Slawomir Elsner: Panorama
18 February – 18 March 2006
Born in Poland and residing in Berlin, the young painter Slawomir Elsner models his work after photographs. His architectural and urban scenes often begin with his own photos of existing situations within the city landscape. However, Elsner also employs pictures from other media. As point of origin for his most recent work for the exhibition entitled ‘Panorama’, Elsner has chosen a Polish illustrated magazine bearing the same name. 30 years after the 1976 publication year, which interests him for biographical reasons, Elsner has taken pictures from that year’s 52 issues and used them as sources for his paintings.
Characteristic for his work, Elsner selects pictures in ‘Panorama‘ that interest him because of their quality independent of their context and because of their equivocability. Such motifs, in general and when taken out of their context, appear quite different from what they actually are. Elsner detects the manipulative layers of pictorial media, and then adds another such layer.
Elsner defamiliarizes his photographic sources in various manners. He extracts them from their context and disguises their provenance. Through his techniques (oil painting and sketching), he further anonymizes these motifs. In the end, the pictures often stand in sharp opposition to their origin. Indeed, the beauty of the presentation contrasts with that which is presented and the formal aesthetic contrasts with the contextual associations. Drawings from an earlier series, ‘My Country’, which at first glance seem to depict the drippingly colorful sunsets of advertising campaigns, upon closer inspection show forest fires. The picturesquely glowing lights of a cityscape at dusk turn out to be explosions in a bombarded Baghdad.
Paintings from the new group also seem familiar and of general validity. In fact, Elsner’s adaptions from ‘Panorama’ almost seem to serve an updating function. For example, the picture ‘Lage stabilisiert sich’ (Situation Stabilizes) is 30 years old, but reminiscent of current news photos. Fading on poor quality paper, these advertisements, news reports and fashion layouts are transferred onto canvas along with the aura of their time and of their medium. As such, Elsner rescues them from oblivion as he guides us on spurious journeys.