A strange and unworldly calm wafts around Berlin’s abandoned old military cemetery. Thick grass rolls over a disparate selection of broken tombstones, funerary Achilles helmets in old bronze, stone wreaths and armour, the craggy peaks of neo-gothic sculpture poking out of a taciturn, awe-inspiring landscape.
In this space “after the afterlife”, where even stone memorials to individuals from the 1800s fade and sink — Natali Legance revealed 13 black-and-white photos in the gentle light of the evening city sun.
Muted piano music and candles, an atmosphere of quiet and simplicity, it was the artist’s debut photo show. Out of nowhere, she solicited the ghosts of life’s many yesterdays, the uncertainty of appearance, and the profundity of change, through a small but powerful collection of photographs. We saw reflections of Venice in water, ever so slightly blurring through ripples of a wave; the inverse movement of persons, in the moment that mother and child in Paris pull away from each other; a young man in the nude, holding his heart, retreating out of the lens and seeking refuge in darkness; a woman screaming, with what seems to be ear-breaking energy, and yet, without a sound.
The sensitive and fragmented vision that lies captured beneath these beautiful prints was framed by the location of the event, the cemetery’s Lapidarium, which itself is the home of many fragments of marble and stone. Hefty, bulky old sculptures, like a great marble Jesus or a big piece of neo-classical frieze, were jumping out of the walls in relief next to Natali’s sensitive and subtle pictures, more modern and deep, and playing with change, flirting with instability. They evoke the pain, suffering and the destructiveness of change, but they also celebrate its magic, and take inspiration from transformation.
And what a delightfully generous gesture to be invited by Natali to see Olaf Heine’s vernissage at the CWC gallery straight afterwards. More black-and-white here, a tango of modern and post-modern. Here we see a gigantic cable spaghetti over dripping air vents, that dwarf the windows of a tacky lingerie shop and tired mannequins in it; we see nudes in hotel rooms, and palm trees reaching into the sky like the hands of hungry people. The breathtaking imagery of Brazil’s modern architecture and the beauty of its people spring out of these crisp and clear images which entertain an eye for the dilapidated, for the broken, and one for the fresh, for the new and exciting.
To end the evening in style, Thomas Dellert, who happened to be one of the guests and whom Natali cited as one of her inspirations, took us to the Pantry at Oranienburger Tor, where a small handful of his works are on show. These pictures hail from Utopia Berlin, an all-new art factory that simply explodes with colours, painting, design, collage art, photography, film making, music and singing performances, all in that post-Warholian, post-pop style, that brings the wasp to Lana del Rey’s candy fluff. More works can be expected from him!
Such a wonderful world!