BLINK BRLN
PAINTING

JOCHEN MÜHLENBRINK

Artist review | Niklas Ranze for Blink Berlin © 2024

"J’M donc je suis" – Jochen Mühlenbrink's latest monograph title not only encapsulates his artistic journey from 2018 to 2023, but also means the French translation of “I love”: “J’aime”. These two letters articulate the essence of an artist who revels in life, embraces love wholeheartedly, and cherishes the pictures own existence to the extent that he welcomes their ambiguity and enigma – in short, the very essence of their being, with all its intricacies and uncertainties.

In a world where clarity is ever more elusive, akin to gazing through transparent glass, his art wrestles with the complexities of perception, encompassing its blind spots. This entails acknowledging the worlds blurriness, invisibility, deceptive transparency, and visibility. His images address the mounting opacity of our environment by paradoxically rendering opacity as opacity visible.

These adventures of perception form the core of German artist Jochen Mühlenbrink's work. Born in 1980 and a graduate of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under the mentorship of Markus Lüpertz, his style resonates with photorealistic imagery, reminiscent of artists like Gerhard Richter, Gregory Thielker and Riona Buthello. Mühlenbrink's paintings, executed in a Trompe-l’Oeil (“deceive the eye”) style, heighten the hyperrealistic sensuality of the world by deliberately obscuring clear or familiar imagery. 

For his images, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each material must be selected for each painting and picture cycle, guided by intuition through the foggy process of creation. However, he primarily prefers working with acrylics, oils, and resin, using wood, paper, or canvas as his chosen surfaces for most of his artworks.

What's paramount in his material selection is that he opts for materials that not only engage our sight but also beckon us to touch and feel his images.

We had the delightful opportunity to attend the opening of his latest exhibition BCP at the ASPN Galerie in Leipzig. We wholeheartedly encourage everyone to immerse themselves in the enchanting world of his paintings and unravel the intriguing puzzles of perception that his images evoke.

As I wandered through the exhibition Saturday afternoon, I felt a mixed set of emotions swirling within me. The gallery was crowded, a lot of people were laughing joyfully around me with excitement in their voices and smiles. They might feel the same as I do. A lack of certainty of what to see and feel.

The deep blues and fire red shades in Mühlenbrink’s newest painting, WP BCP and WP BCP (Drop) stirred up feelings of unease and nostalgia, casting a captivating spell over the pictorial space in front of my eye. I see a background on which the objects are burning, but it is not clear what they are. They might be a car, a house, or just a campfire – maybe something even more uncanny.

I can’t see through the window since my gaze is covered by the milky surface. Only through small paths on the surface, opened by water drops, my gaze can unravel the background and its hidden secrets. But what is it? Is it something I’ve seen in my childhood, something that I believe I’ve seen, or just something my mind makes up now? I can’t tell for certain.

So, despite my curiosity and eagerness to unravel the mysteries hidden within the artwork, I found myself unable to penetrate the surface of the canvases. I can’t find out what was behind the window, behind the illusion I sensed. Yet, amidst this uncertainty, there is a profound beauty and joy — not just intellectual, but corporal, emotional joy – in the enigmatic nature of his art. 

What truly made my trip to the ASPN Galerie in Leipzig unforgettable was the presence of  Jochen Mühlenbrink himself, with whom we had the chance for an interview. In this immersive dialogue, we gained many thoughtful and creative insights into his art and artistic world. Our encounter sparked an electrifying conversation about art and his mesmerizing works on display, an experience I carried all the way back to Berlin.

Dive into the captivating exchange below in our exclusive interview.

PHOTOGRAPHY

FRANCIS KANAI

Artist review | Niklas Ranze for Blink Berlin © 2024

Photographer Francis Kanai, hailing from Takasaki, Japan, and poet Malaya Malandro, residing in Los Angeles, USA, join forces in a unique collaboration that lead to their book “Everything is a Self-Portrait”, published in 2023. Beyond simply working together across different artistic disciplines, their partnership underscores the convergence of two distinct perspectives on interpreting the world: photography and poetry. 

In both the poetry of Malaya Malandro and the photography of Francis Kanai, there is a concerted effort to capture the fleeting emotions of contemporary times. Through their respective mediums, they reflect the complexities, anxieties, and ambiguities of the modern world.

