BERLIN.- Galerie Guido W. Baudach
is presenting an exhibition of new paintings by Thomas Helbig under the title Die Zukunft der Heiligen (The Future of the Saints). It is the eighth solo exhibition of the Berlin-based painter and sculptor with the gallery since 2001.
In his painterly practice over the last twenty years, Thomas Helbig has repeatedly explored the boundaries of the genre. He has worked with a wide variety of materials, using the most diverse painting grounds and media. With the paintings for the exhibition Die Zukunft der Heiligen he is now returning to the technique he originally used. The works are all executed in oil on canvas. Helbig also draws on formative elements from his own early work in terms of pictorial language. What emerges, however, is something completely new. Helbig combines symbolic references to the classical avant-garde with abstract motifs that evoke associations with cosmic phenomena and at the same time recall the moonlit night skies of Romanticism - albeit in close-up. Seen purely from a painterly point of view, here multi-coloured underlaid areas of sulphurous pastel yellow enter into a relationship with softly layered brown tones and form a contrasting space of light and shadow that is both shimmering and interwoven with delicate sfumato.
In fact, Helbigs new paintings are primarily about light. Light as a phenomenon, as a material, but also as a metaphor for cognition and for the human quest for knowledge, for certainty and doubt. Despite the strong chiaroscuro effect created by the deliberate juxtaposition of light and dark surfaces, the paintings are by no means obtrusive and do not reveal themselves to the eye ad hoc, but only after a certain amount of contemplation. They require time and attention.
The light that Helbigs paintings carry within them does not serve any further narrative. There are no references to any discourses, no entertainment through advanced content. The paintings and their light stand for themselves and also leave the viewer alone with himself, throwing him back on himself by searching for something identifiable in them. They function like mirrors, as it were, but they reflect something invisible. Their painted light illuminates a void that is not socially mediated and yet is inherent in each one of us, an existential loneliness from which we constantly try to escape. The paintings illuminate an apparition that is difficult to name, but which is perhaps the core of our being, that is: our soul.
Only once can a clearly recognisable, material object be discovered in a picture. Helbig has placed a carnivalesque eye mask, in velvety shining black, in the lower centre of LInfinito which can be interpreted as a painted allegory of the presocratic Recognize yourself maxim. It seems to symbolise the unconscious part of our nature. But the mask has fallen and opens the way for the light, which literally breaks out of the darkness here and as a spotlight of introspection is able to illuminate those facets of our personality that are otherwise hidden in the shadow area of our consciousness.
Thomas Helbig, born 1967 in Rosenheim, lives and works in Berlin. Beside numerous gallery exhibitions in Europe and abroad, Helbig has participated in various institutional shows i.a.: Metamorphosis, Kai 10 I Raum für Kunst, Dusseldorf, 2017; 50 Jahre PIN, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, 2015; Painting Forever!, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2013; Vages Gefuehl des Unbehagens, Museum Dhondt Dhaenens, Deurle, 2013; Alpenrepublik, Kunstraum Innsbruck, 2012; Stern der Musen, Oldenburger Kunstverein (solo), 2008; Euro-Centric (Part 1), Rubell Family Collection, Miami, 2007; Imagination Becomes Reality, ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2007; Borrowed Images, Sammlung Goetz, Munich, 2006; Rings of Saturn, Tate Modern, London, 2006; Painting on the roof, Museum Abteiberg, Moenchengladbach, 2003.