Dancing back and forth between form and surface, Ina Gerken is developing an indissoluble body of work that is surprising and unique in its artistic nonconformity. Emerging amid the gestural scribbles and layerings are streaks, tangles, grids, structures, patterns, waves, clouds, stripes, fans, and much more… Natural chaos or chaotic nature in all its inimitable beauty, Gerken’s painting are a glimpse into the essence of things and world with no clear up or down.
Gregor Jansen, 2022
The Artist Room presents a solo exhibition of works by Ina Gerken (b.1987).
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Produced for this exhibition, Gerken’s new paintings continue her investigation into the possibilities of abstraction. This show follows Gerken’s recent solo institutional exhibition Circling at Kjubh Kunstverein, 2022.
Gerken’s vibrant and energetic paintings arise from an intuitive and reactionary process. Paintings such as Throw a line (2022) are the result of an intensely personal encounter between the artist and her medium. With no pre-mediated process of drawing or sketching, Gerken works intensely with acrylic paint on canvas to form balanced and harmonious yet vigorous and unpredictable compositions.
‘While painting I often internally experience what seem to be certain plans for how a painting should be,’ she recently explained. ‘But whatever control I think I have is always an illusion. The paintings are autonomous and follow their own logic – if I just let them.’
The expressive sensibility of her practice continues a tradition of German artists including Albert Oehlen, Gerhard Richter, Günther Förg, and Katharina Grosse; the latter Gerken studied under at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. In paintings such as Variation I and Variation II (both 2022), her layered process of building and blending paint is clear; fields of colour appear light and dark, creating oscillating sensations of shallow and cavernous depths of field.
Important for Gerken in unlocking the revitalising significance of abstract painting is the Zen notion of kōan. Utilised by Zen Buddhists during meditation, we can understand a kōan to be a productive yet frustrating story, riddle or puzzle. Often devised to provoke ‘great doubt’ and prompt contradictions in what we take for granted, these narratives seek to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning to provoke enlightenment – encouraging imaginative and sublime experiences and thoughts.
While Gerken makes no claim to representing reality as we directly perceive it, in some paintings recognisable subject matter seems to emerge from the subconscious. In works such as Poppy (2022) — from which the exhibition takes its name — a recognisable floral form appears in the final image, with paint appearing supple and translucent like a petal. Differently, Lava (2022) is suggestive of high pressure, molten forms, scalding, erupting and shooting across the surface of the painting. While in Orbis (2022), contrasting planes of colour situated alongside balanced soft and hard shapes are evocative of a harsh, supernatural and dystopian landscape.
Describing her original and recognisable contributions to abstraction, Director of the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Gregor Jansen, illuminates that Gerken offers a ‘striated reality of our fundamental forms.’ In her intense and dynamic paintings, we may find a ‘geology of the gaze — mountains, sediments, leaves ferns — that comes to light again and again and always in new ways,’ unpredictable yet complete; much like experimental rock, avant-garde jazz or punk music.
Ina Gerken (b.1987) lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany. In 2016, Gerken graduated with a master’s from Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Germany where she studied under Katharina Grosse. Prior to that, Gerken studied Fine Art at Kunsthochschule Mainz, Germany where she graduated in 2013. Residencies include The Fores Project, London (2021); and La Brea Studio Artists Residency, Los Angeles (2019).
Recent solo exhibitions include Circling, Kjubh Kunstverein, Köln, Germany (2022); RISING, Makasiini Contemporary, Turku, Finland (2020); Under Pressure, The Cabin, Los Angeles, USA (2019); and Blank Spots, Achenbach Hagemeier, Düsseldorf, Germany (2018).
Recent group exhibitions include Girl meets Girl, Kunstlaboratorium Vestfossen, Norway; Different Strokes, Kunstverein Duisburg, Germany (both 2022); Neue Malerei in der Sammlung, Kunsthaus NRW, Kornelimünster; The Nature of Abstraction, Ruimpte60, Assen; and Kunstwerk Cologne, Germany (all 2021).
Gerken’s work reside in prominent collections such as Openheim Collection, Poland and Kunsthaus NRW Kornelimünster, Aachen, Germany.
Courtesy the artist and The Artist Room, London