Jana Euler at Kunsthalle Zurich: whole counts more than single parts

The first problem one has to face when reading Jana Euler’s solo exhibition currently at Kunsthalle Zurich regards the strong links the artist set between the paintings on display. It’s a link that doesn’t only depend on the significant title that she has chosen for the show, “Where the energy comes from”, but also on the graphic frame she has put around. What you immediately notice when you enter the exhibition space, after being warmly welcomed by a painting clearly addressing Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude climbing up the stair”, is the handwritten floor-map of the gallery, with the details of the artworks you are about to see. Then, as a sort of connecting element between the first room and the second one, you see a monumental writing on the wall – something like a Lawrence Weiner’s piece – stating the title, “Where the energy comes from”. At last, there are three couples of eyes, pasted on the floor in front of three portraits (of the master of non-verbal body language Sami Molcho), which refer to the way these portraits have been painted: with the eyes wide opened (truth), with only one eye opened (copy) and, of course, with both the eyes closed (imagination).   Despite the traces in social realism that can be spotted in her paintings, and all the valid similarities with the Neue Sachlichkeit, Dick Ket’s saturated and expressive painting, or Francesco Clemente’s sexual symbolism, it is indeed a matter of fact that her body of works does function better if perceived as a reference system. Similar to the show by Matthew Day Jackson at Hauser and Wirth we recently discussed about, both the artists seem to avail themselves of art in order to reconnect with parallel spheres of knowledge. In the case of Euler’s, painting becomes, again, a driver that hints at something else: Duchamp, but also German pop cinema Fack you Goethe), Sami Molcho, “the loaded history utopian and esoteric groups that have retreated into the mountain world of Switzerland”.   The frame (graphic) and this system of references have made the corpus stronger than its single elements, and what apparently could seem a collection of paintings is in fact more similar to an installation information-based and conceived with the purpose of giving some possible answers to an evergreen poetic dilemma. Euler is telling us that energy could come from moving, sex, body, protest, drugs perhaps, words, images, and the effects of this energy are probably so strong that even the museum’s bench – a detail also Harold Ancart is taking into consideration as proved by his recent installation at Art Unlimited – ends up “altered” under its pressure (Altered museum bench, 2014, Glazed wood). Apparently we are in the realm of the representation of a certain concept, and not in that of the representation of any specific media, especially painting. And that is what is making Euler’s painting not self sufficient.

April 29, 2019