In "Everything is a Self-Portrait", Kanai and Malandro explore the fundamental question: How does meaning emerge in the world? Rather than a static entity waiting to be discovered, sense is an ongoing process, continually evolving as we engage with our surroundings. In essence, we actively construct sense through our relationships and experiences with others.
Art, therefore, embodies this process of sense-making, reflecting shared experiences and perspectives.

Through collaboration, unique artworks are born, transcending what each individual could achieve alone. Collaboration, as a form of shared experience in art, represents an impossible gesture for those in isolation. Art becomes a testimony to the intertwining of singular and plural perspectives with the world by blurring edges and filing blind spots of the others perception, leading them to explore the concept of the "unending self" — a notion that speaks to the interconnectedness and continuity of human experience.

Reading "Strawberry Cigarette" by Malay Malandro while gazing at Francis Kanai's photograph evokes a visceral experience of tension and ambiguity. The poem's intense atmosphere, depicting a heated exchange between lovers, contrasts with the divergent situations captured in Kanai's photographs.
In the poem, the heated dialogue between the lovers, coupled with the absence of a response from the other, intensifies the sense of conflict and emotional turmoil. The lines "You are the 100 hollow eyes I have seen before, wearing the dry mouth of a lonely person" evoke a sense of longing and bitterness,  hinting at the complex dynamics between the self and the other.
Her words resonate with the emotional turmoil and existential angst that many individuals experience in today's fast-paced and uncertain world. By tapping into universal human experiences, Malandro's poetry serves as a poignant commentary on the human condition in the contemporary era:

Examining Kanai's photographs adds another layer of complexity to the narrative. The image of two men sitting back-to-back in what appears to be an airport or train station conveys a sense of disconnection and isolation, mirroring the themes of loneliness and longing present in the poem. On the other hand, the image of the naked male body and the female hand holding a cigarette in a car suggests intimacy and vulnerability, juxtaposing the distant and detached mood of the previous image.

However, the absence of facial expressions in both the poem and the photographs spark a gloomy and enigmatic quality of intersubjective experiences. Without the ability to discern the emotions behind the characters' gazes, the viewer is left to interpret the scene based solely on body language and context, inviting them to project their own feelings and experiences onto the narrative.
Through their art, they provide a mirror to society, encouraging viewers to confront and engage with the complex tapestry of emotions that characterize the world we live in today.

COMPOSITION

KOKI NAKANO

Artist review | Niklas Ranze for Blink Berlin © 2024

"How you touch or you want to touch the complexity of the world". This is the self-given definition of art by the Japanese born composer and pianist Koki Nakano. His belief is, that there is a primordial harmony – a flux of life – that our culture has forgotten but that inspires us every day. His music is an attempt to unfold and reconnect to this harmony.

It isn't a real surprise that Nakano composed and perfomed live the original music for the Issey Miyake AW collection 2024/25 "What has always been". Since Nakano‘s fascination for bodies and their movements and shapes is well known, it makes him the perfect match for art that creates clothes, the second skin of human kind.

Issey Miyake's fashion is known for its contemporary design, for its innovation and playful connection of different materials, and for its fluid shapes. This connection between music and clothes, marks another aspect of the introductory quote that highlights Nakano's holistic artistic approach. Clothes are an integral part of our daily lives, and they transcend the pre-given and static boarders of our sensible body.

Nakano maneuvers on the edges of classical and electronic music. His music is mysterious and opaque as if you must constantly follow the traces the sounds have left on the soil. But at the same time, it’s clear and transparent. On the one hand the piano chords are smooth, tentative – questioning and sensitive. On the other hand, vigorous and precise, diving deep into the innards of his instruments: the piano and the synthesizers. Always together, they flow into the harmony of the world he wants to express.

The best way to experience the art of Nakano is undeniably to visit one of his extraordinary performances accompanied with contermporary dance. One that stood out to me is his concert in Paris four months ago, accompanied by the choreographer and dancer Tess Voelker.

This concert gives me the feeling of the cycle of a day, beginning with the  sunrise.


A very dimly lit stage and slow, peaceful light enlightens the piano and the synthesizers that lay inside the open body of the piano. Nakano is calm and in a spiritual mood, prepared for what will happen in the next hour. He builds up smoothly his intro, with clocking and ticking sounds like an alarm clock ringing in the morning. A wake-up call. It’s time to wake up. In between these drippy, ticking and clicking sounds, there is a sound that reminds me of the scream of a newborn baby. Everything is set up for a birth or sunrise—a new beginning.

Then, after the climax of the electronical rise, the piano starts playing. The electronical sounds fall into the background, whispering, and the piano enters the stage. Calmly and with his eyes shut, he touches the keyboards, and bright sounds echoing through the room.

After the intro of the first song, which sets the atmosphere for the evening, Tess Voelker appears on the stage. In the red and orange light of the morning, she moves across the stage with swirling and trembling movements. Her dance visualizes the music, the body resonates with the music Nakano is playing, and the music itself makes the dance hearable.

Her body postures moves along the music, or does the music move along her movements? You cannot tell. The intertwining of sound and dance comes to «zone of vagueness» where you can’t differentiate between what comes first and what follows. Music and dance create a situated unity of two poles of expressions. 

After about 13 minutes, the light color changes. The red, gloomy light gives space to a colder, blueish light. We reach the climax of the sun and the day. It’s indeed not a summer day. It’s more like, since the concert is held in November, an autumn or winters day. Likewise, with the weather and the temperature change, the sound of the synthesizer becomes frostier and icier as well, and Tess Voelkers movements become sharper and extended through the room, growing like stalagmites in a cave. 

At minute 26, the color changes again from blue to red. The sun sets and music becomes more joyful, sparkling and faster. And so do the movements of Tess Voelker become lighter, accelerated, yet more excited. At the end—the last 15 minutes – Nakano is left alone on stage and performing.

He closes the circle of the day and the concert by playing one dreamier and one more impulsive song. The light also becomes darker, yet more mysterious like the night in which we fall when we go to sleep.

What we experience by watching and listening to this musical and corporal arrangement is the natural flow of everyday life and of the ordinary world; the different tempi and rhythms that bodies express resonate throughout their musical corpus. It’s the flow from which his art arises—the energy that mobilizes the bodies—and it is this flow that becomes understandable in the listener's ears. 

By listening to his music, we have the chance to reconnect to the one and only world we live in, where everybody is equal due to his connection to the same world. It’s an act of liberation to step out of one’s set boundaries and find harmony within us in touch with the world. Freedom is therefore an entanglement that deepens our connection to the tension of the world and the question of what it means to be alive, rather than an isolating process. 

dance & multimedia

FRANCESCO MISCEO

Artist review | Niklas Ranze for Blink Berlin © 2024

This month we followed the multi-sensual traces of the Italian multimedia artist Francesco Misceo. His art present us a holistic intertwining between the digital-machinic and the analog-organic sphere of the human body.

Together, we enter an atmosphere of a dreamlike poem that enfolds in front of us and affects all our senses. With Misceo, we are welcome to explore the manifold ways of expressing our bodies.

In his short art piece “Late night Tale” Francesco Misceo shows us a body in motion, dancing, as vehicle that transcends the body.

Touching and feeling the air, the heat, the coldness of the room around its skin. Sensing the hardness and the softness of the objects in its reach and out of reach. The body is in contact with his surrounding and other objects – like the flashlights – that help it transcend itself. Even though this piece is not danced outside in the nature, like many of his other pieces, still, we sense the connectedness and exteriority of the body.

The art piece itself navigates and convey on the imagery level between the half-naked moved body of flesh, muscles, and bones and the pulsing astral body of thousand starlike photons.

Maybe this is a reason why Misceo used lights at his hands. The hands don’t need daylight to see. The hands are light itself and for themselves. And the burst of the body might be then the freed emotions and motions, the liberated intensities that sleeps in our body until the daytime ends and starts to spread out when our body starts to dance.

The body becomes a particle drift of infinitive affects, motions, and emotions
that stream across space and time and towards an impossible and infinitive end.

The “Late night Tale” is therefore always the tale of the body, a tale that is spoken when the day is gone, when night and its darkness arise and when our eyes become tired, and our hands wake up. Or maybe the “Late night Tale” cannot be shown but just be danced? Not been spoken but just felt?

