The artworks by Hans-Jörg Mayer (born 1955) are cool concept images with text interspersed, bright pop-trash phenomena or brittle anti-painting. They are mixed forms, constant metamorphosis. Images that open up and completely block. Harmless, exhausting, obscene.
Classifying them according to classic painting themes is difficult. Regardless of whether figurative or abstract, conceptual or emotional - the more interesting question is how it is done; painting as a process and what results from it and what insights result from it. Hans-Jörg Mayer deals with behavior patterns and their structure: what do you paint and what do not paint, how do you think and how not, how do you get to the heart of painting and is it even possible? Do you get good at some point or do you just keep getting better?
His tulip pictures, created in 2014, deal with these systemic questions: how do you start, where do you end? What do you mend and how? How do you deal with coincidences and mishaps? This process can be traced back to the repetition of the same motif of the tulips. The focus is on the frenzy of activity, in which one works as a matter of course and the image production simply slips away. The moment when this flow breaks off, the head kicks in and you start to think about what you are painting is interesting. A fine line that irritates Mayer. Balancing this tension between curiosity and calculation characterizes the tulip pictures. But for him it is not just about a systematic reflection on painting. There are doubts in his pictures - about aesthetic expression and production in other situations as well. Painting then becomes a process that can be transferred one-to-one to other processes in life, simulating them in their structures, experimenting in them - painting as a flight simulator.
The interest in a motif, its repetition, decomposition and exhaustion, is typical of Mayer and describes his painting better than a concept of style. The encounter with flowers can then become an engine; just like a song by Lady Gaga leads to recurring portraits of the pop star. What is available as input is shredded and thought out at Mayer. Mayer does not have a consistent style, but there is still an attitude towards painting that is formative for his simulations. Direct representations are diverted to a question, assertion or pose. In Hans-Jörg Mayer's painting, thinking and feeling are not opposites. What is broken by a "naive" or "ironic" consideration, for example, can still come from an immediate feeling. Many of Mayer's pictures are sexy, seductive, full of fetish, raw and delicate.
In his works, female figures pose in a wide variety of ways: broad-shouldered, dominant, horny (Pretty Things, 2006), as a mysterious Renaissance beauty with a proud forehead and sensual almond lips (Herbstzeitlos, 2005), as an inflatable doll-like porn star (Mein Land, 2012) or as a vulnerable neo-Nazi Girl (Mein Herz brennt, 2012), an allusion to the protagonist “Marisa” from the German film “Kriegerin”. A wide variety of personalities, real or fictional, find their way into Hans-Jörg Mayer's pictures. Be it Heath Ledger as a hospital clown, cartoon characters like Fix & Foxy, or image memes known from the media of a Rudi Völler or Osama bin Laden portrait. They all establish a connection to social and political questions, to cultures of contemporary history, are comparison, reaction and simulation of common forms of expression. If you look at Mayer's painting in this episode, you see the metamorphoses, the hybrid nature of his pictures - cool, enigmatic and ambivalent.
Text: Robert Grunenberg
Hans-Jörg Mayer: Poetic Expansions, bis 22.10.2017, ZKM, Zentrum für Kunst und Medien, Karlsruhe
Hans-Jörg Mayer: The smell of Ink, bis 02.07.2017, ZKM, Zentrum für Kunst und Medien, Karlsruhe
Hans-Jörg Mayer. Jiz Lee & Me, bis 29.05.2016, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum & Papiermuseum Düren, Düren