A punk crouches on the street watching passersby while glamorous young couples party and smoke cigarettes, and elderly aristocrats pose stiffly in an armchair. This latest series of paintings by German artist Ruprecht von Kaufmann offer intimate glimpses of the everyday, visualised in bright, textural gestures of paint punctuated by abrupt, violent marks of erasure. In the Street, the artist’s third solo exhibition with Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, takes inspiration from Otto Dix’s paintings from the 1920s which captured the Weimar Republic and its diverse, colourful characters from aristocrats and musicians to the homeless, and presents a vivid portrait of our fast, glittering, uncertain present.
In his work, Dix captured a time of global upheaval and change: Europe had evolved from primarily rural and aristocratic society into an industrialist society and was creaking under the strain of the competing forces of budding democracy, conservatism and totalitarianism. Now, a hundred years on, von Kaufmann is painting our world with the same astute detail, but with a greater fluidity and dynamism that seems to capture the ephemerality, speed and instability of modern existence. His figures often appear in flux, blurred, incomplete and disjointed. As he says: “We can all feel that we are on the brink of very fundamental changes, from a carbon based-economy of manic growth to, well, we don’t quite know yet, do we?”