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May 20, 2022 - July 15, 2022

In the first exhibition devoted solely to his ceramics, Witalij Frese (*1992 Alexandrowka, Russia) shows the human body as a fluid, mythical and ever-searching integral being. The black and white vessels, reliefs and body construction kits – ceramic beings connected with wire, whose skeletons are composed of individual fragments – oscillate between vulnerability and blunt realism. In his works, Frese is seeking for the meaning of physical existence and the desire to express himself anew. Thus, the artist often approaches the body through its individual parts. In his works, he decomposes, forms and configures the human organism according to a wide variety of feelings and sensibilities. His versions of body shells, that are reminiscent of ancient Greek and Roman ceramics, are hybrid and explicit.


In direct confrontation with female and male sexual characteristics, sensitive compositions consisting of sculptural and ornamental elements emerge, united by the artist's hand. While the penis handles and the vulva frieze clearly refer to an old gender order, the transitions within the vessels are fluid. There is a constant interplay of male and female attributes.


For Frese, penis and vulva also represent anchor points for subjects such as shame and the striving to overcome the historical gender order as they are closely linked to traditional role models. The personal classification through certain body characteristics can also be decisive for self-perception and identity. Especially if the need for bodily belonging is a factor for social belonging. Not feeling connected to one's own body disturbs and weighs down the soul. A living body that feels alien and out of tune remains isolated from its environment, not at rest within itself. Thousands of years of hierarchical vision have distorted and disoriented the naked human being, but also offer an opportunity to reinvent it: 


Almost all of the works are populated by hairless figures whose appearance seems human, but which steer clear of fidelity to reality. Genderless or hybrid, the head-heavy beings meander, sometimes standing, sometimes lying, across the cool and smooth surfaces. Some figures interact with each other, sitting skin to skin. A loner crouches completely still in the empty pictorial space and looks directly at us. Other figures have dissolved into patterns of disembodied limbs. Contrary to the ornamental flow, some figures still seem unsure of their direction in the stream of body parts.


"How do I compose myself, how am I composed of?" is how Frese describes his starting position. What constitutes the contemporary individual and what part do environment and cultural history play in our constitution in the present? This approach is probably most clearly expressed in the body construction kits (Körperbaukästen). Their limbs do not assemble in a medically correct way. Rather, the cohesion is loose. Their bodies are, except for the delicate wires, segmented into many parts. The installation on the wall also gives the body construction kits a ghostly mobility, resting weightlessly in space. If one were to separate their individual limbs and reassemble them, new variations of bodies would constantly emerge, always made of the same parts, only constructed differently. Correct' proportions and fleshly charms play no role in this.


With his antiquating vessel forms and stylised paintings, Witalij Frese consciously draws on the visual memory of the symbolic and pictorial world of antiquity. The ancient form of the relief is often found, for example, in saints' shrines and tombs of the Roman Empire. Mostly, the depictions refer to mythological narratives and topoi, full of signs and symbolic bodies. Such handmade reliefs, ceramics or grave slabs are also in the tradition of social rites associated with bodily actions. The political body, the sacred body, the sexualised body: they are all subject to social moralisation and regulation. The sinuous serpent in particular looks back on centuries of iconographic change: from its place on the staff of the healing god Asclepius, to original sin, to the idealised serpentine line in painting.


Thus, when Vitalij Frese infuses his bodily vessels with mythological symbols and forms, he not only invokes ancient iconographic interpretations, but also enriches his depictions with the context of his own bodily questions. Carefully and sparingly, Frese thus transfers classical attributes into an expanded interpretative context. Exposed skin has always offered a projection and attack surface for cultural, political and religious agendas. Frese confronts this historical gravity with his earthen body shells without forcing their classification: neither as a motif nor as a gender. Fragile and smooth, the ceramics want to be carefully filled – with meaning without dogma, with all that animates them.


May 20, 2022 - July 20, 2022

Türkenstr. 32, 80335 Munich

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