In Place of a Foreword

Nicole Oversohl-Heusinger

“Now indeed they [utopias] seem to be able to be brought about far more easily than we supposed, and we are actually faced by an agonising problem of quite another kind: how can we prevent their final realisation? ...
Utopias are more realisable than those ‚realist politics‘ that are only the carefully calculated policies of office-holders, and towards utopias we are moving...”


This quote from Nikolai Berdyaev has been given a prominent place at the beginning of Aldous Huxley’s utopian novel Brave New World. The novel was published in the early 1930s and presented to the reader an anti-utopian, bleak “brave new world” that is completely timeless and could happen anywhere. Due to the hopelessness and deep pessimism it conveys, the book has always been held up as a metaphor for life under a totalitarian system, a subject matter that is more relevant than ever in these days. It is these dystopian scenarios from Huxley’s imagined future, of societies brought completely into line, that form an oppressive image, and in doing so become
frighteningly, monstrously real.


In fact, there is also another image of Utopia as a mythical place of perfect harmony between humanity and nature. Many authors have already put forth various visions of such an imaginary place, foremost among them the British statesman Thomas More, whose brilliant book of the same name, published in 1516, cost him his head under Henry VIII.


Whether utopia or anti-utopia, these are fictional places and worlds in which fiction always impinges on social reality. It feels comparable with the indefinable worlds that we are presented with in the works of the Düsseldorf based artist Marcus Günther’s. Here, everything seems to float between a pessimistic perspective and an optimistic one. Mysterious, anonymous science fiction figures populate diverse cyberspaces, who, oncloser
inspection, turn out to be familiar human attire or protective clothing. There are no faces, only protective helmets, masks, hoods and dissolving heads. The standardised person does not require individuality. The artist’s imagination is impressive, even bordering on inexhaustible, in its ability to create forms ranging to from the comical to the carnivalesque out of everyday clothing. Nowhere in particular, a soft, white Michelin manstyle figure stands in front of anthropomorphic-looking rockets. Yet their rounded shapes throw hard, plastic shadows on the bright ground, as though in doing so they are trying to reaffirm their presence even more. Does the flight of the familiar Michelin man take him as far as the red planet, where a white-cloaked figure raptly gives away weightless floating hearts? Its hood, actually the classic distinguishing mark of the white supremacy organisation Ku Klux Klan, here

changes to a soothing, good-natured spirit before the endless blackness of the universe and the red-blooming carpet of hearts. This same hood can just as easily morph into another creature, with long rabbits’ ears and wearing a laced, chastely white monk’s habit. Thick smoke is blown by this fairy-tale creature onto a bright green meadow, from which long-stemmed mushrooms tower up like umbrellas, also acting as Freudian symbols.

 

Similarly to Huxley and More’s work, none of these landscapes can be definitively placed anywhere; and why should they, as they are the virtual world created by the artist, inspired by our everyday environment, experienced as both visual and acoustic stimuli, be it of a real, medial or hallucinatory kind. Marcus Günther skilfully combines and puts together fragments from a variety of sources (the Internet, newspapers etc,.) into magicalmacabre
worlds, in which the seemingly banal and ignored is given a new, imaginatively conceived existence. Fictional galaxies of a distant past or future pass us by, showing us cyborg-esque beings, hybrid creatures, half-person, half-machine. These might offer us a vision of the future of humanity, which is symbiotically completely melted together with the technology surrounding it. Yet not all of these technical “upgrades” seem completely successful.
One of these hybrid creatures – its costume evoking at once the protective suits of beekeepers, astronauts and divers – literally loses its head, bored through by an endless black beam, or struck by iridescent moonbeams – the gloom of a Darth Vaderlike figure dominates the image. A clownlike figure can even simply explode here, or another leak onto the ground like liquid asphalt. Anything seems possible, as long as one is only able to imagine it.


There are diabolical, tragicomic, yet also poetic “poses” that play out in this grotesque, senseless world. Marcus Günther has constructed his works in a highly humorous manner, sometimes with a bitterly angry undertone and in galling multicolours, sometimes giving them an almost gentle feel. If these pessimistic spheres should indeed make us shudder, then the glaring firework of artistic imagination should merit a smug grin from us even more.
Yes, gazing at these images with a sense of undeniable amusement, that old idea echoes in our minds, utopias are realisable. And despite the sometimes dystopian atmospheres of the settings, it is a lot of fun to absorb the journeys though this artist’s crazy imagined world and to develop them further.

 


POSE

Marcus Günther

In my oil paintings on canvas I like to show a purely constructed world, in which we notice only portarits without faces. This is because I’m interested
in an imagined scenario and the associated question: where does the human beeing exist behind?


What you see are individuals in protective clothing, situated in an unreal biosphere. Is this still fiction or reality? This blurring runs like a common
thread through my series “POSE”. That is why I’m extremely fascinated with the play of pictorial worlds concerning the consumption, the fetishism and its depection. Hence, the boundaries between the protection against external influences and the fetish are deliberately blurred.


The protagonists in my paintings are depersonalised individuals, turning thereby into sheer objects. As superheroes or villains they appear deriving
from the world of comics - sometimes tragic, sometimes also weird; sometimes in contradiction or alternatively in the context of the surrounding
landscape.


My aim is to draw the viewer’s attention to this pairing of dissimilarities, this morbid “sense in the nonsense”, the arbitrary combination of two contrasting notions, but also to the emphasizing of a deceptively real situation.


POSE

P 01 - P 40

 

Oil on Canvas

60 x 50 cm