Give Back the Kingdom, the summer exhibition at Sprüth Magers Berlin
, offers a survey of the multifaceted work of Anna Vogel. The artist studied at the Art Academy Düsseldorf in the master class of Andreas Gursky as well as with Thomas Ruff and Christopher Williams; she has been awarded various prizes for her uvre, which is characterized by a rare atmospheric density and by a systematic investigation of the pictorial space of the photograph. Her mostly small-format photographs thereby distance themselves quite clearly from the sober, objective-material style that is normally associated with the Düsseldorf School.
Vogel's works function intuitively for the most part. The theme of Give Back the Kingdom without sounding any religious or environmental overtones has to do with the idea of a lost kingdom in a Biblical sense. The works of the exhibition focus on the nonchalance with which we treat the world, the unintended vestiges that we leave behind in it, the fleeting and superficial manner in which we perceive it. Here lifeless roadways stretch across unspecific landscapes. Rubbed-out, scratched oceans subside at the horizon. Forests can only be dimly recognized behind thick lines. In a few works, the landscapes have completely entered the realm of ornament and abstraction. In others, they take on post-apocalyptic aspects: Blood red and white clouds of fire-extinguishing sand float disquietingly in the atmosphere, as if they had been emitted not by airplanes, but by an invisible force. An aircraft carrier drifts homelessly upon the seas. At the edges of these pictures, in their instances of faint blurriness, their occasionally visible pixelation and color distortions, the noise of the atmosphere becomes clearly perceptible. The dynamic lines and scratches of the works point toward the inescapable slipping out of control to which our memory is subject in a world of constant acceleration.
The investigation of these contents is accompanied by a richly imaginative playing with the medium of photography that self-confidently transcends the traditional borders of the genre. Vogel herself took some of the photographs on which the works are based; she found others on the Internet or created them herself with a computer. She subjects her motifs to a large number of analog and digital processes of image editing. She retouches certain visual elements or alters the pictorial composition. She makes use of traditional collage technique, expands the photographic space with the help of drafting tools, and is not afraid to scratch the picture surface in a mechanical way.
Upon a small space, with often succinct means, and without clearly revealing what exactly is being shown, the works in Give Back the Kingdom achieve an astounding auratic impact. Operating almost in a mode of sleepwalking, they set in motion perceptual irritations and doubt. They show a world, which remains in the realm of vagueness. Landscapes that seem somehow familiar, but then again are not. Settings that are known from somewhere, but nonetheless remain foreign. A kingdom whose melancholic energy oscillates between desire and discomfiture.
Anna Vogel (*1981, Herdecke, Germany) lives and works in Düsseldorf. In 2014, she was nominated for the Karl-Schmidt Rottluff stipend and the Art Award of the Vordemberge-Gildewart-Stiftung. She was awarded the dHCS-Studio Grant of Kunstverein der Rheinlande und Westfalen in 2013, and the prize of the capital city Düsseldorf for visual arts in 2012. Her works have been shown in solo presentations at the Bienal de Lanzarote (2014), the KIT/Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and the Galerie Conrads (both 2013), as well as in group shows like So hält uns auch im Banne fremdes Sein at Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf (2014), DistURBANces/LandEscape at Musée National d'Histoire et d'Art Luxembourg (2013) and State of the Art New Contemporary Photography at NRW Forum Düsseldorf (2012).