Hans-Jörg Mayer’s paintings are distant conceptual paintings traversed by texts, bright pop-trash phenomenon or brittle anti-painting. They are mixed forms, constant metamorphosis. Images that open up themselves and completely obstruct. Harmless, attritional, obscene.
To classify them by traditional topics of painting is difficult. Whether figurative or abstract, conceptual or emotional – the question more interesting is how they are made; painting as a process and insights resulting consequently. Hans-Jörg Mayer is concerned with patterns of behaviour and their structures: what do you paint and what not, how do you think and how shouldn’t you, how do you get to the heart of painting itself and is that even possible? Do you eventually become ‘good’ or always just better?
With his tulip paintings, all created in 2014, Mayer addresses these systemically important questions: where do you begin and where do you stop? What and by which means do you modify? How do you deal with contingencies and accidents? This process becomes visible through the repetition of the tulips as the constant motif. The working ecstasy is in the focus - the point where you work naturally and the production of images progresses really well. Of particular interest is the instant when this ‘flow’ suddenly stops, the brain steps in and you begin to think about what you paint. A fine line that Mayer is excited by. Balancing this tension between curiosity and calculation characterizes the tulip paintings. However, he is not only concerned with a systematic contemplation of painting: doubt is an inherent part of the paintings – doubt about the aesthetic expression and production in other situations as well. Therefore, painting becomes a process that can be transferred practically one to one to other processes of life, simulating and experimenting these in their structures – painting as a flight simulator.
The interest in a motif, its repetition, decomposition and exploitation are typical for Mayer and characterize his painting better than any stylistic concept. Thus, the encounter with flowers can become a catalyst, just like a song by Lady Gaga leads to reoccurring portraits of the pop star. Every available input is shredded and thought laterally. Mayer does not have a consistent style. Nevertheless, there is an attitude towards painting that shapes his simulations. Direct depictions are diverted towards a question, a claim or a pose. Thought and emotion do not oppose in Mayer’s painting. Something refracted by means of a ‘naïve’ or ‘ironically’ thought can nonetheless have been formed by an immediate feeling. Hence, many of Mayer’s paintings are sexy, seductive, full of fetish, raw and delicate.
In his works female figures pose in different ways: broad-shouldered, dominant, lecherous (Pretty Things, 2006), as Renaissance beauty with a proud forehead and luscious almond shaped lips (Herbstzeitlos, 2005), as inflatable doll-like porn star (Mein Land, 2012) or as vulnerable neo-Nazi girl (Mein Herz brennt, 2012), alluding to Marisa, the protagonist of the German feature film Kriegerin. A wide variety of characters, both real or fictitious, find their way into the paintings of Hans-Jörg Mayer – be it Heath Ledger as hospital clown, cartoon characters like Fix and Foxi or, known from the media, a picture meme of Rudi Völler or of Osama bin Laden. They are all referring to social and political issues, to contemporary intellectual culture and are alignment, reaction and simulation of widespread expressions. If you perceive Mayer’s painting in this order, you can see the metamorphoses, the hybridesque of his paintings – cool, mysterious and ambivalent.
Text: Robert Grunenberg
Hans-Jörg Mayer - Ocean Spray, 17.09.2015 - 30.09.2015, Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin
Hans-Jörg Mayer - Moments, 13.09.2014 - 22.11.2014, Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie
Hans-Jörg Mayer: Poetic Expansions, till Oct. 22, 2017, ZKM, Zentrum für Kunst und Medien, Karlsruhe
Hans-Jörg Mayer: The smell of Ink, till July 02, 2017, ZKM, Zentrum für Kunst und Medien, Karlsruhe
Hans-Jörg Mayer. Jiz Lee & Me, until May 29, 2016, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum & Papiermuseum Düren, Düren