Uwe Henneken. Always Returning
by Nadia Ismail (English translation: Deborah S. Phillips)
Without prescribing an explicit interpretation of his work, Uwe Henneken provides glimpses of other spheres of reality. Landscape motifs often appear in his work, citing art and cultural history. This is especially true of his early works in the early 1990s, in which Symbolism and Romanticism are important references. Romantic notions of nature in the 18th and early 19th centuries accorded great significance to superhuman powers attributed to nature. Nature was, indeed, considered to be where hidden elements of reality, those that cannot be clearly articulated, but remain partially hidden and incomprehensible or, at least, ever-changing.
The entire cosmos was perceived as one entity which went beyond limitations considered to opposite poles: that which relates to body, and spiritual matters. In that tradition, landscape painting was less a matter of depicting nature and more an expression of emotions, even representing a more profound reality than what appeared on the surface.
For Uwe Henneken depictions of nature are also inner landscapes. In his case, this harkens back to the idea of searching, whether it be a search for deeper meaning, or for something that has been lost. Sometimes it is a matter of searching for something unconscious, a state that might, most clearly, be seen as a desire for an absent something or someone.
His early landscapes are very western in their approach; the atmosphere seems to hover. The viewer's eye perambulates through intense colour and a range of motifs, initially suggesting an idyll and a degree of lightness, yet gradually giving way to a subtle sense of menace, even inducing trepidation. This, however, is only evident at second glance. Reoccurring motifs include circles and ovals which appear in countless variations in Henneken's paintings and 3-dimensional works. These shapes, particularly the circle or the orb, are universally comprehensible symbols of the world, echoing cosmic realms and serving as a symbol of eternity. The artist's leitmotif and starting point becomes visible in how he expresses the cyclic, never-ending and reoccurring nature of nature. This important aspect of his paintings is also posed as a question.
Henneken's work also expresses moments of transition between various levels of consciousness. These works appear to provide glimpses into spaces that one cannot actually enter, paths leading into mysterious, unknown depths, places where human beings cannot be found, where mythological creatures lurk. Access to these places is possible through his unique use of colour, dealing with cosmic energy, meditation and portrayals of spiritual ceremonies.
The artist's distinct aesthetic evokes dreamscapes, inviting viewers to probe their own inner landscapes. This is especially true in Henneken's large-format canvases, realised for the 2019 Always Returning show at Kunsthalle Gießen. Here, beholders are plunged into dimensions beyond anyone's previous experience.
Conceptually, Uwe Henneken's art can be located near the tradition of Magic Realism, linking familiar and metaphysical realities, reflecting a possible “third level of reality”, a synthesis of the familiar and the beyond.
There is the theory that Europeans lost the ability to experience wonder after the Enlightenment, while beliefs in mythical realities and spirits are still, in for example Latin America, integral parts of people's everyday lives. The author of the book Dreaming with Open Eyes, Michael Tucker, published in 1992, asserted that contemporary artists are successors to shamans: their role is to mediate between different realities. While shamans communicate with ghosts, linking the here and now with the netherworld, artists provide a means of overcoming the boundary between inner worlds and outer reality.
Uwe Henneken, too, brings together elements of cosmic and fantastic realms into palatable reality, making these other realities perceptible to viewers of his work. He thus creates landscapes that go beyond the categories of what is real and fantasy, folk culture, mythology, religion, history and geography. The scale of his new paintings on canvas, at more than 5.5 meters wide, make it possible for viewers to physically experience the worlds that he creates, immersing those who behold them in an otherworldly realm.
Lebt und arbeitet in Berlin. | Lives and works in Berlin.
1974 geboren in Paderborn. | born in Paderborn.
Einzelausstellungen (Auswahl) / Solo Exhibitions (Selection):
2019 Stomping Ground, Krobath Wien, A. Always Returning, Kunsthalle Gießen, D. 2018 LEAVES, CCA Andratx, E. Studies in Transfiguration with the project Beyond the Threshold and Back Again: An Introduction to the Hero’s Journey. A venture by Anders Dickson and Uwe Henneken, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, D. 2017 The teachings of the Transhistorical Flamingo, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London, GB. Transhistorical Flamingo, Meyer Riegger, Berlin, D. 2016 We Traveled So Far, Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels, B. 2015 Lava (with Lothar Hempel, curated by Timothée Chaillou), Appartment, Paris, F. 2014 Eye away, to a rainbow deep inside, Meyer Riegger, Karlsruhe, D. Treppenhaus, Berlin, D. 2012 Rotation und Abrieb, Capitain Petzel, Berlin, D. Ciao Nemi, Annarumma, Naples, I. Wahrnehmungen im Dunkeln, Meyer Riegger, Karlsruhe, D. 2011 Einäuglein Dreiäuglein Zweiäuglein, H2 Zentrum für Gegenwartskunst (organised by GfG Gesellschaft für Gegenwartskunst e.V.), Augsburg, D. Nihilbilly, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York, USA. Hope springs a kernel, The Breeder, Athens, G. Europa endlich, Landesvertretung Niedersachsen, Berlin, D. Camel Toe (with Rolf Dereich), Sorry we’re closed, Brussels, B.
Gruppenausstellungen (Auswahl) / Group Exhibitions (Selection):
2018 Wanderland. Eine Reise durch die Geschichte des Wanderns, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, D. Kunstpreis der Böttcherstraße 2018, Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen, D. Eros und Thanatos. Werke aus der Sammlung Rusche, Museum Abtei Liesborn, Wadersloh-Liesborn, D. Root Canal, Amsterdam, NL. 2017 And Then There Were None, Meyer Riegger, Karlsruhe, D. Monday is a day between Sunday and Tuesday, Tanya Leighton, Berlin, D. Depuis le Temps (curated by Samuel Gross), Galerie Mezzanin / Karin Handlbauer, Geneva, CH. 2016 Böse Clowns _reloaded, Kunstpalais, Erlangen, D. Hermann tritt schüchtern herein, Meyer Riegger, Berlin, D. 2015 Gute Kunst? Wollen!, SØR Rusche Sammlung, Auf AEG, Nürnberg, D. Black Bandits. #Lützow #Befreiungskriege #Napoleon #Waterloo, Haus am Lützowplatz, Berlin, D. New Paintings from Germany, Goethe-Institut Hong Kong, HK. Vietmam Fine Arts Museum, Hanoi, V. Paperworlds. Kinder- und Jugendzeichnungen zeitgenössischer Künstler, Buchheim Museum, Bernried Masks, Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels, B. Eden, German Promises (invited by Armin Böhm), Ornis A. Gallery, Amsterdam, NL. 2014 Mensch und Maschine. Skulpturen am Rheinkilometer 529 (Skulpturen-Triennale Bingen 2014), Bingen, D. Aus dem Fundus der botanischen Semantik, Cruise & Callas, Berlin, D. Forever Young, Piasa, Paris, F. P Im Dschungel, KVFM Kunstverein Familie Montez, Frankfurt, D. Alles Schön und Gut? Gerisch-Stiftung, Neumünster, D. Wahrheiten. Zeitgenössische Kunst im Dialog mit alten Meistern. Werke aus der Sammlung SØR Rusche Sammlung Oelde/Berlin, Bayer Kulturhaus, Leverkusen, D.