Foto: eSeL.at - Zhameli Khairli: Johnson Ocheja (AG18 Gallery, 23.2. - 26.3.2022)
Unfortunately, not everything goes according to plan or as I would like it to. Corona stole from me my accurately planned week of grand openings of many exhibitions. But I was lucky enough to catch finissages instead.
My finissage season started with the exhibition “Beauty and the Beholder” at the AG18 Gallery. I found the exhibition on the eSeL Calendar (surprise, surprise!) and the description sounded very interesting to me. The three african artists Adesola Yusuf, Damilola Opedun and Johnson Ocheja are challenging very western ideas of beauty and their colonial origins. There’s no need for me to reformulate the curatorial text and intention of holding this exhibition, instead I share my experience of its finissage.
I was at the gallery after 6 p.m. Chinara from AG18 had time to show me around because there was nobody else. I was told, some guests were coming during the daytime. It turned out to be for the best, as I was treated like a VIP and got a personal guided tour. She explained to me the concept of the exhibition as a whole and each artist and painting in detail. Another finissage lover stopped by a bit later, and we had a chat and discussed the exhibition. The key ideas I summed up for myself: reflection instead of finding fast solutions, juxtaposition instead of opposition, and healing instead of being paralized by rage. It’s worth mentioning that the gallery is pretty big and allows dividing spaces into sections that act individually: a main room, a more secluded room to the right, and one extra hall behind.
The next two exhibitions were held as part of the photography festival Foto Wien and their finissages were on the same day. That day was a warm and sunny Saturday. My first stop was the exhibition “Daniela Zeilinger & Janine Schranz: Blend together” at Mz Baltazar‘s Laboratory. A tricky curatorial text, and by tricky I mean it’s not easy to understand everything written in it. Mz Baltazar‘s Laboratory identifies itself as intersectional feminist and a safer space. That is intriguing and encouraging. A group of people was chilling at the entrance, the exhibiting artists Daniela Zeilinger and Janine Schranz were among them.
In their work they examine “possibilities of communication between inside and outside, from artwork to artwork, and between real space and image space”. Within the space a big window and an open door give a glimpse into the exhibition, while simultaneously the artists standing on the other side erase the visible border between inside and outside. Looking through the transparent artworks of Janine Schranz to the artworks of Daniela Zeilinger was also like finding new meanings in the interaction between them. The space is divided through a big white curtain, and it’s hard to resist looking inside and seeing what’s hidden behind it. I was invited to chat and have a soft drink with the artists (and another type of drink, too). I felt welcomed.
The next stop was the exhibition “More Than Meets The Eye” at the Votivkirche. For sure, to place objects in unusual settings provides a completely different perspective, not only onto artworks themselves, but to the whole exhibition concept. Light shining through the coloured stained glass windows of the neo-gothic church are playing within the space, and it’s especially spectacular when one catches a sunny day like this. I was curious how and where the artworks would be displayed. This interplay between architecture and image narratives: the angel whom Helena Eribenne impersonates in her digital artworks and painted Saints on walls; light forms and shapes in digital artworks by Simone Carneiro and sunbeam on wallpaper. It was fabulous. I had the luck to meet Helena in the park, and she gave me a tour through the exhibition. Enjoying the sun outside we had a chat about the art scene in Vienna and this particular exhibition at the Votivkirche. Was it the church or the artworks? I don’t know, but I met more than my eyes saw.
My observation: The tendency to visit exhibitions on the opening day is not only about “seeing it first”, it’s also about socialising. And another good bonus: they are almost always free of charge and provide free drinks, although sometimes only by invitation. And what about a finissage? In big museums, last exhibition days are often crowded, but in non-institutionalised spaces it’s different. I would say it’s more relaxed, drawing less people and providing more intimacy. You can meet a curator, an artist, and a small circle of art lovers (and friends of artists and curators) too. You have a unique experience, a warm and cozy one. Maybe it was destiny that I couldn’t make it to the openings, because now I know what finissages can provide. And it’s my insider tip for you – try it!
- eSeL Kalender: Beauty and the Beholder
- eSeL Kalender: Blend together
- eSeL Kalender: More than meets the eye
Text & Photos: WaSCHbärhund (Zhameli Khairli)