“In my family, no one talked about art. So eventually I found out that such a thing existed for myself from postcards and books.”
Simon Lee Gallery is proud to present an online exhibition of works by German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann.
Since the 1960s, Düsseldorf-based Feldmann has amassed a prolific collection of photography, painting, postcards, knick-knacks and everyday ephemera. With the majority of his work untitled and undated, he gives away as little empirical information as possible to his audience, instead encouraging an unbiased viewing experience, unbound by context.
With surprising humour and subtle intervention, Feldmann systematically reconstructs existing images and objects to reflect on representation and the construction of ideologies. In doing so, he challenges the boundaries of high-art and disrupts long-held assertions of the artist’s role as a unique creator. In One Pound of Strawberries thirty-four colour-photographs of individual strawberries demonstrate the artist’s urge to document, and thus celebrate, the ordinary.
“I have two ways to express my art. On one side I do exhibitions and on the other side I do magazines and books. Both have the same importance for me. But I always try to leave not a feeling for valuable items or objects, but an experience... That’s why I put pictures and photographs with pins of the wall of a museum, not with a frame, that’s why I write titles of works by hand below the work on the wall. I do not want to be recognized by material, but by ideas.”
“…individual photos are not right for me. I find them too loaded with meaning, too elitist. The mood of a whole series is more important than an individual picture. When things are repeated, then there’s an average value that’s more correct than an individual picture can be.”
The engrossing Wunderkammer, or Cabinet of Curiosities, presents three glass vitrines in which Feldmann has laid out, with great intent, an assortment of objects, all apparently unrelated, aside from their ability to spark Feldmann’s curiosity: a Magritte-esque pipe, an old telephone, a tap, a hipflask, a shaving brush, an open lipstick, children’s shoes, a microscope, dentures, a large silver spoon, a bulldog clip, folding spectacles, boxing gloves, a mousetrap, a perfume bottle, handcuffs and a lightbulb. Wunderkammer opens up the artist’s private, encyclopaedic world: an anthology of objects or visual impressions of biographical significance.
For Feldmann, the world of images has always delivered an escape – a glimpse into another world. As a young child in war-time Germany, the artist collected stamps. Fragile and delicate, yet universally accessible, stamps provided brilliant examples of windows into alternate realities; a life beyond the war. Within their miniature frames, stamps tell of Kings and Queens, mythicized landscapes and monuments, wars fought and battles won. Included in this exhibition is one of the world’s largest single collections of historical paintings of the nude. Installed in a row, the display presents one hundred and fifty stamps, each bearing a different art historical image of a nude.
"My father had a shop that received a great deal of post. I was maybe five or six, and I liked the stamps. I cut out these lovely little colourful pictures and stuck them into notebooks with a thick kind of glue."
The exhibition also features the multi-part painting installations, Seascapes and A Story. Mined from auctions, second-hand shops and markets, these simply grouped works open up a space for viewers to make connections and associations between otherwise discrete images, creating a disjuncture between intention and reception, while simultaneously bestowing upon them new life and narrative meaning. The fifteen found paintings of varied scale and finish in Seascapes have had all subjects removed – boats and birds have been erased to make way for a new, more generous fiction.
These form part of a consistent strand of the artist’s practice, involving the appropriation and modification of historic oil painting. This creeping nostalgia for a life that never was is supplanted by uncanny alternative narratives, reminding us of the power of images in the creation of personal mythologies.
Hans-Peter Feldmann was born in 1941 and lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany. His work has been shown extensively internationally and has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions and projects, including Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2017), Sammlung Philara, Dusseldorf, Germany (2016), C/O Berlin, Berlin, Germany (2016), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark (2015), The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel (2013), Serpentine Galleries, London, UK (2012) which travelled to BAWAG Contemporary, Vienna, Austria (2012) and Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany (2013), Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (2010), which travelled to Malmö Konstall, Malmö, Sweden (2010), Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany (2010), Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany (2010) and the Arnolfini, Bristol, UK (2007-2008). Major group exhibitions include The Modern Institute, Glasgow, Scotland (2017), The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, Spain (2016), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2016), Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, MX (2016), Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal (2015), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2015), Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich, Germany (2015), Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK (2014), Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria (2013), the São Paulo Biennial (2012), the Bass Museum of Art in Miami (2012) and the Venice Biennale (2009). Feldmann was awarded the Hugo Boss Prize for the Arts,in association with the Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY in 2010. His work is in major private and public collections including S.M.A.K., the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent, Belgium, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain, Tate, London, UK and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY.