19 January - 17 February 2019. Werkstadt, Berlin.
Dilum Coppens‘ exhibition explores a pictorial representation of the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo. But Aleppo is neither explicitly referred to nor directly represented. On the contrary, here is a conjunction of painting and video work attempting to negotiate how war and devastation could be conceptually grasped without producing artistic images that appear to be completely detached from reality.
Several materials and colors are layered and set in motion. The transfer begins with the picture’s very basic elements: using complex experiments with materials, the artist compiles a tension between thick, cement-like white-out, tape, and highly dynamic forms. In a very similar manner the video puts its elementary features into the foreground : pixels and colors.
But there is more to this exhibition than abstract and indeterminate layers. The video is based on drone footage of Aleppo. Viewers get fast and sudden views of a devastated urban landscape. Like in a memory game, these views quickly open up but then vanish again, before they can be captured or understood properly.
With the coming and going of documentary images, the work reflects an infinitely looping attempt to grasp at a picture or the sense of war. Indeed, no singular or distinct picture results from this. What instead comes into view, is how we receive this information and the difficulty of conceiving an image or the very idea of war from afar. This concept fundamentally transforms how the paintings could be viewed and experienced. Their fragmentary structure is now compulsively connected to the ruptured imagination of contemporary Aleppo.
Reality bursts into the over-determined materiality of Dilum Coppens’ artworks and rearranges all elements of the exhibition. Suddenly, the well-composed abstraction turns into war’s inconceivable chaos, the artistic gesture becomes a rupture, and the white-out converges to become the debris of destroyed buildings – all of this then dissolving moments later.
Through these means, the exhibition establishes a representation and form of image-making that is not a direct portrayal, instead drawing its meaning from being coincidentally both very close and at the same time very far away from its subject matter.