Julius Hofmann - under der linden
13.01.2018 – 03.03.2018
A cypress tree, what looks like antique pillars, a pool set in granite: the scene would resemble romantic Italian garden design, were it not for this darkness covering the edges. Or perhaps it is this sculpture, with its grim expression and raised hand, that troubles the idyll. What is wrong here? Could it be that the sculpture, with its traces of classic antiquity, seems far too animate? Or is it the contrasts that define this image? From the two-dimensional cypress, to the angular and pixelated flora, the distorted perspectives, right through to the granite which appears so real that one feels compelled to touch it.
The paintings of Julius Hofmann offer a transcendental experience: they reflect the aesthetic of a different medium – the digital aesthetic of computers. Hofmann has appropriated the audiovisual surfaces of 1990s computer game graphics and integrates these visuals and structures into the medium of painting and film.
According to Hofmann, painting has paved the way for computer graphics. From his point of view the field has always profited from the achievements in painting. While he makes use of computer game aesthetics in his painterly work, he in turn integrates elements from painting and sculpture in his digitally produced films and quotes artists associated with New Objectivity such as Anton Räderscheidt or the precursor of surrealism Giorgio de Chirico, alongside cinematic works like Michelangelo Antonioni's “Blow Up'” and Jean-Luc Godard’s “Le Mépris” – thus expanding his 3D animated films with a painterly element.
The result is a continuous transfer from one medium to another, their boundaries steadily dissolving. This “re-import” opens up a dialogue between his paintings and 3D animations. Each of his works is embedded in a larger process and narrative that relates them to each other.
Silicon Valley’s perfect replications of human bodies that appear on and off-screen as part of a post-humanist landscape are irrelevant to Hofmann’s work, however: “perfection” is nothing but a definite end, a condition rather than a transition, a state of being instead of becoming.” With his works Hofmann sheds light on an only reluctantly explored terrain between computer animation and painting. One that permanently breaks with the expectations of the observer. His visual world is alien to us, yet not entirely estranged. A kind of impenetrable tangled web that refuses to ever be fully unraveled.
The works presented in the exhibition “Under der linden” display certain elements common to the artist’s work. He uses them like building blocks and to establish relations: this includes the tall cypress trees, the Italian garden landscape, the antique appeal of the architecture, the water fountains, flowers, and historical sculptures. Just as the figures that appear in his works again and again, and create a narrative arch. A storyline combines the many paintings and animated films: in this particular case it is based on the Walther von der Vogelweide poem “Under der linden”, written in 1200. A secretive, forbidden love story, that plays out on a bed of red roses beneath a lime tree, with only a bird as witness. In the film, the romantic encounter and the knowing nightingale only appear in altered form: out-sized roses with menacing thorns, the sweet nightingale replaced by a raven, a gloomy site instead of the romantic garden idyll. Hofmann plays with the expectations of the observer, transfers the poem to another time, and thus poses new questions. For instance with the unexpected appearance of a female tennis player – a sport that was massively popular in the 1990s, but which had been, during the time of Walther von der Vogelweide, when it was known as “jeu de paume”, an exclusively male affair. In the seeming contradiction of his settings Hofmann thus also hints at a political dimension: in this case the emancipation of women.
(Sabrina Steinek, art historian and founder Keenonmag)