Emil Urbanek: Some flowers, some stems

25. Apr '241. Jun '24
Open Hours and Location:
Open: Wednesday—Saturday, 14:00—18:00

Weserstr. 46
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We find ourselves in a world that builds the perception of its realities around an assumed set of boundaries and lines. We are constantly reminded to consider these lines, walk along these lines, accept not to overstep these lines. Yet, we frequently find ourselves compelled to resist them.

Emil Urbanek’s work invites us to play with the lines of containment, offering an imaginative worlding where we seek the intimate corners of existence. Every subject and form allows us to explore powerful attachments. The scenes they show us are soaked with a strange calmness. Vases and forms, shoulders and arms, pears and plants intertwine, creating a world of shifting perspectives that play with the sharpness of surface.

In their second solo exhibition at Weserhalle, Urbanek opens portals to a realm where forms and ideas converge in unexpected ways. The vase serves as a reliable form that provides support to figures, flowers and subjects. At the same time, it plays with the canvas’ inherent lines, inviting our imagination to weave scenes beyond. The flowers, sometimes faintly outlined and barely perceptible, are the only elements that extend the contours of the vase. It is not always clear what surrounds the scene. Color gradients may suggest water. Similar to the photographic lens, the vase holds a delicate balance between what is seen and what remains hidden. Fragile is not the scene, but what we allow ourselves to see, for what we see can easily disappear.

In one painting that stands out, the vase is empty. Depicted through a mere shift in gradient it is a reminder for absence. An absence that holds space for contemplation upon the fleeting nature of moments. Perhaps this confrontation with a void also carries a fear of the potential impermanence of plants. The pears, a recurring element in Urbanek’s work, impart trust and reliability on the other hand. It is not clear whether we are invited to take a bite – perhaps in the past, perhaps in the future, perhaps not yet. As for now, they simply lie there, together, sometimes with twisted and bizarre shapes, nestling against each other, reflecting in glossy surfaces. It is an invitation to allow closeness. An invitation to accept affection, from oneself and one’s surrounding. 

In another painting we see pears collected in a glass within glass. In their interplay with the figure, forms and plants, the pears unfold napping as an almost curated practice. This interplay transforms into a mystical threshold between the sharp and gentle contours of memories. As a person at rest gently embraces the jar of collected pears, the plants too, momentarily release into a posture of ease, napping on the rim of the vase: who is sleeping; who is holding whom while asleep; who wakes up first?

Being-with these paintings, we are not simply spectators, amused by the depiction of a small world. We are part of a collectively imagined whole, emerging from the vibrant interplay of many small granulations. A confrontation with forms of affection and blur, material softness, and glassy sharpening pushes our boundaries beyond a detached and closed self, towards curiosity for the discovery of a concealed and yet, spreading place. Does this evoke a feeling of overwhelm? Put your head down. Take a nap.

Text by Lilian Mauthofer

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