As the summer has come to an end, so has my solo exhibition in the beautiful garden of Galerie Margareta Friesen in Dresden, Germany. The roses, once exuberant and fresh, are long out of bloom and the autumn is quietly crawling into the landscapes.
It’s unbelievable how fast time flies by. It’s as if the Vernissage, which took place at the beginning of June, was only yesterday. And here I am, three months later, sitting on a fast train back home after the Finissage, the final closing of the exhibition.
In the meantime, my mind travels all the way back to my first visit to Dresden. Paradoxically, it also seems like only yesterday. However, it’s been over two years ago that I applied to participate in the Ostrale Biennale, the large international exhibition of contemporary art taking place in Dresden every two years. Luckily, my sculpture “At The Edge” was included in the show.
I remember coming to the opening of the Biennale with my beloved mom who is my most loyal companion, and celebrating the beginning of the event with Currywurst and a glass of wine. I remember the pleasant encounter with Chris Wagner, talented local photographer who had me pose next to my work. The resulting photograph subsequently became my favorite profile picture.
And more than anything, I remember the anxiety before the upcoming trip to Frankfurt and the fateful meeting with a very special person. But, it’s a whole different story...
A few weeks into the Ostrale Biennale I received an email from the Dresden-based gallerist Margareta Friesen. She wished to meet me in person and purchase “At The Edge” which she had stumbled upon while visiting the exhibition. And so, invariably with my mom by my side, I came to Dresden for the second time.
We were invited to bring the sculpture directly to Margareta’s gallery, that simultaneously is her home and the arena for one of her biggest passions - gardening. She greeted us with a smile and a freshly baked pie. I could immediately feel that her house was resided by art and the spirit of individuality. In the course of our friendly conversation I found out that she’s an art historian and that, coincidentally, her first gallery was grounded in Frankfurt am Main in 1993. Almost 20 years ago, however, Margareta moved to Dresden and since then she’s been focusing on conducting exhibitions, publication activity and art trade. While conversing and eating my piece of the pie, I could distinguish the artworks by Salvador Dali, Dieter Krieg, A.R. Penck and the exquisite etchings by Tim von Veh covering the gallery walls and the ceiling.
In the midst of it all Margareta suddenly made me a compelling offer: would I be interested in exhibiting my work in her gallery? Not inside the gallery, though, but rather in the open air - in her beautiful garden.
As we stepped outside, it became evident that the garden itself is her, Margareta’s, personal ongoing artwork. Together with her husband, Harald, they created the kind of garden whose abundant planting and profusion of color at first remind a joyous child left to run wild. At a closer look, however, one could trace a very careful planning of a restless gardener. I couldn’t help drawing a parallel to my concept of good art: elaborated at its core and yet maintaining the sense of spontaneity and freshness.
Needless to say, I accepted the offer.
Fast forward to May of this year, we met again in Berlin as I was finishing the bronze cast of “At The Edge” commissioned by one of Margareta’s clients. Together with Harald they drove from Dresden to meet me at the foundry and pick up the completed sculpture.
Somehow, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, I came to terms with the idea that the garden exhibition would have to be canceled. However, to my pleasant surprise, Margareta refused to give up our plans. The fact that the event had been intended to take place outdoors was to our absolute advantage in the light of the strict measures taken to tackle the pandemic. Besides, the festive Vernissage and open visiting hours were out of question. Instead Margareta chose to invite small groups of people and accept visitors by prior appointment. Despite all the restrictions, the anticipation of my very first solo exhibition was like a ray of light in the prevailing crisis.
And so, the decision was made to deliver eight of my works to the gallery and place them in the garden for the whole summer.
Following the sculptures, I arrived in Dresden at the beginning of June to arrange them in the garden. Little did I know what a challenge it would be! First off, the garden was at its peak of exuberance: disheveled lawns, lush greenery and colorful rose bushes bursting the banks of their flower beds. To put it mildly, a garden exhibition takes more than a conventional arrangement of artworks within the white gallery walls. I had imagined the Vernissage as an occasion to stroll around the garden in my best gown and chat about art over a glass of wine. Instead, the first group of visitors caught me off guard still in my dirty jeans dragging “The Fall of a Sparrow” to yet another spot in the garden where it wouldn’t be visually outcompeted by the omnipresent vegetation. Each piece had to be properly presented in the natural light, conceptually harmonize with the whimsical Nature and with other sculptures. It wasn’t easy. But in the end, when the last piece of the puzzle fell in place, the whole garden breathed a sigh of satisfaction. And so, I finally put on my gown and had a well-deserved glass of wine.
A lot of good has come out of the garden exhibition over these three summer months. First of all, it has helped me as an artist to see my sculptures in a completely new light, literally and metaphorically. Secondly, it has given me the priceless opportunity to view my work through the eyes of others.
Here you will say: but don’t you have over 35 thousand followers on Instagram viewing your art and giving feedback every day? Of course, I’m blessed to have many fingers all over the world scrolling through my profile, zooming into the images of my work and tapping the like button. And I’m extremely grateful for all the support from the online community, especially now in the time of the global pandemic. However, nothing will ever replace the real-life interaction of a viewer with an artwork, particularly a three-dimensional one.
If anything, the garden exhibition has proven this statement to be undeniably true.
Despite the pandemic, our exhibition gained a lot of attention and had a good deal of positive reviews. About two weeks before the Finissage it was covered in the local newspaper, Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten (DNN), which caused a new wave of attendance. The beautifully written article was accompanied by pictures taken in the garden by an accomplished photographer Klaus-Dieter Weber, who is also represented by Galerie Margareta Friesen.
It’s unbelievable how fast time flies by. And it only ever goes forward. As I’m sitting on the train back home, the reflection on the past events is promptly replaced by the anticipation of future - the new heights yet to be reached, the troubles to be withstood and the fleeting moments of contentment that give meaning to the path of my life.