Weserhalle is pleased to present the first solo-show in Germany by the Berlin based artist Emil Urbanek titled In Pears, showcasing a series of new paintings that focus on the “examination of being” and reflect on different stages of identity.
In their characteristic painterly style that is reminiscent of both analogue photography and vanitas, a form of still life painting which focuses on the transience of life, they introduce characters and objects that find themselves in obscure moments of intimacy. By playing with components such as blurriness, grain and lighting, Urbanek creates a dynamic in their works that suggests traces of movement similar to long-exposure photography. Simultaneously the work evokes a nostalgic feeling: On the one hand, the visual surface is reminiscent of colourised black-and-white photographs, and on the other hand, we find an archival quality that is associated with the medium of photography.
Urbanek creates a space that seemingly exists between memory and change, standstill and movement, with a strong focus on the topic of gender, in which they plant one of their key motifs – the bush. It appears both front and centre and in some cases, almost hidden in the background behind wandering characters, unbound by time and space. By painting the bush Urbanek perceives a possibility to outsource memories of an alternate version of oneself. One, that was left behind but keeps existing in the background. It can be re-visited as a disconnected part of oneself and as bushes are arguably perfect hideouts, depicts a potential for unexpected and like-minded encounters.
The bush also enables a simultaneous presence of a figure and its counterpart realities, therefore allowing them to physically interact. As Urbanek continuously tends to the metaphoric bush in their painterly position, it has come to bare fruits in the form of pears. To domesticate and harvest these fruit narratively becomes an act of bodily autonomy.
The pear for Urbanek is an odd-shaped fruit, that is more sensitive and less popular when compared to favourites such as the apple. It draws many parallels with what they witness in how the queer community co-exists in a heteronormative world. The fruit again draws a connection to the vanitas sujet, as it is often represented in classical still life painting. But Urbanek reappropriates the idea of vanitas as a depiction of the circle of life and death and interprets it as a moment of in-betweenness. A place where the unreal, the real and the not-yet-real meet and exist in Pears.