Jan Pleitner / Lee Lozano, ‘doowylloh’, at Ancient & Modern, London

30 May 2014 By

On bank holiday Monday, in the dismally pouring rain, we splashed up the A40 to Oxford to see the staggeringly wonderful Cezanne and the Modern at the Ashmolean Museum. Four days later, rain still falling relentlessly from leaden clouds, I find my mind turning again and again to the shimmering blue skies of Mont St Victoire, the landscapes quivering in midsummer heat and the visual acuity of the painter whose work foreshadowed all of European modernism. I can only urge you to make sure you don’t miss this.

After a start like that to the week you might think it would be tough to be looking at anything else, whereas in fact it is uplifting to be contemplating new work by a serious young artist grappling with many of the same issues associated with putting the world, the self, with paint on canvas.  I would like to draw your attention today to the work of Jan Pleitner whose new paintings are currently on show at Ancient & Modern in Whitecross Street.
Pleitner turns 30 this year, and heat is starting to build around this young German who is racking up an interesting track record with group shows in his home country and a burgeoning international rep. After considerable success at last year’s Liste in Basel, Ancient & Modern took him to the Armory in January for a solo presentation of four new large-scale paintings that sold out immediately. Kerlin Gallery are showing Pleitner in July this year and a show at Nanzuka in Tokyo is lined up for Spring 2015.

If I tell you that Pleitner is an alumnus of the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie, where he studied under Jorg Immendorf and Tal R, you will be prepared for his crowded, colourful canvases. The works are entirely abstract and all painted in one continuous session. The largest work, at the rear of the gallery, was painted overnight, in situ, just days before the opening, demanding an understanding of the practice as in some sense performative. The canvases teem with an urgent energy. He played Holst’s Planet Suite during the opening last night. At the artist’s suggestion, his paintings are paired here with three important works on paper by 1960s conceptual artist Lee Lozano. Intriguingly, and without explanation, Pleitner apparently hired a medium to contact Lozano in the afterlife – a small text, a transcript of the result, is available at the gallery. There is an immediate formal resonance between the two artists work, after which it is trickier to discern more connections.  But these three works are here on loan from Hauser and Wirth and it can only be a pleasure to take the rare opportunity to view them, and contemplate the sympathies that might exist between the troubled, late feminist and this young painter, clearly going places.  Sometimes its better, more rewarding, when you don’t fully understand why something is good.

Caroline Douglas