In any way, in this tale – in his or our “Late night Tale” we lose the borders of our contemporary self, we start to dream (of) a body, a body of streams and clouds that slips away from its daily cover.

Especially when we go with our body undercover, when we hear and feel its movements and passions. In the night the body discovers its own rhythm and movement, its own stream when it is moving around and beyond borders.

This and much more is there in Misceos beautiful sensitive and quiet, rapturous, and expanding dance in which he invites us to dance the body and play with it. And in this movement, we might find something what laid hidden within ourselves. Other layers and photons that energize us and want to set free.

TATTOO ART

JULIM ROSA

Artist Interview | Kate Black for Blink Berlin © 2023


''Do what you need to feel at home in your body''. That was her message, one year ago, after standing half-naked inside a Gallery window display in Berlin, covering her body with stencil tattoos. How she kept spreading her thoughts and questions during a very unexpected year? What is her main inspiration? Let's find out.


What would you say are the 3 most important topics that you want to address as an artist?

I feel like the topics that I address in my practice evolve and change with time, but at the same time there's some core ideas that transcend the almost 15 years I've been producing art. If I had to pick 3 they would be reality, permanence and the questioning of convention.

What does the word "distortion" means to you Julim? How did it end up being the focal point of your tattoo style?

Distorting a concept, for me, is a way of exploring it. I use distortion to explore what's the meaning of TIME, REALITY, GENDER, NORMALITY or PERMANENCE, for example.

What would you say are the 3 most important topics that you want to address as an artist?

I feel like the topics that I address in my practice evolve and change with time, but at the same time there's some core ideas that transcend the almost 15 years I've been producing art. If I had to pick 3 they would be reality, permanence and the questioning of convention.

What does the word "distortion" means to you Julim? How did it end up being the focal point of your tattoo style?

Distorting a concept, for me, is a way of exploring it. I use distortion to explore what's the meaning of TIME, REALITY, GENDER, NORMALITY or PERMANENCE, for example. It allows me to grab a word and softly make it go through waves, radically glitch it, break it into geometric shapes, or even distort it until the legibility is gone and it turned into a completely abstract composition.

Through distortion I ask questions. I interact with the concept, challenge it's conventional meaning and explore how it makes me feel.

I think it ended up being a distinctive point in my tattoo practice because other people connected to this idea of questioning, and having their own take, their own experience with this process. I help humans create their own personal distortion of a concept and then get it tattooed tailored to their particular body.

I am really interested to know more about your performative work. It is not something that you see often when it comes to tattoo artistry.

Tattooing appeared in my life around 10 years ago, in a kind-of performative way. Back in Buenos Aires I shared an atelier with a friend and one summer we decided to build a tattoo machine from a tutorial we found online. Using a hair dryer motor, a button, a fork, a pen and a guitar string we built this DIY machine and tattooed each other. This kind of fell into my bigger art exploration, but then I got so fascinated by the permanence and intensity of the tattoo practice that I decided I wanted to really learn it and do it professionally. It was like learning a new media and I fell so deeply in love with it, but art and being a creative person came first, as I know it happened to so many other humans who were artists before tattooing. Maybe every tattoo I do is, in some way, a piece in collaboration with the human that receives it.

Do you think that there is a discrimination against women's bodies, bodies with tattoos or bodies in general that you wanted to address with your performance "Never too much"? I know the answer is probably all 3 but I am curious to see which inspired you most in your performance and why.

The performance was inspired by a personal experience of walking around Berlin wearing shorts on one of the first days of summer. I felt so observed. Strangers were making comments about my appearance. This was like a shortcut in my brain to the years I lived in Latin America, where woman and gender non conforming people are constantly harassed, oppressed, discriminated, judged and killed. I remembered feeling so much shame, guilt, sadness. So at this point I decided I wanted to make a statement and take it to the extreme.

I did a performance in the window of a gallery, where I was standing naked for 1 hour, and all I was doing was covering my body completely with tattoo stencils. I felt really exposed, but also super empowered.

It felt like asking society "What happens when I transcend the limits of what you expect from me? Who determines what is "right" and "acceptable" when we are talking about my body?

It happened in Berlin but I was streaming it on Instagram Live to the rest of the world. The action ended with the message "Do what you need to feel at home in YOUR body".