Katharina Fengler – Sweetness, Cactus Gallery

Text by James Schofield

Sweetness by Berlin-based Katharina Fengler is the second of three exhibitions at Cactus Gallery as part of its exhibition programme during the 2014 Liverpool Biennial.

Proceeding a joint venture by Glen Pudvine and Jesse Wine and preceding a solo effort by Harry Meadley, it sees Fengler exhibit in England for the first time. Having exhibited widely in Germany and mainland Europe, the former photography and fleeting philosophy student here displays a suite of recent works from her ‘Eddie Bernays’ (all 2014) series alongside a single sculptural work within the increasingly popular Cactus space.

Adorning the walls are eight of her pulsating and visually striking mixed media Eddie Bernays’ works, seemingly hung so each complements and compromises its neighbour to equal effect through the mixture of complimentary and clashing colours. The pieces all contain the same constituent parts of various airbrushed colours and images of Twix chocolate bars on paper, with the colours used being atypical of Fengler’s other works such as in her False Prophet’ series.

Applied in various lengths and diameters, the colours take on abstract amorphous shapes that when layered together subtly lend a frenetic energy to each piece. Blurring the boundaries between sickly sweet and garish the colour palette reflects the increasingly narrow margins between natural and digital in our current times, without ever drawing a clear demarcation between the two.

The titles of all the artist’s works are related to turning points in our understanding of perception which can be ignored when viewing them, but if acknowledged refines the conceptual possibilities for each and in this case points to the Austrian-American public relations expert Edward Bernays. Through his own pioneering work, Bernays introduced the psychology of his uncle Sigmund Freud (along with other philosophers) into everyday advertising practice and helped develop consumerism into what we know today.

This link seemingly explicitly ties into the use of one of the most popular and recognisable chocolate bars in recent times as the only motif within the entire exhibition, and in Fengler’s own words in the press release written by artist Jaakko Pallasvuo says she chose them;

‘…mainly because of the attractiveness of the object

it’s very simple but also very appealing

it comes from a commercial language

but in the image it’s just an abstract tool for me

hovering between abstraction and representation

looking lovely but also a little bit like poop

I could have used other candy

but somehow the Twix works very well

so for the show the images are all in some form with a Twix…’

The idea of the Twix acting as an abstract tool for Fengler is also apparent in the only three-dimensional work in the show ‘A Dreamer Is A Dream Too’ (2014), where the form of the chocolate bar itself has been recreated and enlarged out of salt dough and Styrofoam, in a similar construction method to her ‘Unused Potential’ sculptures. The use of the same palette as in the wall-mounted works gives the half eaten and fully formed Twix fingers an almost otherworldly appearance, but again reinforces the ties between the natural and digital world, one in which this chocolate bar is no longer one of the pioneers but in fact is just one of a myriad of options we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

With recent exhibitions at Boetzalaer|Nispen in Amsterdam, and an upcoming project at BLOK Art Space in Istanbul (to name a few), Fengler’s participation is also something of a coup for Cactus, which through giving artists complete control to facilitate the exhibitions they want to, helps reaffirm its place within the cultural makeup of Liverpool alongside other institutions such as The Royal Standard and further afield within the rest of the country.

Sweetness by Katharina Fengler continues at Cactus Gallery until 21 September 2014.

James Schofield is an artist and curator based in Leeds and Liverpool.

Published 30.08.2014 by Lauren Velvick in Reviews

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