Jana Euler, Where the Energy Comes From, installation view, 2014, Bonner Kunstverein, Courtesy the artist and dépendence, Brussells. Photo: Simon Vogel
The exhibition at the Bonner Kunstverein is the first major institutional solo exhibition of Jana Euler (b. 1982 in Friedberg) in Germany.
At the center of Euler’s painting, sculpture, and text works, stands the questioning of identity, as it is formed nowadays by cultural, social, and technological forces. Euler, who graduated from the Städelschule in Frankfurt a.M. in 2008, belongs to a generation of artists who completely grew up with the internet as an autonomous reality and have thus concerned themselves with the resultant shifts in social processes and world-views alongside ideas surrounding self-perception and the construction of identity. She hones in even further on gender-specific questions and the role of the artist in society.
Euler’s works are characterized by a strong visual eclecticism. Painting — the core of her artistic practice — here varies formally between expressive figuration and mystically charged forms, while also easily adopting abstract and hyper-realistic traits. The artist does not quote directly but uses diverse painting modes and style itself as a reflexive medium for her subject matter.
In the work “Nude Climbing up the Stairs” (2014), in which she swaps the male figure of Duchamp’s “Nu descendant un escalier” (1912) with her own figure while also reversing the titular character’s direction of movement, she examines the flux between content and context, painter and viewer, subject and object. By means of various modes of interpretation regarding the relationship between psyche and body, e.g. the depiction of fragmented or deformed body parts, she playfully examines the qualities and the sentiment that the exhibition’s title, “Where the Energy Comes From” refers to.
Equally important in her work is the correlation between text and image: her use of language — within the title, directly in the image, on the walls of the exhibition space, or that evoked by the subject matter — combined with her chosen motifs creates a tension that leads to a new and more complex reading. Besides painting, Euler moves beyond the individual image to work with space itself, enriching ones visit to the exhibition and contextualizing its contents while expanding its reach. Thereby, she questions contemporary visual conventions that are increasingly shaped by our digital image reality. Her interventions — often simple gestures like a phrase painted over several walls that can only be fully read from one vantage point (When Expectations Meet Needs, Cabinet, London, 2013) or the application of thick outlines where walls meet floor and ceiling (In, dépendance, Brussels, 2014) — force the space of the gallery into a direct relationship with the two-dimensional representations within her paintings, and are examples of her expansion of the possibilities of painting itself.
The exhibition JANA EULER – WHERE THE ENERGY COMES FROM has been developed in cooperation with Kunsthalle Zurich and was exhibited there from 20 August to 11 September 2014.