Hänel Gallery, Cape Town
Galerie Frank Hänel, Wiesbaden, Germany
The US National Anthem, ‘TulaTuTula’
Review by Seamus Wilson
Stefan Blom’s work sits in that place where meaning changes constantly. Love can take the form of what some would call hate. Violence can be a caress. Clothes imply nudity and dressing up can be as much about undressing. This is not because he plays with meaning or understanding through clever or innovative associations, as most artists do much of the time. Blom draws back the everyday layers of meaning and relationships and uncovers that shadow world where our usual way of seeing doesn’t make sense anymore. This is where we have to use the same old words to describe the same old things – but suddenly seen in a different way. This discomfort that his work evokes has been constant through all his exhibitions, here and abroad. In his new exhibition, Dressed for Love, it is just more precise, more powerful and less dramatic.
In those shadow places of our lives (especially in a sombre time of war and violence and incessant change), the good and the bad, the light and the dark seem to be closer together, less definite and more ironic. Blom reaches into the recesses of our motivations and illustrates this proximity of pain to fear, love to hate, joy to deep anxiety. He does it with a delicacy and freshness that is new to his work, allowing for visual satisfaction despite our confrontation with the moral content. His own technical maturity, transforming harsh reality to visual subtlety, is echoed in the location of his all-too-human subject in the hard-edged world of our own technologies: flesh co-habits with metal, hope arms itself with the gun and the privacy of our emotional lives is dressed up for television.
The exhibition works through a variety of scale, from enormous canvases (spray-painted with a mastery that is in itself a reason to visit) through smaller wall-mounted forms to scattered mixed-media objects on the floor. It represents an achievement in his own development, a maturing of both themes and techniques and a deepening of his consistent concerns over many years. The exhibition will run for only a week here in Cape Town before being flown to Europe.