The concept of aura is connected not only with our conception of nature but, since Walter Benjamin, also irreversibly with works of art. In his much-cited 1935 article, Benjamin tried to grasp aura as a "peculiar awareness of space and time: the unique appearance of a far-off, no matter how near it may be" (1), characterizing it also as unapproachable, genuine and superbly unique. Lamenting the loss of the auratic effect of paintings in the age of technical reproducibility, he places at their side the trace as a "superbly unique appearance of nearness, no matter how far off it may be". Trace and aura form a dialectical unity since, "in the trace we are able to grasp the matter; in the aura it overpowers us". (2)
Philipp Fürhofer chose Aura as the title for his third solo exhibition at Knust Kunz Gallery Editions and, here too, numerous dialectical moments can be found. For the presentation of his new works, Fürhofer has created a comprehensive staging of space: in the gallery's central room, a varnished floor reflects the viewer like a dark moor pond. Like church windows, the editions installed in the windows — panes of framed Plexiglas printed on both sides — generate coloured shadows and moods in the space; in the gallery during the day, and in Ludwigstraße at night. Such changing, iridescent situations of lighting that Fürhofer was able to study early on in the windows of prophets at Augsburg Cathedral, have essential significance for his creative artistic work.
Whereas hitherto there were mainly on and off states in his illuminated boxes, the new works seem to breathe through a pulsating fading in and fading out. When the light fades in, the semi-transparent surfaces of these painting-hybrids open an illusion of spatiality and depth. Apart from the recurring motif of the forest, x-rays and computer tomography images of the human body repeatedly come to the fore. Meshes of arteries are superimposed on the branches and undergrowth of a forest; contours of trees come and torsos go; cell structures turn into the remains of leaves. Thoughts rush from romantic paintings of a Rousseau, a Friedrich or Courbet to the fragility and bizarre aloofness from our own body. Fürhofer underscores this interplay of the artistic topos of the forest with medical images through the titles of his works: Twilight, Circulation, Guerrilla Forest, Exchange and Natural Beauty. Here the conceptual intertwining of the organisms, forest and body, is manifest that Fürhofer allows to coexist also visually. His illuminated boxes are illusion machines that present to us the circulation between the inside and the outside. For a few seconds, they entice us with the long superseded idea of meaning and unity in order, only a few seconds later, to disillusion us through their rough construction out of everyday products and waste. Sunrises, rainbows, waterfalls and clouds are here made artificially out of cables and lamps; the sudden flash of the romantic idea of living in harmony with nature is rudely unmasked as kitsch. In the second room of the exhibition as well, Fürhofer allows us to float freely between existentiality and simulation, arbitrariness and uniqueness, nearness and farness. He has installed his verre églomisé as if in a graphic cabinet, each of which brings together two motifs on acrylic glass from different contexts, one on the front and one on the back. Trivial motifs from the everyday news-stew meet organic ramifications; undergrowth and blood vessels appear from the detritus, refuse or the ruins of indeterminate places. These assemblages of drawings are too beautiful and also strangely frightening; they are ambiguous images that reveal to us traces without, however, the viewer’s being able to master them.
Philipp Fürhofer, born in Augsburg in 1982, lives in Berlin. He studied at the University of the Arts in Berlin, graduating as a master-class student of Hans-Jürgen Diehl. His works have been exhibited in solo exhibitions, among other places, at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum and at the Augsburger Kunstverein. Since 2008 Fürhofer has been working in parallel as the stage and costume designer for the Royal Danish Theatre Copenhagen, the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the Finnish National Opera Helsinki, De Nationale Opera Amsterdam, the Royal Opera House in London, among many others.
Simultaneously with the gallery exhibition, Philipp Fürhofer designed the two prelude rooms for the Thierry Mugler retrospective Couturissime at the Munich Kunsthalle (until 30 August). His new publication, (Dis)Illusions, appeared with nai010 Publishers in May 2020. Edited by Thierry-Maxime Loriot, this monograph collects articles by Jean-Luc Nancy, Emily Ansenk, Ulrich Baer and Norman Rosenthal, situating Fürhofer's artistic work both within art history and between performing art and fine art.