Back in April KÖNIG opened KÖNIG SEOUL as their 3rd branch alongside Berlin and London, and they are currently running the final week of Conny Maier’s first solo show in Asia. Introducing a suite of new works which comments on the relationship between humans and nature, Grenzgänge 2 (Border crossings 2) directly continues on her May 2021 solo show Grenzgänge at Ruttkowski;68 in Cologne, Germany, which was a follow up to her Im Trüben show from 2019 at the same gallery.

Starring darkened-eyes and gaping mouth characters, Maier’s work “questions the relationship between contemporary cultures and their patterns of behaviour, social classes and body politics”. Simultaneously figurative and abstract, expressive and decorative, humorous and thought-provoking, as well as traditional and contemporary, the oil, oil stick, oil pastel on canvas paintings offer levels of reading and interpretation. From vibrant color schemes and unmediated painting technique or gestural strokes, over the caricature-like appearance of her protagonists, to suggestive interaction between them and the wildlife, the Berlin and Baleal-based artist places the viewer in the position of a enigmatologist of sorts. Merely suggesting such important subjects as relationships, power structures, environmental issues, or the relation between rich and poor, she is not imposing conclusions but opening a dialogue about these complex socio-cultural and social narratives.

By converting them into easily digestible snapshots imbued with humor and frequent references to tradition, Maier is drawing the viewer into the scene, and offering multiple perspectives depending on their personal opinions or values. Initially ironic or caricature-like pictures dissolve into weighty social commentaries, as subjects’ shocked or silly faces transform into horror-evoking grimase of Munch’s Skrik (The Scream). The eyeless black sockets simultaneously remove a sense of life from the subject while their surroundings become fully alive, almost animated. At this stage, their interactions with each other, with objects around, or with animals and plants surrounding them, become symbols of human behaviour at large. This is where her painterly technique comes to light as the exhausting paint application and coarse surfaces accentuates the realness and roughness of the scene, while spontaneous and unexpected oil stick marks add a sense of wickedness as well as movement or dynamics. Placed in thick pine tree forests and including stylized renditions of traditionally elegant horses, dogs, or floral elements, Maier seems to be capturing the uncensored, “director’s cut” of romanticism’s updated, present day condition. —Sasha Bogojev