MALERMEESE - MEESERMALER
Jonathan Meese (b 1970 in Tokyo) is one of the best-known contemporary German artists. His diverse, highly individual work, powerful and unsettling, polarises opinion. It is influenced partly by his study of personalities in world history, of ancient myths and heroic epics, which the artist intensifies into a fantastical whole, using elements taken from popular culture. Uncompromisingly, he proclaims his utopian concept of the "dictatorship of art" in dealing with proscribed persons and symbols, or German (contemporary) history. Always walking the tightrope of humoresque distortion, as an artist he consciously takes the risk of causing offence.
The exhibition in the MdM Mönchsberg aims to provide, for the first time, a survey of the most extensive complex of his œuvre: painting. This was not Meese's first medium, but came second to drawing, long before he turned to installation and the stage. His first oil paintings date from 1993/4 – the period immediately preceding his academic training. After an interval of several years, during which he devoted himself exclusively to performance and installation, he returned to painting with increased attention. From then on, he transferred his fundamental idea of the stage as a counter-world, and the element of staging, on to large-scale historical paintings. The expressive power of the original, unmistakable painterly language he developed over twenty years has attained a unique status in the contemporary art world.
A constant theme in his painting is that of political systems and their control and power mechanisms. This is evident particularly in his excessive use of historically charged symbols such as swastika, iron and Latin cross, and the so-called "Hitler salute". Meese deconstructs them ornamentally, or tirelessly reduces them to the absurd by combining them with refuse and toys. The systematic inflationary use of these symbols conceals the aim of neutralising them – not in order to forget them and the concomitant catastrophic events, but on the contrary, to emphasise their ineffectiveness for the present day. It is an essential feature of artistic expression constantly to exceed the bounds of good taste, since this manifests the fundamental doubt concerning the belief in and treatment of symbols as expression of political power.
Curated by Doris Mampe and Veit Ziegelmaier
The exhibition will be accompanied by the catalogue, Jonathan Meese. MALERMEESE - MEESERMALER, ed. Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Doris Mampe and Veit Ziegelmaier, published by Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, 2013, 176 pages, hardback, copious colour illustrations, German/Englisch.