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"Piotr Nathan: He who Counts the Stars "
2001-04-27 until 2001-07-08
Haus der Kunst
Munich, , DE Germany

The work of the artist Piotr Nathan, born in 1956 in Gdansk and now living in Berlin, covers the last twenty years and comprises various levels of media: painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and room installations. His multifarious works seem at first to be heterogeneous, but they are thematically closely related and deal with themes of the body and its identity in the field of tension between grasping and slipping away.

Nathan attempts to give a place to the fleeting, transient and disparate without depriving these moments of their specific and complex qualities of experience. In the past few years, Piotr Nathan has appeared in numerous international theme exhibitions, and was last in Munich as part of the project Die verletzte Diva (the injured diva). He produced two large murals (drawings on ceramic tiles) last year for the buildings of the Historiological Institute of the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich (Amalien-/Schellingstrasse). Under the title He who counts the stars, Nathan has now produced for the Haus der Kunst a series of three rooms which in their own rooms can stand alone but can also be linked together to form one single installation.

Seven large-format photographs in the staircase from the series Der verwunschene Garten (the cursed garden), 1992, offer an insight into a secret world of plants whose topography remains ambiguous. It is not clear whether one is looking at a piece of nature run wild or a staged inner world, a fantastic fairy-tale garden. Enigmatic stage props – sparkling pieces of jewelry, for example, or a photograph – point to the presence of people and create a zone in which time is present in different ways: on the one hand as wilting and overgrown, on the other as remembering and forgetting.

The installation in the second room, Ein Sprung im Wasser (a crack in the water), 1989, first shows nothing but rows of hanging material: lace curtains in strong, alternating colors, whose color and spatial effects do not become obvious until one walks through. In alternating cutouts and outlines, they construct an area that separates, protects and shields, but which also marks a gentle transition and seems to wrap the viewer in a cocoon drawn in the air.

For the third, largest room of the exhibition, Piotr Nathan has created a new work in situ. An enormous charcoal mural destroys the solid balance of the stern, neoclassical room: the large black figure seems to float upside down in the room, lonely as a man on the moon, reeling weightlessly as if in airless space. It appears to be helpless and exposed, when one sees the fixed cords that restrict its movement. But at the same time it emanates a great feeling of peace. It seems to be prepared for a boundless experience: a giant silhouette, devoid of all monumentality, a lonely, isolated movement, the shadow of an almost meditative domination. The figure personifies human confinement and, in a strange way, describes a gesture of dignity and independence. Together with the ruby-red necklace in the same room, Im Park der Erinnerung (in the park of memory), 1997, it recalls the ambivalent interaction between pleasure and power.

The four different works seem to stand as fragments side by side, and yet they are parts of a whole. They form a poetic collage whose individual elements do not overlap but give the impression of the space between. Like his fellow artists Robert Gober (born 1954) or Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957–1996), Piotr Nathan also creates with effortless ease metaphors for intermediate phases of human experience, in which love of life and transitoriness, poetry and the abyss stand hand in hand.

Piotr Nathan
Im Fluss der verhüllten Zeit, 2001
Kohlezeichnung auf weißer Wand
Figur ca. 450 x 800 cm
Besitz des Künstlers
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2001

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