Carsten Fock, installation view "Glück auf" Galerie Asbaek, Copenhagen, untitled, 2011, mixed media on cotton, 145 x 110 cm
"Die Würde und der Mut" (Dignity and Courage) is Carsten Fock's first solo show at Galerie Jochen Hempel. Fock's pictures are process-based happenings which expand to form complex spatial installations and which can even enclose the spectator as such. To the extent that his pictures thus reveal painting as an act, the spectator's own act of perception becomes directly tangible.
Fock constantly emphasizes that he is not really interested in the issues of abstraction and figuration, and yet his images represent remarkable achievements in precisely this field of tension. References to an extra-pictorial reality, which mainly appear in his early works, directly influence the gestural configurations depicted. Fock makes use of images with high iconic presence: Madonnas, figures of Christ, mountains, eagles, soldiers. He rids these of their extra-pictorial contexts, however, subjecting them to a purely pictorial logic instead. In some of Fock's pastel and felt pen drawings, these obvious references expand to include text. Complete sentences are rarely seen, mostly mere sentence fragments or individual words.
It is important to closely examine the works interspersed with textual and pictorial fragments in order to understand Fock's current focus on "pure" abstraction in its specific and very radical nature. The abstract pictures are dominated by a highly individualized, boldly colored palette and a gestural language that becomes increasingly expressive. Quick rhythmic strokes fly across the canvas, form partly airy and open structures, or intensify to create entirely closed or quasi-hermetic tableaux. Yet we are not to regard the figurative and textual elements as mimetic copies, just as we should not misinterpret these gestural traces as classic abstract forms. Fock merges abstract figuration with figurative abstraction. His pictures thus become concrete pictorial happenings that no longer allow any form of one-dimensional association with an extra-pictorial reality. This is all the more remarkable as Fock sets up all possible pitfalls for the spectator in order to reduce his/her perception to a pure recognition of what is already known.
Carsten Fock subtly and effectively undermines our usual habit of viewing images -- and precisely this creates the implicitly political explosive force of his works. Once we have visually understood the act of his painting, we also need to change our own perception of reality. Fock provokes a radical opening of our gaze. What enters this opening needs to be considered anew.