29.4. - 17.6.2023
Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
“MAI 2023”

Contemporary Fine Arts is pleased to present Henning Strassburger’s third solo exhibition at the gallery. In his new paintings, Strassburger seems to abandon abstraction in favor of the human body, one of the main interests of figurative art. And yet the images show bodies under water, in the shower and in the swimming pool, slowly blurring the boundary between the body and its environment.
The fact that water can take on any color and any physical state is taken up by Strassburger in his own color palette. The suddenness and tranquility inherent in water create a myriad of tension of utmost importance for the medium of painting. Water distorts, reflects and blurs shapes—it is these properties that make it one of the most desirable motifs within the productive field between abstract and figurative art. For Strassburger, however, the issue between abstraction and figuration isn’t of interest. Much more, water and its proximity allow for the fragmentation of the body as well as “situations that can resolve in any direction”. Imbued with a web of cultural connotations, Strassburger takes up the symbolism of water, its flow and tension for the combination between surface and depth in the painting, creating an atmosphere of both easiness and melancholy. Figures floating in bathtubs, swimming pools and hot tubs hover between depiction and poetic abstraction.
“In the four HOT TUB works, I wanted to formally test the dissolution of a body, as a kind of pictorial invention that clearly refers to a Bonnard painting from the Tate. But for me, the figure consists only of individual parts. This idea came to me in France. We had a party with friends for three days and in the morning, one of them, Vincent, would swim his hour–long laps in the pool, which wasn’t exactly overflowing. If one would watch carefully, only individual parts of his body were visible in the artificial setting because he had created so many waves.”
Waves, splashes, drops and jets of water are taken up by Strassburger as painterly elements that simultaneously contort and create the reality depicted. Strassburger succeeds in depicting water movements by painting figures that emerge from the surface or sink below it. Always averting their gaze, the protagonists hide their intimate parts, caught in vulnerable moments that one would rather not be caught in, in scenes “captured at the “unphotogenic” moment, as in photos you would sort out because you pulled the trigger at the wrong moment”. They are as fluid as water itself. In bright pink, blue and yellow, Strassburger stages uneventful and everyday activities as if in a film.

Text: Dana Zaja
La Palma, Canarias 2023

La Palma, Canarias 2023