Fools are my theme, let satire be my song.
Human beings relate to the dreams we wake up to much more than the hallucinations we fall into when we fall asleep, our perception straight before we stumble into slumber is a myriad of unknowns, so much harder to remember, unless you’re an insomniac. My dreams are assemblages of vagueness, the unfamiliar morphed into what's native, the familiar transformed into something alien. The images I deal with before falling into sleep, which can be quite a strain for visually oriented individuals, are beyond comprehension. Mickey Mouse morphs into the giant worm from the vintage video game Alone in the dark, which again morphs into something I'm unable to explain, which drags me into a surreal coma. After a good day. After a bad day I worry about anemic questions of dull deeds. Yngve Benum has the ability to paint these images, the images that I see, in those flashes of joy and horror, before Sandman lures me into the abyss of anesthesia.
Recently there has been an increasing critical evaluation on a repetitive and formal painting trend, which has reoccurred as a dominating force in the art world, labeled Zombie Formalism. The word Zombie means; an individual whose behavior or responses are wooden, listless, or seemingly fixated. The work of Yngve Benum represents the opposite of this, he stands firmly outside most trends, while still relating to the practice oriented around the strongest tendencies in arts the last hundred years, some would say tens of thousands of years. There are traces going back to cave painting in these paintings, even the structures of the caves themselves, and the gloom which they encourage. If one heeds for an expression to cover this practice, a label, I would call this practice Golem Expressionism. A Golem is seen as an inept and weedy individual, in Jewish folklore a figure that’s synthetically enriched with spirit. The Golem is also a character in the Pokémon universe, which is ironic, considering that the brainless and horrid year of 2016 was a year where hundred of thousands of people were wandering around in the streets catching Golems like Zombies, while children and men and women and animals were bombed to death outside our door of perception. In these paintings, in these sculptures, the brainlessness of society is reflected into lampoons symbolizing a world which in an increasing speed wallows into apathy and lunacy. His paintings are the world right now, reflections of a collective schizophrenia that disguises what’s real, what’s sincere, what’s solid, and thus truth. These paintings are true, but they are evaluating the senselessness of it all, as much as the valid aspects of aesthetics and nuance. His Golems are as real as the news reporter on TV, as real as the comedian manically attempting to make a parody of the whole caboodle with his oomph, as real as the president elect in the united states of an asshole. There is a comedy evolving here, but it’s a nauseating comedy as much as a whimsical one, but more than anything it is serious. It is satire.
Satire is the honorable task of making society responsible for its vice, by instead of making banal moral judgment ridicules the ongoing folly. It’s a way of making society responsible for its own stupidity, without separating oneself from the given society one scorns. In the work of Yngve Benum clownish aspects of culture and society is praised as much as it’s besieged, adored as much as it’s mourned. There is a realism which evolves through this graphic and boosted tableau, when the Golems comes to life they represent the Garbage pail kids, the Muppets, characters from video games, but they are also the children of Picasso’s paintings, Francis Bacon’s portraits, the sculptures by Brancusi, rinsed by the mordancy of Duchamp. Here high culture becomes low culture. Here low culture becomes high as a kite. Here academic discussion loses relevance. Here gravity ends. Up is down. Everything is backwards, inverted, skewed, morphed, compromised, saturated. Still soaked and soggy. These colors are beyond colors, in the cold winter night light combined with the artificial and yellow tungsten tint, they are comparable to the hue you’d only experience in South East Asia at sunset. Beyond colors, blackness beyond cimmerian shade, evoking chimera. The intellect is compromised, sometimes with purpose, in other moments on a fluke, mostly evolving naturally into chaos trapped in harmony and balance. Opposite forces are clashing, the elegant and colorful notebooks used as pedestals, tamed by the gravity of sculptures that see through you. Sculptures that laugh in your face, revealing your true self, showing your own vanity. We all carry monsters inside. We’re all gatekeepers of a beast.
