Walking on Water, by LangnerWalking on Water, by Langner

Two German artists have for a brief time showcased their crea­tions in the lobby of an office building in Gżira. Although this is an unlikely venue to host an exhibition, it leant itself relatively well for the purpose.

This was the first Maltese exhibition for the two artists in question – Jens Mohr (b. 1971) and Hans Langner (b. 1964). Both are self-taught artists and had been in Malta for five weeks prior to the exhibition as artists in residence.

During this period they scouted the islands for what would eventually become their primary materials for the pieces on display. These items were sourced from flea markets or from discarded and unwanted objects found on the beach, and so on.

These found objects, or objets trouvés, were then reutilised to create the numerous sculptures and wall-hung pieces composed of mixed media that were exhibited last weekend. Langner and Mohr were indeed still hard at work on both exhibition days.

Mohr and Langner – the latter is also known as Birdman after a performance art exhibition held in Hong Kong which saw him transform himself into a bird – have both been active for the past 20 years or more. Their similar concepts provide a good raison d’etre for why the two should exhibit their work together. However, their distinct styles are easily identifiable.

Another similarity is the way they both deal with animals, albeit in their own way, especially birds.

Mohr brings the various objects together with great mastery and it is easy to enjoy viewing his works. He composes all sorts of animals largely from discarded objects –  cats, mice, horse, elephants, snails, fish, hedgehogs, insects, and birds. In some instances, a harpoon has been reutilised to become a fish, a gun mimicked a bird, and so on.

As a subject, birds are a common denomi­nator between the two artists

As already mentioned, as a subject, birds are a common denomi­nator between the two artists. Langner’s complex works are extremely intricate and interesting to look at. He starts most of his works by selecting a support portraying a print, painting or tapestry. He then examines the surface details in order to bring out shapes of birds from whatever it is that is portrayed, and the existing subject forms part of Birdman’s birds. For instance, a small replica of a Rembrandt scene, becomes the basis for Birdman’s birds in Behind the Curtain.

Hunter, by MohrHunter, by Mohr

Birdman uses a very Baroque kind of aesthetic in his works that is most apparent in Time Flys, a huge 170 by 100cm work composed of found objects once again, including several framed scenes that are integrated into the large piece. For instance, images of the Madonna and Christ, a Mona Lisa replica, a clock and  much more were incorporated into the whole that was rendered metallic with the paint used.

The composition exudes a sense of horror vacui and reminds one of a religious icon as well as the more elaborate type of religious ex votos. And throughout this scene, Birdman brings out the forms or shapes that recall birds, an omnipresent feature in his works.

Another large work by Birdman, Walking on Water, which is more exciting in concept, is based on a reutilised tapestry. He applied acrylic metallic paint over the large tapestry (190 by 145cm) to cover the surface while leaving out parts that once again bring out the form of several birds throughout the surface.

Daisy, by MohrDaisy, by Mohr

With Birdman, birds emerge also from pages of an anatomy book. His work is the more cerebral of the two and provides layers of meaning, but it provides a welcome contrast to Mohr’s more playful works.

In their own ways, both Mohr and Birdman add their own mark to something that has been cast aside by its previous owner. They were able to breathe new life into many items that would have continued to litter our countryside or which did not necessarily have much value.

All of the items on display were attractive and cleverly constructed and serve as proof for the fact that an artist’s creativity is a vital ingredient when composing works of art.

The joint exhibition was only open last weekend but some of the pieces are now available at Marie Gallery5 in Mosta.

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