16/09/2023 – 18/11/2023

Galerie Nagel Draxler
Weydingerstr. 2/4
10178 Berlin

Opening / Eröffnung:
Freitag, 15. September 2023, 18 – 21 Uhr
Friday, September 16, 2023, 6 – 9pm

Öffnungszeiten / Opening hours:
Dienstag - Freitag 11 – 18 Uhr, Samstag 12 – 18 Uhr
Tuesday - Friday 11am – 6pm, Saturday 12 – 6pm

Besondere Öffnungszeiten während der Berlin Art Week /
Special Opening hours during Berlin Art Week

Press Release

In Svetlana Boym’s 2001 book, The Future of Nostalgia, nostalgia is defined as “a longing for a home that no longer exists or has never existed.” Boym recognized nostalgia as particularly acute for those in exile: “At once homesick and sick of home, they developed a peculiar kind of diasporic intimacy, a survivalist aesthetics of estrangement and longing.” Although nostalgia is a modern term coined in the 17th century (derived from nóstos, meaning "homecoming", a Homeric word, and álgos, meaning "pain"), the concept was a common theme of ancient literature, the archetypal example being Homer’s The Odyssey. Perhaps it is fitting then that Hell Gette, a painter who fled Kazakhstan with her family for Germany as a child, has chosen Homer’s epic poem of Odyssesus’ nostos, as the framework for her latest series of paintings.

Over the years, Gette has developed a genre she describes as “Landscape 3.0” through a process of transforming traditional landscape studies made en plein air into digital pastiches that pull from old school video games, photoshop tools, and emoji icons; throwback imagery emblematic of Gette’s Millennial Generation. The work is manipulated in layers, through both analog and digital techniques, until the discordant elements coalesce as virtuosic oil paintings. Impasto emojis are applied to the surface of the canvas last, like 3D stickers, adding both dimension and disorder. In Gette’s newest series, titled “CyScapes,” conceived and executed during a year abroad in the United States, the viewer is transported into a first-person video game loosely based on The Odyssey. From the POV of a genderless Odysseus, Gette invites us to become the protagonist of one of the greatest stories of Greek mythology.

Our journey begins with #👁 (#OM / #Polyphem3.0 ) as the game starts to upload. Gradient mountains and Super Mario clouds surround a zombie emoji with a glowing third eye, Gette’s take on the cyclops Polyphemus. Rough photoshop smudges of burgundy surround the figure and reappear in #👋 % (#Calypso3.0) as a path leading up to a tiny genie emoji. The scene depicts our exodus from the goddess Calypso, who had been holding Odysseus captive as her lover for seven years. Emoji hands, thickly painted, wave goodbye. In #🌞 🗡 (#sunstorms #sirenes3.0) we are fully immersed in the game from a first-person shooter perspective, with burning swords in the foreground to safeguard the viewer/player. The genie emoji is repurposed to represent the sirens, hovering above a mountain range that is rendered in a faux-watercolor to imitate Gette’s original landscape studies. Multiple smeared suns hover in the sky like blazing ghosts. In #🤳 (#Yolo #MénageÀTrois), the jewel-toned sirens appear again on the screens of smartphones held up by disembodied yellow arms (the default emoji skin tone) capturing selfies of what the title suggests is a scene of polyamory. The perspective shifts in #% 🧟 (#MortalKombat), a horizontal double-panel painting that adapts the two-player fighter format of the popular 90s arcade-turned-console game, Mortal Kombat. In the battle between Calypso and Polyhemus, Calypso is in the lead, indicated by the green lifelines on the top edges of the canvas. But with the burning swords in the frame again, the viewer becomes a potential third opponent in a battle royale, another sort of ménage à trois.

According to Svetlanna Boym, “The nostalgic feels stifled within the conventional confines of time and space.” With references that span 7000 years, Gette has produced a transhistorical game-as-painting that explores the violence, fantasy, and melancholy of displacement. And she’s made it fun.

- Julia Trotta