empathy

Order in Chaos

“Sometimes I think I’m mentally disordered, but I’m not quite sure. But I’ll never go and see a doctor, ‘cause if they heal me I might never be able to paint again,” says artist Iman Rezai (Universität der Künste Berlin).

Sane or insane, Rezai’s work takes you to a whole new level of reality – a moment
smashed against canvas as a bouquet of paint drips and oozes in every direction, and yet the neatness of how the colors and media fall into place is astounding.
In chaos one can always find order; your eyes naturally find the familiar forms, artifacts, expressions, and even a glimpse of your own face in the shards of mirror pasted onto various pieces. While some of Rezai’s artwork, I must admit, initially look terrifying – their delicacy and intricacy intrigue you to take a closer look, where your eye and mind instantly become fixated with the detail.  A massive canvas at the left of the entrance, catches my eye first –a figure, as if fallen from the sky and plastered onto the cement street, is displayed with all of its life, thoughts, guts pouring out. Haunting. Riveting. A preparation for the rest of the exhibit. 

Luke I am your… mother?

In the corner a Darth-Vader-esque character is also eye-grabbing. On this piece, entitled Kaiserschnitt (trans. Caesarean Section), Rezai incorporates two elements you would not usually conceptualize together: an unsettling, black-cloaked villain and motherhood. The themes of heredity and identity continue to find their way a bit more subtly throughout Rezai’s work – an occurrence the artist deems as being unintentional. Persian script, images from Iran and even authentic rifles are scattered throughout the pieces, shedding light on the artist’s interior, his past, and what makes him tick.

 

Iman Rezai "Kaiserschnitt"
Photo: “Kaiserschnitt” 2011 Iman Rezai. Courtesy of Galerie Gerken
 
What’s all the commotion?

A loud soundtrack in the exhibit leads you up a narrow spiral staircase, guiding you to the second artist on display: Flavio Degen. A black and white screening of a mass gathering, of what appears to be a funeral or procession in North Korea, shows anguished faces as the crowd wails and screams. The commotion created by this massive outcry of humanity is excellent background music for the exhibit’s elusive atmosphere.

Just as intricate as his peer, Degen’s mixed media installations absolutely draw the viewer into the reality they create. The use of sound, video, light, and collage bring images and art to life. The second floor houses a makeshift cave, guarded with shiny, foil curtains, that submerges the visitor in darkness where all these elements come into play. 

Exiting the shrine-like cave and returning downstairs, the visitor can view more of Degen’s work and use of various masks that manipulate and disguise human faces. A nice interplay with Rezai’s pieces, I’m compelled to stay for a while longer to re-examine the works of both young artists. Located on Auguststrasse, already the home of many galleries, Galerie Gerken truly stands out as a breath of fresh air – or a much-needed trip to the dark side
 
  • Galerie Gerken, “Iman Rezai vs Flavio Degen” , January 8th 2012 – February 23rd 2012, Tuesday – Saturday: 12 pm – 6pm