|Installation view of Tim Eitel exhibition 'Untitled (2001-2020)' at Daegu Art Museum / Courtesy of Daegu Art Museum|
By Kwon Mee-yoo
DAEGU ― The Daegu Art Museum is exhibiting works by the German artist Tim Eitel that capture the solitude and anxiety of modern people at a time when the southeastern city's art scene is waking up after being an epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic here earlier this year.
Touted as a prominent member of the New Leipzig School, Eitel portrays easily overlooked people and spaces in daily life.
The "Untitled (2001-2020)" exhibition features some 70 of Eitel's paintings, which are displayed throughout the museum's 11 galleries.
This is the largest solo exhibition for the German artist, who could not visit Korea due to the coronavirus outbreak. Instead, he watched the installation process on video calls and left a video message for his Korean audience.
"It was an interesting experience to plan and install the show already knowing that I couldn't physically be there. But I think it worked out really well also with the installation. We video conferenced and I got a good impression of what it looks like," the artist said.
|Tim Eitel's "Boat" (2004) / Courtesy of Daegu Art Museum|
The exhibit begins with a handful of archival material, including books and photographs, which inspire Eitel's works. Some of the objects or sceneries in the photos can be found in the paintings on display, but not exactly in the same setting.
"Though Eitel's paintings seem like a natural moment, it in fact is a fictional combination of existing elements," curator Yoo Myung-jin said. "Eitel takes many photos and different elements in each picture appear in different paintings."
The New Leipzig School came into the limelight after the reunification of modern Germany, and Eitel learned from Arno Rink, a prominent member of the movement which was influenced by the socialist realism of East Germany.
"The vaguely mystic background in his paintings is realistic, yet abstract, arousing humanity's omnipresent solitude from vagueness," Yoo explained. "Eitel's works might seem like a realistic composition at first glance, but a closer look at the canvas shows that they, and so we all, exist in an unrealistic space that is not realistically explained. In other words, Eitels' canvas compositions lie on the boundary of abstraction and fact."
He creates artificiality in his works by combining unlikely elements, transforming the familiar, realistic world into vague and unrealistic scenes.
Eitel's works have also been used on the covers of a few Korean books. His 2004 painting "Boat" was featured on the cover of literary critic Shin Hyung-cheol's book of essays, "Community of Emotions."
"This painting depicts a man and a woman in a boat. The space seems enclosed and the people blocked by the white wall, but there is a narrow path in the corner, suggesting a glimpse of hope," the curator said.
|Tim Eitel's "Red and Blue" (2002) / Courtesy of Daegu Art Museum|
Most of the people in Eitel's works are seen from the side or behind, with the rare exception of "Seated Figure" (2018), which is a self-portrait.
"Reflection" (2010) features three men ― a laborer, a homeless man and a rich man ― who all stare in different ways, emphasizing the rupture between the social classes.
Eitel also confronts social issues by painting homeless people, inspired during his residency in New York and Los Angeles, where he experienced the stark contrast between the glamour of art galleries, and trash and homeless people right outside the gallery.
"MMK" (2001) and "Red and Blue" (2002) are displayed in a gallery with a full window, matching the scenery in the painting. A bench is installed near the large window to create a similar aesthetic to Eitel's works.
"If you take a photo sitting on this bench, it would capture a moment like Eitel's paining," the curator said. "Eitel selected which work to go in which gallery and picked these for this space."
A set of paintings "Mexican Garden (1st View)" and "Mexican Garden (2nd View)," the latest work created by the artist, were painted during the COVID-19 lockdown in Paris where the artist resides.
"These paintings, like many of Eitel's works, have multiple layers. There are five people and they seem to be talking to each other, but when examined carefully, each is in a different dimension, and they are unable to communicate with each other," the curator explained.
|Tim Eitel's 'Mexican Garden (2nd View)' (2020) / Courtesy of Daegu Art Museum|
"Now that all exhibitions and trade fairs have been postponed except for my retrospective in South Korea in mid-July, I have time... And yet: change comes straight from the body. This is something I was reminded of when I went back to the studio and experienced in front of the canvas how gestures generate ideas. That is why we still need paintings, sculptures, theater, dance and music as well as sweat, dirt and hugs," Eitel said.
"The smell of a canvas cannot (yet) be digitized, nor can encounters with another person... as soon as we can do this safely, we have to close our laptops and come out of our virtual caves to take back possession of public space."
The exhibition runs through Oct. 18. Advance reservation is required for a museum visit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.