Daniel Marzona is pleased to announce the exhibition “Stencil and Fragment” with new works by Magnus Plessen. The exhibition includes pieces from his series "1914", which Plessen has been working on for the last four years. It is devoted to fundamental questions of happiness and the transience of human existence. The series is inspired by the book “War Against War” (1924) by the German pacifist Ernst Friedrichs – a trailblazing publication of photographs of horribly wounded soldiers which depicted, for the first time after World War I, the devastating consequences of waging an automated war.
Plessen’s paintings show the human individual so radically broken and torn from its context that the result is often a disorienting composition that contradicts traditional forms of representation. By turning the canvases several times during the work process Plessen enables multiple perspectives. On the surface of the canvas, what is depicted oscillates between two- and three-dimensionality; and with Plessen’s painterly approach, the figure/ground relationship melts away. The viewer is thus cast into an almost dreamlike, obscured dimension of perception.
In these new works, Plessen contrasts recurring, stenciled pictorial elements with areas that are only sparsely elaborated and initially seem unfinished. His paintings unite seemingly free-floating body fragments, like heads, arms, legs, and hands, with everyday objects that merge in disconcerting depictions of corporeality with areas of deep black, gray, beige, and fleshy pink. Where the early pictures from the “1914” series sought to undermine traditional forms of representation, these new works intensify this approach by dissolving the figure-ground relationship. The canvas substrate and the forms fuse together – doubled faces, limbs, and everyday objects find no assigned and spatially defined spot of their own in the picture, but appear rather as floating inlays. The painting “Untitled (47)” takes the idea of the coinciding figure and ground to the extreme. A half-elaborated torso that, with a strange awkwardness holds a skull, melts into a hint of a background that blends into an unprocessed canvas. An oversized hat-like structure denies the viewer any glimpse of the figure’s head. Nothing here seems in its proper place, perspectives seem broken, and the pictorial space is forced onto the surface, giving the picture an almost perverse intensity and urgency bringing to mind certain Surrealist tactics. Overall, Plessen’s new works evoke an actual and metaphorical flatness, seeming like dressmaking patterns whose wholes were cobbled together from disparate parts suggesting an almost theatrical event. The works have an enormous presence even with all their fragmentary, broken corporeality we are transposed into an emotional and intellectual space of resonance which testifies to the real power of Magnus Plessen’s work.