David Czupryn at the Kunsthalle Darmstadt

His first solo show!

The sensual appeal and magic of the surfaces

(León Krempel, accompanying leaflet to the exhibition at Kunsthalle Darmstadt, October 28, 2018 – June 18, 2019)

The solo exhibition HE SHE IT at Kunsthalle Darmstadt offers for the first time a comprehensive insight into work by David Czupryn, an artist who knows how to expose figurative painting – often eyed suspiciously in the contemporary art scene – and who actually celebrates its topicality and the specific possibilities of the medium. After training as a carpenter, David Czupryn began his art studies in Düsseldorf, initially in sculpture. In 2011 he made the transition to painting, yet without losing sight of the contiguous discipline. Already in his first painting, SCULPTURE (2012), David Czupryn depicted parts of his own sculptural work and heralded an artistic practice of appropriation and imitation that substantially informs his oeuvre.

David Czupryn’s pictorial spaces are shallow, reminiscent of boxy, stage architectures enclosed by walls that open up toward the viewer. The respective presentations are reminiscent of paintings by Max Beckmann or Neo Rauch, and they also call to mind the art of the Symbolists and Surrealists. The numerous objects and figures that make up the painted installations are based on examples from fine arts as well as popular culture. In addition to contemporary materials such as plastics and concrete, David Czupryn integrates motifs from street art, technoid subculture, and computer game characters into his works. It is programmatic in character when he displays a day from his time as a graffiti writer alongside the four personifications of architecture, literature, art and music, adorned with attributes in the style of classical allegories, in his 2017 painting ALTERNATIVE LIFEFORMS, where the title appears to address the discourse on the singularity of artificial intelligence.

David Czupryn’s gender-unspecific figures are frequently reminiscent of some imaginary creatures, slightly alarming manikins put together from all kinds of objects. A seemingly brightly colored toy turns out to be a fragmented body, a mechanical entity, vexing the viewer with its mouth either wide open as if screaming, or broadly grinning. Shapes intrude into the viewer's space, their strangeness creating an eerie atmosphere.

In addition to the painterly mounted »assemblages of figures«, the scenery of his large-format canvas paintings often features interpretations of works of art. David Czupryn has for instance made use of a female head by Naum Gabo in HE SHE IT (2017), a folding sculpture by Lygia Clark and a relief by Vladimir Tatlin. His appropriation process reads less as a critical-deconstructive act that might seek to question categories such as innovation and originality per se, but rather as a respectful homage to role models that he then adapts for his purposes. For David Czupryn, these samples at times function as human types, characters that he integrates into his work as interpretative or signifying fragments.

David Czupryn finds these models for his arsenal of figures primarily in figurative sculpture, which he then translates into the medium of painting. An exception is BATON BLOWS (2018), based on the 1937 painting COUPS DE BÂTONS by French-Greek painter Antoine Malliarakis aka Mayo. David Czupryn copied the scene of violence portrayed by Mayo as a tangle of bodies. He then, however, replaced the chalky flesh of the original figures with the wood grain characteristic of his own paintings. The painterly imitation of surfaces in their specific nature, the material mimesis, represents a further constant aspect of his art in addition to the imitation of artistic models. It was this fascination for mimetic painting techniques, or rather for those of early modern grisaille painting, that initially lead David Czupryn to classical trompe l'oeil and thus to painting as such.

It is his love of the material, the sensual appeal and magic of the surfaces that also connect David Czupryn's work to classic still life painting. Unlike the finely painted realism of the old masters, however, David Czupryn's large format paintings are not devised for viewing close-up, and rather unfold their effect in space. Layers of translucent paint create strong yet harmonious contrasts. Paint and brush almost provocatively recreate surfaces, bestow an unexpected comeback to old trompe l'oeil techniques, and negate handwriting and individual gesture as the figureheads of modern painting.