In December 2021, Nassima Landau Art Foundation, Tel Aviv presented a solo exhibition of Christopher Hartmann. The artist’s works were first presented in Israel a year earlier as part of the foundation’s opening group exhibition.
Hartmann (b. 1993) is a German-Costa Rican artist who lives and works in London. He holds an MA in Communication Design from Central Saint Martins and completed his MFA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University London in 2021. He is a recent grantee from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation (2020) and resident of The Fores Project London (2020).
Past solo exhibitions of his work also include: State of life, may I live, may I love at T&Y Projects, Tokyo, JP (2022); I Will Heal, GNYP Gallery, Berlin, DE (2021); and In and out of touch at Hannah Barry Gallery, London, UK (2021).
Vivid oil paintings on relationships
Hartmann creates vivid oil paintings that focus on relationships. His solo exhibition at Nassima Landau, entitled “What I Want to Say Is This” (2021), was “an ode to the words left unsaid [taking viewers] through a journey of the universal feelings of love and loss,“ states the exhibition’s catalogue.
“Christopher Hartmann’s paintings present us with places in which specific time and space is suspended. They are concerned with relationships, how these are shaped by contradictory forces of alienation, intimacy and dependence, and the emotional tension this instills within each of us as we negotiate their terms.”Curatorial text
“Christopher Hartmann’s paintings present us with places in which specific time and space is suspended. They are concerned with relationships, how these are shaped by contradictory forces of alienation, intimacy and dependence, and the emotional tension this instills within each of us as we negotiate their terms.” Said the curatorial text about his solo show at the Nassima Landau Foundation.
“Communication in intimate relationships ebbs and flows at points, bringing us closer to those we love and at others pushing us farther apart,” said the text, identifying Hartmann’s paintings as, “pieces that show communication falling short.”
This year the artist came to Israel as a guest of the Nassima Landau Foundation’s residency program. He was here for a few weeks, during which time, according to him, he “worked a lot and had a lot of fun.”
“Steeve Nassima has been a very important supporter and he introduced my work to important people, so I really want to thank him for that. Making art can be so lonely and frustrating, and finding someone that believes in you is amazing. You deal with a lot of rejections over the years up to a point where you can lose faith. So it means the world when someone starts believing in your work. It takes someone with enthusiasm to help you continue,” says Hartmann.
A YOUNG, up-and-coming artist, Hartmann uncharacteristically chooses to work in a very traditional medium – observational oil painting of both people and still life, yet he does it in his own way, developing his unique technique which in many ways mimics graphic software.
“It is kind of ironic,” he laughs. “If you would have asked me ten years ago, I would not have thought that this is where I will end up. In my teen years I studied with a teacher from the Ukraine. She was very strict, she taught old-fashioned observational drawing, which I enjoyed, and I learned a lot. I think later I wanted to reject that, and my work became much more abstract. And then gradually, maybe at the beginning without even noticing, I got back to more traditional ways of painting, to a point in which I did become aware of it, aware of why I am doing what I am doing,” he says. “Now I use it to create my own language.”
Hartmann thinks that rejecting observational painting only because it is not “new” is stupid. “It is so silly to think of it as old fashioned. The other day I went to the National Gallery to see the works of Lucien Freud. Of course it was amazing. After that, I just wandered around and looked at the old masters. And while as a younger person I rejected them, now I find myself revisiting the idea of the old masters and I can see their work differently, I can see similarities.”
Hartmann creates his images from layers of oil paint, mimicking, in a way, the masks of photo editing software. Inspired by Instagram-like visuals, he brings forth the unnatural hue of digitally edited images.
“I had done video and installations as a student, and I studied many years,” says the young artist. “At art school they make you do installations, sculptures and use different mediums, but I always came back to painting. I also studied graphic design, so I used many techniques and software, but I always came back to painting. I feel that trying different mediums and techniques reinforces what you really need to do,” he says.
“All my paintings are based on photographs that I take. I organize the setup, I stage the photographs. My still life have a sculptural element too. I think about the composition. It is almost like sculpture – it is 3D. I think carefully about the color palette, which of course is influenced by the image.
“In the paintings that I work on right now, I try to get a very specific atmosphere and very specific temporality. Often the image is still-life, but it suggests that someone is about to enter the frame. It is still-life and yet full of life.”
After spending time in Tel Aviv as a guest of the Nassima Landau foundation’s residency program, Hartmann is now preparing a new show. “I took many photographs in Tel Aviv and now I work on them for an important show in Los Angeles, which will open in the summer. There’s going to be a lot of Tel Aviv in the show,” he says.
“Tel Aviv was great. I liked the city, the friendly people. I could spend a lot of time in the studio working but still be able to go to the beach, to go out at night with friends. People were so friendly and warm,” he smiles. “I have known Steeve Nassima who is the founder of Nassima Landau together with Suzanne Landau, for two years. It is funny because the first time I met him it was through Instagram. He saw my works and called me. He was so enthusiastic, and I was kind of confused – why would somebody be so enthusiastic about my work? I asked – are you talking about my work? It was really nice.
“Steeve has been so supportive of me and my work. He became like a family to me. He always asked me to come to Tel Aviv and then I had the opportunity to accept. I was going through a lot in my personal life and I thought it was a good time.”
Hartmann loved his time here. “I think that Tel Aviv is all about the people. At one point I was thinking ‘what am I doing in London? This is so nice. And the people of Nassima Landau really took care of me – I met a lot of people through Steeve and with the people in the Foundation. I took a lot of images and it was a very productive time for me,” he says, “I can’t wait to come back.“
Christopher Hartmann’s work can be seen at the Nassima-Landau Foundation, 55 Ahad Ha’Am Street, Tel Aviv-Jaffa. For more information and private viewing please go to [email protected]