Excerpt of Terry R. Myers‘ essay on occasion of my show „All that kale“, 2020-21, Claas Reiss Gallery, London, UK.
/ full essay
„In a relatively short time, Jule Korneffel has developed paintings that are very much identifiable as hers by also sticking to anonymity and making her versions of it her own. Yes, there are balls (or rough circles) on her canvases as there are in Heilmann’s or Whitney’s (and let’s not forget the late 1940s “dot” paintings of Francis Picabia because he’s the artist along with Duchamp who helps us get over ourselves when it comes to misidentifying originality as a limitation), but Korneffel’s play their own games, or perform their own tricks, or even create their own personas. And, not unlike the work of her predecessors, I’m especially drawn to what each painting of hers has that the others don’t, rather than those characteristics they so emphatically share. Honey Sugar Pop, 2019, for example, levitates three of its shapes (in the primary colors, making me remember that Mondrian’s work is uniquely anonymous itself, so it can’t only be about making gestural pictures) just up from the bottom edge of the canvas. Hovering above them on the left is another pink shape that looks as if it has just barely made it out the pink ground of the entire surface. So, yes, easy, but I think it is the graspability of that easiness that allows the paintings to sustain complexity. Take a small painting like A sun, 2020: at first glance it may look too quick but its toughness is what lasts. Just how fast was that light purple shape whipped into shape on the canvas’s rather gnarly ground? Why is the color of that ground closer to that of a sun than that purple shape that is shaped more like a sun? Was the ground-as-sun painted thickly to block out what looks like sky blue underneath? Nothing in the painting is just one thing, and one association leads to another, and another, and all the while anonymity is maintained. That, in the end, is the key achievement of Korneffel’s work.“
Jule Korneffel paints in order to transform direct, lived experience into poetry. Her current solo show, All that kale, at Claas Reiss in London is the German-born, Brooklyn-based artist’s first in the UK. While spending an afternoon with her at the Strand Bookstore in New York City prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we both decided to buy Patti Smith’s Devotion. Inspired by Smith’s writings, in the interview that follows we discuss artistic devotion, the entanglements of personal life and artistic practice, and how memories become brushstrokes.
BOMB Magazine The Ongoing Present Moment of Making: Jule Korneffel Interviewed by Hannah Bruckmüller
No, no, no, I’m not painting circles! If I wanted to do that I would use a template. I did go through a period of intensely hard-edged, grid-based compositions, and I’m inspired by minimalist vocabulary and geometry. Yet my circle-like splotches mainly come from my process of intuitive scribbling. Not long ago, there were letters and numbers involved, but these somehow migrated to the backs and sides. These circle-like shapes remain, as I find them to be the simplest and purest mark for me. They are emotional footsteps: painting as tracing, showing that I’ve been here, here, and there—mark-making as internal landscaping.
This reminds me of your 2019 solo show at Spencer Brownstone Gallery called here comes trouble for which you left a mark on the wall in the courtyard. Your paintings expanded outside. I wonder if there is a connection between the place and the pace of your painting. “I am a speedy painter,” said Agnes Martin, who I know is an influence for you. What makes you paint faster or slower?
You also point to direct life experiences in some of your titles. Would you introduce one of them?
Let’s talk about one that again relates to Smith and that’s included in my current show: Who gets the cherry? (2019). While reading Just Kids I was reminded of the personal separation I went through shortly after I moved from Germany to New York in 2015. Like Smith and Mapplethorpe, it took us many years to entirely split. I finished this painting while finally giving in to this new emotional state. One new and interesting aspect of Who gets the cherry? is the openness of its white ground. In these areas the brushstroke is loose and earlier layers are seen. Atop are two rounded semi-transparent marks with an opaque red “cherry” mark standing in between them. In this way the cherry is division and an object of attraction too: something at which the other two are looking. The sides of this work also carry more marks than my paintings usually do, emphasizing the process and claiming objecthood more strongly than my other works. This relates back to the title Who gets the cherry? because in material terms I associate this painting with a thick piece of cake—Black Forest cake. A slice of this cake has so much cream that it’s best shared as it’s too heavy for one person alone. But at the end of eating it, there’s only one cherry. While painting, it became evident that there’s no perfect, easy way to separate from a person. Saying goodbye hurts; it is frightening, and there is no fairness to it. It’s a long way to let someone go.
I like this metaphor of the singleness of a pair, which indicates loss, even scarring, but also the pleasure of life—of sharing a piece of cake, even if only one person gets the cherry. What is your fascination with this geometrical form of a circle?
When I am painting, I don’t know what I’m doing at the present moment or what I’ll do next. I paint about twenty paintings at the same time. Meanwhile, what stops me—forces me to take a break from the act of painting—is to constantly rearrange my studio!
I find it fascinating in Just Kids how simplified Smith’s lifestyle is, which she has maintained to this day. Martin’s was simple, too. Both survived poverty by holding on to their art. A minimal style of living was necessary in the beginning, but later on this lifestyle was consciously chosen. What they were doing couldn’t be negotiated or compromised. I’m very thankful my heroes did all their work. I feel protected by their accomplishments and obliged to do my job and go beyond.
I can relate, because my artistic process derives from an internal dialogue.
I find that your paintings allow for contemplation in that they allow one to see—to take the time to tune in to the color, to the brushstroke, and to the painting itself.
Surely my paintings offer a fast and easy read; but, yes, they also offer that the viewer live them, layer by layer. It usually takes a long time to get a few marks in the right place, on the right ground. Some people think it’s easy and that all I do is just spatter around for a couple of minutes, which is not entirely untrue. But I also alternate between execution and contemplation—it takes time, like getting to know a person. Maybe my paintings are like human beings; they’ve inherited the ability to slow down and sensitize. And to also reach beyond time.