The ars viva prize is without a doubt one of the most established and significant prizes for young artists in Germany—and one of the oldest. The Kulturkreis der deutschen Wirtschaft im BDI e. V. has been awarding this prize to artists under the age of 35 since 1953. This year, its exhibition will be held at the Brücke Museum, marking the first time in a long while that the presentation has featured at a Berlin institution. There will be another exhibition next spring at Kai Art Center in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.
In Berlin, works by the three prize-winners will first be shown in dialogue with those of the Brücke artists. »With a belief in continuing evolution, in a new generation of creators as well as appreciators, we call together all youth«, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner wrote in a 1906 manifesto for this pivotal group of early-twentieth-century German artists. »And as youth carrying the future, we intend to obtain freedom of movement and of life for ourselves in opposition to older, well-established powers.« Disregarding the old-fashioned rhetoric, something similar could be said of the situation of young artists today, like those honoured by the ars viva prize.
It is easy to imagine how Tamina Amadyar’s paintings might interact with works by the Brücke artists. Amadyar uses rabbit-skin glue as a binding agent for her unusually luminous paintings, an animal-based adhesive that dries relatively quickly and also gives her compositions their characteristic, radiant openness and lightness. Consequently, her canvases often look more like watercolours than oil paintings—regardless of whether their abstract, self-contained areas of colour overlap or whether Amadyar specifically charges her paintings with titles referencing street scenes or architectural elements.
Lewis Hammond also works on canvas. But unlike Amadyar’s bright and colourful abstractions, his paintings appear more sombre, more crowded. The palette is earthy, dark and brownish; their subjects communicate isolation, restriction, pain, the impossibility of intimacy. Again and again, Hammond paints metal rods and thorns, melancholic, forlorn still lifes or figures—many are depicted solitary, bent and curved, or in pairs, embracing one another. Yet even this gesture of closeness and togetherness conveys less a sense of security than a vain attempt to offer comfort where none can be given. Glances do not meet on these impressive landscapes of the soul; instead they trail off, disappear into the gloomy nowhere over another figure’s shoulders.
That leaves the third of the bunch, Mooni Perry. Unlike Amadyar and Hammond, Perry has abandoned painting in favour of multimedia work. The artist’s videos and installations address subjects such as veganism, animal rights and ›human-animal studies‹ from a feminist perspective. Perry is currently working to launch the platform ASFAR (Asian Feminist Studio for Art and Research) in collaboration with curator Hanwen Zhang. The artist’s work, a montage of fragmentary pieces, repeatedly explores the boundary between humans and animals and asks what exactly it means to ›decentre‹ the human, as so often demanded. By addressing such topics, Perry resolutely directs her gaze towards the future—just as the Brücke artists did more than one hundred years ago.