Installation view of “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” 2015. Image courtesy of JanKossen Contemporary.
In lieu of a paintbrush, German artist Jürgen Jansen uses rags, sponges, brooms, and his own hands to apply diluted oil paint in layers to slabs of raw wood. His first show in the U.S., “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” includes a collection of works that sidestep traditional painting conventions by introducing an improbably wide-ranging color palette and an intensely emotional charge.
Jansen frequently renders flowers as abstract forms and in so doing, celebrates the fluid, dynamic practice of painting itself. In Field Research (2014), strokes of orange-red, blue, and purple paint overlap and unfurl like flower petals beginning to bloom. It is one of the more representational works included in the show. Shoal II (2015), which shows abstracted flowers arranged in cell-like clusters, brings to mind the impressionistic floating forms of Monet’s Water Lilies.
Several works painted in palettes of blues, blacks, greys, and whites evoke a sense of serenity, and some take on an ethereal quality in the contrasts of dark and light. In the cyanotype-like Waka Jawaka (2015), variegated, pale flowerlike forms radiate in rows on a deep navy background speckled with blue and white, suggesting blooming roses or fireworks exploding across the night sky. In NN (2015), meanwhile, forms resembling underwater plants like algae or coral bloom upwards; the shapes are organic and suggestive, evoking an x-ray image in their black, white, and blue tonality.
Jansen’s works show a spirited exploration of materials and process, and a committed effort to evoke energy through vibrant, enlivened imagery. With each floating, indiscernible entity and vaguely organic form, another layer of the artist’s process is revealed to the viewer.
In Keep falling on my head (2015), disparate motifs from Jansen’s work coalesce in a waterfall of speckles and splatters in cool colors. The background is sheer blue and is overlaid by intense smatterings of dots that become less dense and opaque as they move down the canvas. A tranquil yet electric mood shines through, creating an expressive, emotional complexity that is at the core of Jansen’s work’s strength.
“I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” is on view at JanKossen Contemporary, New York, Oct. 15–Nov. 21, 2015.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory