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Reflections on Existence
Considering Ute Vauk-Ogawa’s Work

Text by Kolja Kohlhoff, Berlin

In both aisles of the Zion Church, Ute Vauk-Ogawa places two very different works, which are all the same both equally typical for her oeuvre. On the left side, the floor installation “Red Thorns” / “Sonnendornen” lights up. Loose hemp fibers, dyed in bright red and partly shaped into form by acrylic resin, form round islands of color, which cover the floor rhythmically. Many of these “suns” bear menacing – looking peaks in their center, others are more shallow and more orientated towards the horizontal, their middles somewhat volcano like. The form and the formless, the hard and the soft, the piercing and the fluid meet within each object and create an ambivalence of beauty and terror.

The silkscreen print “Offshore” consisting of four parts, is placed in the left aisle of the church. Here the title alone invokes different levels of meaning. Initially referring to relocation to foreign places, the term is nowadays also associated with international, non-transparent, and illegal financial transactions. It can be understood as alluding to the exterritorial, and in nautical language it describes the fact of having left solid ground. Dramatic movement seems to be a central message of this work. A turning figure presses forwards. Two others are following, hurrying on into the same direction. They bump into a group of figures heading straight on, looking backwards, arms pulled up, which then dissolves into a chaotic net of stumbling bodies that are forced on – till the figures can no longer be distinguished within the opaque tissue of lines. Out of these superimposed layers of people, some individuals falling down are spat out. People are striving forwards while simultaneously looking back. They don’t seem to arrive anywhere and thus seem to be in a permanent state of in-between. Here the artist creates an existential image of human condition as being thrown into a world of rapid change – which, though dating from 2014, can also be read as a very contemporary metaphor for the fate of the many displaced.

On the gallery, Ute Vauk-Ogawa invites us to a world of “Shadows”. Her series of rubber prints consists of twelve pieces – here she presents five of them and confronts the viewer with very differing human moods. The moving figures hover between actively jumping and falling, between isolation and confrontation, between the state of reunification and being torn apart. Ecstasy and catastrophe meet and are not always clearly distinguishable from one another. In the dance, the fall is already included. Here again, the artist plays a double game of meanings that capture the ambiguity of existence. All the more as some of the papers are also printed upon on their back, thus making the translucent figures actually appear like shadows of the shadows.

Her tower-like installation of rubber silhouettes bears the same title and has been rearranged by the artist for the exhibition in the Zions Church. While the human shadows originally hung from the ceiling, this causing their bodies to deform and, above all, their heads and limbs to hang down, they are now either being caught by the scaffolding or hit the ground. The former illusion of a floating movement has now come to a definitive standstill.

„Man is the dream of a shadow“ as the Greek poet Pindar pointed out 2500 years ago.


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