nigeria, to name a few. This wide-spanning approach invites new connections between artists and works which would likely otherwise have not met nor been shown together. In this way, a truly global conversation surrounding artistic creation in the contemporary moment is generated, with curatorial networks being forged across oceans.
Kristin Hjellejerde comments:
UPRISING represents the times we are in and the future, it’s a great challenge and a joy to bring together 38 artists and 70 artworks and to make everyone shine equally. Meanwhile, the run down romantic and rough space with the shine from its past glory makes for the perfect scene for contemplation and discovery. The new and the old compliments each other.
On arrival, one is met with Johnny Briggs’s playful installation on the façade of the castle entitled Moustache 1, (2021). The London based artist is known for his semi-surreal, humorous and at times somewhat dark photography compositions, which explore notions around recapturing the nature of childhood through adult eyes. Many of his works seek out lost youthful moments and feature his parents as primary subjects. For his piece in UPRISING, the performative objects he often uses to stage a photograph are allowed to escape the frame. Winding, impossible broomsticks cling to the face of the castle, in a joyful and uncanny installation that challenges function.
A highlight inside the space, in a small slightly darkened side room, is Victor Ehikamenor’s deeply-intricate and emotive textile work created using Rosary beads, Ring Leader of unfathomable situation, (2021 – 2022). A Nigerian multimedia artist, photographer and writer, Ehikamenor’s practice is often motivated by the aesthetic and spiritual traditions which infused his upbringing in the small village of Udomi- Uwessan, Edo State. He combines religious symbolism, gestural abstraction and signature patterning to create hypnotic and mediative works. In 2017, he was selected as one of the artists to represent Nigeria for their first pavilion at the Venice Biennale and is known for his artistic and intellectual engagement with multinational cultural heritage and postcolonial socioeconomics of contemporary black lives.
Seoul based painter, Tae Kim has two paintings in the show, both abstracted portraits forming part of her wider study of online and digital relationships and the forms of personhood and intimacy forged outside of physical interactions. She creates portraits of people she meets when online gaming, suggesting a sense of digital identity that exists outside of embodiment. Her characters are beyond human, often appearing nearly alien and influenced by the humanoid forms that permeate online spaces. She has an upcoming solo show at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery’s London space in 2023
Also working with portraiture, yet to an entirely different end, is British painter Tom White. Having graduated from Camberwell College of Art in 2021, he has gained quick recognition for his captivating, emotive and delicate renderings of friends and family. The exhibition includes two of his large-scale works, The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword (2022) and Kindly (2022) – both depictions of people he holds dear and treated with such tenderness that the brushstrokes belay his connections to the subjects.
Of the over seventy pieces on show, I was most taken with two paintings by Heidy Ukkonen. Using a variety of materials to create a unique superficial flatness, the Antwerp-based artist draws inspiration from her daily life, fusing mundane moments of joy and suffering. Her work is bulbous and humorous, combing objects in surreal amalgamations and offering a playful and nonsensical vision of the quotidian. Her painting is fresh and contemporary while engaging with the history of still life painting and gently probing its conventions.
The exhibition has an air of unabashed confidence and thrives on a freedom to take risks. The broad spectrum of artists on show, from many countries and at varying stages of their career, collide in a joyful and abundant collection with an air of celebration. Though often not closely tied visually or in terms of themes, the work is held together by the absurdity of the space in which it is set – a dilapidated 18th century castle in a sleeping, provincial German town. The exhibition is most enjoyable in its senselessness – the immense effort to bring over 70 works by 38 international artists to a forgotten building in the German countryside seems ludicrous and leaves me wondering why – but the real question is ‘why not?’.
UPRISING, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery – 18th September 2022 SCHLOSS GOERNE
Featuring the artists: Dawit Abebe, Amina Agueznay, Ana Barriga, Polina Barskaya, Jonny Briggs, Rebecca Brodskis, Anne Carney Raines, Mikkel Carl, Emilio Chapela, Damien H. Ding, Michael Dohr, Victor Ehikhamenor, Miranda Forrester, Jeanne Gaigher, Anne Griffiths, Faris Heizer, Januario Jano, Nick Jensen, Robin Kang, Tae Kim, Ralf Kokke, Joachim Lambrechts, Meghdad Lorpour, Mary Macken Allen, Iryna Maksymova, Rita Maikova, Kathryn Maple, Rithika Merchant, Silvio Mildo, Tendai Mupita, Daisy Dodd-Noble, Eko Nugroho, Nengi Omuku, Christiane Pooley, Vibeke Slyngstad, Heidi Ukkonen, Brea Weinreb and Tom White.