Nana Ohnesorge aims to develop a dialogue concerning the iconic, and its significance to collective memory and identity. Collage-like elements of juxtaposition, layering and transparency are translated into drawings and paintings, or transformed into cohesive sculptures, appropriating features of historic Romanticism, Surrealism and Pop Art.
Elements of randomness, collision of contrasts, tension, and psychological and symbolic associations highlight issues such as the human condition, the passing of time, the fragility of existence, and the impermanence of structures in the face of history.
The fragmentary nature of her art work, with its stylistic jumps and clues to further meaning, provides a visual metaphor of the diversity and confusion of contemporary culture, resulting in dream-like scenarios.
über - tales (2005 – 2007)
In her series “Über Tales”, Nana’s bold approach to colour and subject matter in painting and sculpture is directed at the underlying psychological and philosophical symbolism of fairy tales. Her investigation into the history, tradition and significance of fairy tales is further loaded with personal references, which are placed within the broader context of the history and culture of her native German background.
Of particular relevance are the fairy tales’ trait of simultaneously communicating overt and covert meanings, thus speaking to all levels of the human personality; as well as their mixture of the childlike and the deadly serious, used as a strategy to approach issues of utmost consequence through a veil of innocence and humor. Of interest is also the fairy tales’ quality to entertain, their mythic portrayals of our humanity and inhumanity in a universal language, and their sense of the fantastic in the context of a contemporary discourse.
The series ‘Über Tales’ aims to entertain, enchant, puzzle, confront and challenge.
Les Mystères de Paris 2008
The easiest way to find disappointment in a new place is to follow, expectantly, paths well-travelled. To open up the possibilities offered by accidental encounters one must endeavour to bypass the usual suspects. Nana Ohnesorge’s background as a collagist means she is ideally tuned to draw out such hidden aspects. Les Mystères des Paris is a suite of works characterised by accidental encounters on a Paris residency - between aesthetic elements, between the visitor and the city, between viewer, artist and reading of the work. Through the appropriation and overlay of visual impressions and snippets, Ohnesorge has created aesthetic vignettes which in some cases at first appear decorative but on closer engagement reveal a more sober truth. By allowing images from sources such as tourist postcards and event listings to step forward, away from their original context, the pronouncements of these motifs is switched from nostalgic reflection to the critical inquisition of a city and its past and present attitudes. The relocation of these images causes the viewer to question the comfortable place these motifs and their associated ideas hold in long standing values.
Several of these works feature subjects taken from history, however many of these figures have had their faces partially or completely obscured. Are they unable or unwilling to see the errors of their ways, of their times? Ohnesorge’s work embodies the conflict between wanting to come to terms with an historical reality, whilst also wishing to maintain a ‘hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil’ attitude - the title of a painting articulates this:
A History of Voluntary Blindness. Is a life of enjoyment, lived by surrounding oneself with beauty and decadence, symptomatic of a desire to live life to the fullest in an inevitably decaying world, or a coping mechanism to shield us from the awful truth? Can wilful ignorance be justified as a way of coping with reality? Why do humans see it as necessary to continue to make and experience beauty in the face of seemingly unavoidable horror? The delights and truths of the flesh, the sex and death which penetrate the city, are also celebrated in Ohnesorge’s work as characteristic of Paris.
Les Mystères de Paris not only comprises recent work created in response to a residency. The inclusion of a collage created in 1992 entitled Dreaming of Paris (never been there yet) provides a moment of tension - did the city live up to its expectations? Is this work a nostalgic counterpoint in a series of more truthful realisations? This work provides a chronological pivot-point through which the viewer might either use the benefit of hindsight to assess whether the artist's expectations were met by the city, or as an entry point into a longer journey into a Paris of the imagination and of the real.
These works encompass not only what the city has brought to the artist but also what the artist has brought to the city. By carefully salvaging, selecting and combining ideas and images which might have otherwise been discarded or overlooked, Ohnesorge has opened up the 'museum city' of Paris to unblinkered readings.
Catalogue text by Chloe Wolifson
Bambi Killer 2009
In Bambi Killer Nana Ohnesorge continues to explore the complexity and darker side of human nature in an installation of narrative and figurative paintings, drawings and sculptures. Her bold approach to colour and subject matter is directed at a dialogue concerning the iconic within the context of identity, mortality and collective memory. Painted portraits and sculptural busts of historic figures engage with contemporary approaches to portraiture and investigate their relevance to a wider public today. Transforming her sources of historic portraits and death masks, as well as tapping into shared mythologies, she juxtaposes popular tradition with unexpected layers and lurid candy colours to tempt the viewer to explore the underlying psychological and symbolic associations evoked by the work.
Adam Cullen (artist)
When I first laid eyes on Mitch and Nana’s work, I smiled. (I’ll talk about them together for the sake of convenience, I mean, they’re showing together…).
When I enjoy work, and smile, I do so with a certain kind of knowing…
It’s funny, how comforting art can be, no matter how dark, depressing or demonic. These two artists share something in common; the work lives without the scholarly and unnecessary heaviness of academic rigor that can ruin a painting. All kinds of gravity is made senseless… Nana’s (images) relate to her German ancestry. They both draw strongly on their cultural milieu. They layer their images in the physical and metaphorical sense. There is a sense also of the “personal”, and yet it’s a direct kind of communication with very recognizable icons…It’s about “paradox and the wicked world”. It’s almost, as if they are attempting to express their DNA.
Excerpts from Adam Cullen, Gorgosity Made Flesh, exhibition catalogue essay for combined solo show To Re-establish Something of a Bond, with Mitch Cairns and Nana Ohnesorge at MOP Projects, Feb 2006
Tracey Clement (arts writer and artist)
Nana Ohnesorge is emerging for the second time…
Ohnesorge’s paintings and sculptures channel the primal energy of fairy tales.
They have a rough, raw, visceral quality, which, as Adam Cullen has proven, doesn’t mean they won’t sell…
Excerpts from Tracey Clement, Oldies but Goodies, Australian Art Review, Nov 07 – Feb 08
Louise Paramor (artist)
The colourful and witty paintings of Nana Ohnesorge are fascinating and unusual depictions of humankind in its many forms. Her people merge with patterns and symbols in a celebratory manner that disguise a deeper, darker level to her work which is not seen at first glance.
Louise Paramor, Nana Ohnesorge, Off the Wall Art Melbourne 08 catalogue, Weekend Australian