‘Pavilion’ by Karin Kneffel

Karin Kneffel’s work, specifically accomplished in 2014 for the Barcelona Pavillon, is consisting of two oil paintings, both 180 x 300 cm. The paintings refer on the one hand to the uniqueness and absence of the original pavilion of 1929 – with its original form imaginable and visible in some black and white photographs requested by Mies van der Rohe – and on the other hand to the pavilion’s reconstruction in the period from 1983 to 1986. Hence Karin Kneffel is focussing on two aspects. First the paintings have a direct topical reference to the exhibition site, but then they do not only reflect the current situation of the pavilion but as well the position of the viewer: his movements and considerations form a part of the painting process.

Consequently specific attention is paid to the works’ installation: the two paintings, freestanding back-to-back, are positioned close to the room’s glass window, which the visitor notices at first sight.

The first painting, which can only be viewed through the pavilion’s window glass at the stairs to the entrance, shows the spatial structure of the original pavilion. According to the black and white reproductions the artist allows the re-emergence of the historic pavilion in her painting – observed through a window glass, seen as a luminous reflection, casted in bluish light. At second sight the viewer recognizes the print of two hands, assuming a former viewer and his absence, underlining the voyeuristic motif: not only that the viewer is duplicated by being the one who is watching and the one leaving his hand prints at the same time, but the window glass as well is subject to the same process. The real window glass is located between the visitor and the painting and consequently, by mirroring effects and reflections, is preventing a direct view, while the window glass in the painting is painted with mirroring effects and reflections as well.

Entering the “real” pavilion – and this is Karin Kneffel’s unique artifice – the visitor now steps into the previously viewed painting: one sees the same scenery, which a cleaning woman in the right corner of the painting is observing as well, but now in reality everything is bigger, three dimensional and more colourful. The viewer turns into a performer of the same scenery previously seen as a picture, he himself becomes part of the current, through the painting historically boosted, reality.

Due to the pavilion’s reconstruction there are differences in the structure and in the texture of the surfaces. This is specifically obvious with the materiality and the impression of the onyx wall. The viewer finds himself in a reality only resembling the previously seen reality in the painting. The artist has pictured simultaneously past and presence in great condensation, with the courses of perception and experience being part of the composition process. By the illusion created in the painting, the visitor, entering the pavilion, is invited to simulate the reconstruction.

In his essay “Between Facts and Fiction” Armin Zweite writes: “In a painting, in spite of all the recognition of assimilated documents and artwork or phenomena of our reality, the vaguely recalled, the inarticulately experienced, the subliminally assumed, coagulates in the conciseness of a sensuous appearance.”

The second work in the pavilion, virtually the rear perspective of the one just described, can be viewed in the room in a natural, museum-like way. The big painted drops in the foreground impede the “reading” of the painting and the viewer has to approach the painting from a greater distance and then get closer in order to see the painting as a whole. This seeming paradox clearly characterizes Karin Kneffel’s oeuvre: one can only experience the whole of her work in the interference of proximity and distance, in a constant process of reflection. Two examples: the well-oriented visitor will quickly recognize the real location on the garden side as the one painted in the painting. At the same time he can look at the location in the painting, but only through the painted window glass of the pavilion. The scenery is immersed in an evening atmosphere. Again one finds the shifting of reality: the painted sculpture, appearing through the lines of sight of the wall panels, is not in the pavilion. In the real room there is Georg Kolbe’s sculpture “Morgen”, while the painting shows his sculpture “Abend”. The sculpture, an essential part of Mies van der Rohe’s room concept, was not explicitly created by Kolbe for the Barcelona Pavillon, but since 1925 was part of the architectural project “Ceciliengärten” in Berlin, a housing estate with green park areas. Both bronze sculptures, “Morgen” and “Abend”, were specifically designed for that location and are still located there, opposite each other. Nowadays, after the reconstruction of the pavilion, there is a later made bronze cast of the sculpture “Morgen” in the Mies van der Rohe building.

Both paintings show Karin Kneffel at the height of her oeuvre, reflecting reality in her paintings. She performs a small intervention into the room – but offers a whole new world of interpretations and interpretation potential, for the pavilion as well as its visitors.

Karin Kneffel was born in 1957 in Marl, (Nordrhein-Westfalen). She lives and works in Düsseldorf and Munich, where she has a professorship at the “Akademie der Künste”. She studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy with Gerhard Richter. Since many years she has been exhibiting at important national and international galleries, since 1993at the Galleria Senda in Barcelona. Various fundamental museum exhibitions have been accompanying her oeuvre. The latest took place at “Haus Esters” in Krefeld, another Mies van der Rohe building, whose architecture Karin Kneffel explicitly reflects, same as here in the Barcelona Pavillon, in a series of paintings conceived for this specific room. Her works are represented in major public and private collections.

Text: Gerrit Friese
Web: Karin Kneffel