Where does space begin and where does it end? How do we distinguish between everyday events and an emergency, or between product and production? The works of Thilo Jenssen (*1984 in Daun, lives and works in Vienna) and Sofia Hultén (*1972 in Stockholm, lives and works in Berlin) make such boundaries clear while also showing alternatives. Each takes a different approach to engaging with a similar concept by making series featuring the modification of found materials.

Sofia Hultén transfers outdoor objects indoors. So, having been reworked and polished, bulldozer’s teeth are freed of any of the aesthetics associated with construction sites and almost defy recognition when mounted on the walls of the gallery. They are no longer instruments in a line of production they are icons for a design process of their own. They almost yield tangible glimpses of their past purpose while rejecting this very notion as they do so – perhaps also holding space for everyday random events.

The artist’s approach frequently consists of the appropriation of generally familiar utility objects, and creating polymorphous visual objects by making minor but essential alterations to them. For instance, Super Call Me Fragile Ego, a series of clay sculptures comprised of sections of piping. Dark plexiglas gives the impression that they are filled with liquid. What is real, what is illusion? Both seem plausible. For our reality could just as easily be completely different: Every action and every event is based on innumerable variables. Who defines forms and structures? Couldn’t every moment, every object take on a completely different shape? Hultén sums up this inconceivable infinity of possibilities in her works.

The relationship between subject and object, which for the longest time was based on the presumption of stable relations, is no exception. In practical and ontological terms, the relationship was previously arranged into two spheres: People are people, and things are things. The upshot: people use things. While a pair of trousers that dances around a street bollard as if by itself reinforces the probability of an inverted hierarchy of power: Surely man is more dependent on his things than the other way around?

Thilo Jenssen’s Screenshot Paintings are manifestations of sequences of digital aids for the body. Automated emergency calls, repetitive alarms and idyllic lock screens are applied to the canvas by means of UV printing, only to dissolve again through abrasion in a dialogue between dystopia and utopia. Jenssen’s tin paintings challenge similar regulatory structures for intersubjective systems of power and support. Alongside monochrome surfaces, they show theatrically staged situations between safety and control; the depictions come from the artist’s archive of first aid instructions, compiled over years. The distance between the dramaturgy of the image and the reality of the subject depicted alludes to an awareness of the fragility and dependence of the human body.

This is contrasted by the physical brutality of the ground to the image: monochrome lacquer, contoured and rendered rhythmic by traces of sweat strongly suggests references to Colour Field Painting and Minimal Art. Yet the paintings, which make their raw materials and the processuality of the mechanisms of their production obvious, transgressing their medial boundaries and revealing not only their photographic quality but also a sculptural quality. How meaningful are categories anymore?

With this in the background, the exhibition UPPERS AND DOWNERS is a unique antidote to all the limitations of everyday life. (Teresa Kamencek, 2022)

13 Oct – 26 Nov 2022
Tuesday to Friday 11 am – 6 pm & Saturday 11 am – 4 pm

Christine König Galerie, Schleifmühlgasse 1a, 1040 Vienna

Photocredits: Manuel Carreon Lopez, Nick Ash, Christine König Galerie