about the work
Mathias Kessler transforms the entrance area of the gallery into a total photographic installation. This is the prelude to the exhibition Sensing Nature, which he is curating together with gallery owner Heike Strelow. The walls and floor are covered with an aerial photographs of a gigantic blown up, destroyed mining landscape. They are part of the work complex West Virginia Mining Landscape, with which the Austrian artist documents a particularly aggressive form of mining in the USA. In so-called mountaintop mining, entire mountain tops are removed in order to access the coal seams more easily. From an aeroplane, Kessler examines the devastating consequences for the landscape and the environment. With the help of a digital mapping program, he assembles the individual photographs into wall-sized tableaus with which he lines the room. Deliberate changes of perspective between the floor and the wall are unsettling. It is never possible to grasp the entire work at once. The monumental force of the images confronts the viewer with a horror scenario of nature devastated by human intervention. West Virginia Mining Landscape vividly demonstrates the consequences of the industrial exploitation of natural resources by global capitalism.
With his works, Mathias Kessler questions conventional ideas and ways of representing nature. He seeks new aesthetic forms to create a different awareness of the natural environment and to expand the possibilities of experience and thought. The deconstruction of romantic notions of an ideal, untouched nature plays a major role in his photographic works, sculptures and installations. His Gradient Paintings, for example, are based on photographs of romanticised sunsets, sandstorms or thunderstorm atmospheres. These images are transferred into paintings by means of a digital raster process and airbrush technique. In this way, pictures of intense colour gradients are created that abstractly reproduce the atmospheric light mood of the original motif. Knowing that the rosy colour mood of the sunset is a result of the air pollution of the industrial age, Kessler breaks with transfiguring views. The light clouds of the English landscape painter William Turner already make it clear that art can convey information about changes in climate and atmosphere. The works of Mathias Kessler show an aesthetic staging of nature that expresses the interaction between human influences and natural phenomena.
Mathias Kessler (* 1968, Kempten) is a New York-based artist who critiques and reinterprets the concept of nature. In his artistic practice, Kessler repeatedly uses the media of photography, installation, and performance. In doing so, he takes up ecological, social, and socio-critical themes. The content of his art is vast: romantic painting, land art, and digital renderings compete and collide to upset familiar oppositions such as nature and culture, representation and experience, and, by extension, ideology, and aesthetics. Using various media, he negotiates the definition and interpretation of the relationship of society and economic interests for the world and its natural resources. Kessler received his MFA in Art Practice from the School of Visual Arts, New York, in 2013. He has had solo exhibitions at the Kirchner Museum in Davos, Kunsthal Rotterdam, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, Colorado, Palmengarten Frankfurt, Site: Lab, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Rosphot National Museum for Photography, St. Petersburg, Russia, GL at Holtegaard Museum, Copenhagen, and Kunstraum Dornbirn, Austria, among others. Currently, his works can be seen at the Dom Museum Vienna in the exhibition Fragile Creation.