In her first solo exhibition in the United States, German artist Birgit Jensen looks to the history of the landscape in painting to examine the role of artifice in our never-ending pursuit of perfection.
Made without a brush, Jensen’s paintings are meticulously and labor-intensively constructed to look as if they were created digitally. The “hand” of the artist is completely invisible. Superseding the brushstroke, Jensen applies multiple layers of screened paint to represent the pixilated matrices that compose digital imagery – the signifier of the electronic and impeccable.
Referring primarily to the woodcuts of the Edo Period Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, but also to the 19th century Romantic, Caspar David Friedrich, as well as Vija Celmins, Thomas Ruff and Gerhard Richter, Jensen’s paintings appear at first to be realistic representations of nature. But they are in fact poetic constructs, composed of many images and places stitched together to create the illusion of an ideal. For Jensen and her predecessors, such imagined theatricality is a stratagem for seducing the viewer and transporting them toward the sublime.
Jensen is interested in exploring the shift away from the physical and the natural toward the manufactured and virtual, as more and more aspects of our lives are constructed or designed, and more and more knowledge is gained through media instead of reality or experience. This move looks likely to accelerate. And as that paradigm changes, so do our notions of the meaning of perfection, the ideal and the transcendent.