Four years after his last exhibition, Jonathan Meese is returning to Galerie Templon with a previously unseen series of paintings centring on Parsifal, Richard Wagner’s final masterpiece.
A self-proclaimed high priest of the dictatorship of art, Jonathan Meese puts all his considerable creative energy into what Wagner called a “festival play for the consecration of the stage.” Meese is obsessed, possessed, by his subject, inspired by the vitalist energy displayed by the opera’s heroes – the youthful Parsifal, Klingsor the fallen knight, the diabolical Kundry and Gurnemanz the wise man. Parsifal, a medieval epic imbued with metaphysical dreams, crystallises the enigmatic character and formal violence of the artist’s work. Alternating between acid tones and blocks of black, luminous texts and flat tints, impastos and reconstructions, the series attains the height of elegance within chaos.
Jonathan Meese is German. Born in 1970 in Tokyo, he lives in Berlin. He has developed an uncategorizable body of work, lying somewhere between expressionism and actionism, combining painting, sculpture, installations and performance. His personal mythology is a blend of historical, legendary and science fiction references, evoking figures as varied as Fantômas, Maldoror and Stalin, all of whom represent different facets of the artist’s identity. He thus links Parsifal to Alex DeLarge, the ultraviolent anti-hero of A Clockwork Orange (the Anthony Burgess novel and Stanley Kubrick film)
Jonathan Meese’s work has received widespread exposure internationally since his first presentation in Berlin and participation in the 1998 Berlin Biennale. He has taken part in a number of major collective exhibitions, such as Generation Z at PS1 in New-York in 1999, New Blood at the London Saatchi Collection in 2004 and Dionysiac at Paris’ Centre Pompidou in 2005. A major retrospective of his work, Mama Johnny, was held at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg and Grenoble’s Le Magasin in 2006. The Miami MOCA put on a retrospective of the artist’s sculptures in 2011. Jonathan Meese recently exhibited his work at the Gem Museum voor Actuele Kunst in La Haye (2011) and Akademie der Künste in Vienna (2012).
The artist has been concentrating primarily on live performance since 2004. His improvisation on Wagner’s Parsifal at the Berlin Staatsoper in 2005 and homage to Noël Coward at London’s Tate Modern in 2006 were both unforgettable events. He followed on from these performances by designing sets for shows at Berlin’s Volksbühne theatre and for Dionysos, a new opera by Wolfgang Rihm, which premiered in 2010 at the Salzburg Festival then travelled to the Berlin Staatsoper in 2012. Also in 2012, he designed the sets for Charpentier’s Médée, directed by Paul Audi at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris.