In Yakovleva’s images, femininity manifests itself beyond its figurative and representational depictions and appears as a functional principle of creative negativity. Thus, the inversion of the impossible, the forgotten, and the unsaid has an effect on the level of reception: the extraordinary amount of effort and material that goes into her pieces play with the attributes of “laboriousness” and “being diligent”. These ascriptions are more likely to be applied to tasks that are female or domestic in nature, or to eager schoolgirls, in contrast to the narratives of artistic genius reserved for men. In Yakovleva’s work, this diligence becomes a destructive force and the medium a showplace for excess.
Düsseldorf-based Murat Önen’s paintings create peculiar snapshots of calm in the midst of great commotion. They capture moments of solitude and security in places where they are rarely sought: in the ecstatic intermediate spaces of basement clubs and beach bars, among muted sounds and stroboscopic lights.
Born in 1993 in Istanbul, Önen’s encounters with Berlin’s club culture has had a lasting impact on his painterly practice. Far more than attempting to relate the ecstatic frenzy, his work becomes a quest for traces: for the fabric of the spaces, for the physiology of their sounds, and their silence.
His figures seem untouched by the light that falls upon them. It seems to come from an undefined place; soft, but devoid of temperature. Önen’s paintings capture fleeting impressions as an uncanny afterglow, recording them with remarkable serenity. Tangible instances and brief moments of reflection emerge from the gentle, electrically lit environments and artificially temperate rooms that call to mind the ramshackle melancholy of tanning salons and American amusement parks.
Being alone, waiting for something, but not knowing what. The magical pull of the nightlife and entertainment industry rests like a veil over the surface of Önen’s work. Renouncing the sharpness of details in favour of an overall softness gives rise to figures that initially appear more as typologies than fully fledged characters. But it is this unspecific approachability that makes them so appealing: they all appear as silhouettes of an immediate yet undefined yearning.
Önen’s paintings are haunted by familiar faces and forms that seem to briefly emerge from among the light and objects, finding a moment of rest and attention within his scenes. His work blurs the individual body and the entertainment industry’s production of photographic corporeality into analog, aura-laden images: a closed-eyed cowboy with a lit cigarette or the grinning face of a fetish mask appear to the viewer as lucid, ghostly apparitions. Among these ambiguous but familiar figures from pop culture, Önen approaches the question of masculinity in the form of a melancholic yet humorous confrontation with desire, that is gradually revealed as a yearning for closeness and belonging. The figures seem to be familiar in the way that childhood heroes and Disney characters are. This familiarity creates a particular sense of closeness, which enables them to turn from illusionists and marginal night-time figures into symbols of an unobtrusive feeling of security.
Although masculinity and sexuality are addressed in Önen’s works, the figures within them seem strangely incorporeal. The physiognomy he creates is one that finds expression in its isolation. Individual bodies lit by artificial light or entwined, holding onto something – either someone else or themselves. Where are the boundaries of these bodies, the representations of which are symbols of a yearning for freedom and excess? Whose body are we considering here? What is the physicality of loneliness?
For Önen, the studio is the antithesis of the animated, people-filled spaces of the outside world, the clubs, and the bustle of the city. It is a place of solitude. While photography used to play an important role in Önen’s earlier practice, functioning as a juncture between memory and the present, his work today is primarily based on momentary mental impressions, loose associations, and free-floating images. Thus, the space defined by these bygone experiences, encounters, memories of movement, and stasis is an open one. It is where juxtapositions, impressions, and degradations emerge, stay a while and disappear again.
A ray of light caught in a glass, a refuge from the emotion of that seems to linger for a second. Önen creates scenarios that are detached from both their material and their settings. Instead, they appear as outward manifestations of an inner tenderness, one that often remains as a gesture, a humorous hiatus in the realm of allusion.
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