Some beasts are small and innocent, some are enormous and grotesque, some are lurking and evil. In this universe they are all present. These are Janus faces, extracted through decades of constant gardening of signature, serious efforts combined with doodling. The lonely kid scribbling on the school desk, ignoring his teacher, is accompanied by the artistic virtuoso, standing together with the titans of what each and everyone of us is willing to canonize as art; the whim of the whiz. Here Pokemon merges with Pablo Picasso. Here He-Man merges with Marc Chagall. Here Fraggle Rock merges with Francis Bacon. Here expressionism marries manga. There is no need for order here. This practice contains a world within, an autonomous world, though still connected. Aspects inside each and every stroke of a brush, of any form shaped with hands, placed onto pedestals made of unused and vivid notebooks, these aspects bounces through the lens of the camera, gathers on the CCD of the industrial image making tool. The camera picks up these references, the light generates new qualities, new idiosyncrasies, which are related to the mad men of adverts. The colors are through the digital image, printed again with drops of ink, synthetically reorganized. These are cynical reflections of a blissful practice, the photographs of these assemblages, organized like an altar for the new religion. It’s the post-truth answer to Man Ray’s interpretation of The Fountain. These are the mellow yellow moo cows. Mature enough to meet the world outside. With a smirk. Let’s dance around these, until another false prophet comes along, with his meaningless commandments. This artist is autodidact. His lack of education hasn’t hurt him none. He can see the writing on the wall. He is free from the constraints, free from the doctrines, happily generated in the world of the arts as the world of the deadly. Art is a method to cope with your own time, our own life, to connect with the reality you’re in while you’re in it. Connections made post-death are none of our business. We are witnesses of our own decades, our own century, our own vanity, our own grace. Gloom has reached our shores, Caligula is fighting the waves again, and only happy Golems can describe our desperation and our awe.
Merriam- Webster Dictionary recently declared the word Surreal the word of the year, at the end of this sick year. We are living in a culture that gradually but steadily wade into mania, with hazy eyes and weary jaws, stumbling towards dilemma and qualm. This kaleidoscopic view is what we heeded, where we all wanted to live one day, and the puzzlement is the abstinence. This deviating deed is the new reality. These paintings, these sculptures, these photographs, this exhibition, inside another temple of post-modernism, they gather all these tendencies in a very realistic assemblage. It is the realism of phantasms on the verge of phantasmagoria, at the dawn of the new world. From this moment onwards reality is fantasy. Fantasy is reality. Tragedy is liberty. Emancipation is constraint. This assemblage represents the lo and behold of an artificial intelligence which escapes the virtual world we’re constantly building, evoking Beelzebub himself. If such a creature doesn’t exist we’ve created it. On the outskirts of this dead world, this alienating virtuality, we’re dancing around at dusk with our lonely eyes dead set on rectangles made out of fake glass. There are charismatic Golems living in a fantasy, eating up the chaotic information highways and bridges, generated by Doozers with square glasses and empty visions. From that point onwards they turn into the mental platoon of moonstruck menace, made by the mad hatter Yngve Benum.
He recently went to Los Angeles, where he mostly sat in the bar called Gaylord, listening to The End by The Doors with a couple of friends on repeat, not mainly because he loved it, or because the lyrics synchronized with his universe. The End had the most minutes of music he could squeeze out of the jukebox for the buck. Even though Yngve Benum loves this song, and agrees with me on how it relates too well with the times we’re living in; The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on. He took a face from the ancient gallery. And he walked on down the hall, he’s pragmatic to the bone. I went for a visit to his studio the other day, and the same night I looked for monsters underneath my bed, for the first time since I was a kid. All night I dreamed of behemoths, leviathans, centaurs, lawyers, turtles, phoenixes, executioners, minotaurs and smiling mushrooms, my mind a mixture of The Iliad, The Trial and Nintendo. I woke up relieved that my boxers were not wet, as pure as a hippie on ayahuasca envisioning a chihuahua fading into oblivion, more sober than ever. These colors, these compositions, these characters made by hand, with clay or oil painting, they are the incarnation of frenzy we all muzzle, in a vain attempt to function in a world that humps along like a scratched record. Looping, repeating itself, into the nirvana of narcissism. This is the exception. These paintings, these sculptures, these photographs are as Baudelaire would put it; an oasis of happy horror in a desert of brainless boredom.* The world is surreal and real. The world is inside your fucking head, as Gauguin once said. And nowhere else.
* The writer added the the word happy and the word brainless for effect.