Nils Karsten: Holidays in the Sun…Be Back Never!

November 9, 2020 - March 19, 2021

In my head, I am constantly culling images, no matter where I am nor what I am doing. The drawings in the exhibition are the results of playing out stories; thinking (out loud) and daydreaming my own narratives, very much influenced by current socio-political events and childhood memories. A finished drawing is the final still of a time-based narration that has been constantly modified. There is a cinematic flow, almost like a graphic novel; sabotaged, of course, with no real beginning nor end and the absence of frames. I draw from pictures and from memory, I trace, I scribble, I destroy and I resurrect. I shift from conscious mark making to automatic, blind doodlings.

These drawings are intimate play dates with my mind, that’s why they often turn out to be so intense and busy. In some ways, I still draw like my pre-teen self, when I burned down pirate ships, stabbed every sailor until the water turned blood red and the piece of paper was filled with black smoke. The battle defined the composition. I still see the storyline of my childhood drawings forty years later. I never stopped drawing this way.

Most of the drawings in the exhibition are “beach scenes.” The beach is a transitional space between two worlds, ocean and land, where the rules of neither world apply. One of my favorite landscapes is Germany’s northern coastal “Watt,” in particular the peninsula Eiderstedt where growing up I often spent parts of my summers. The Wadden Sea is an intertidal zone in the southeastern part of the North Sea. It lies between the coast of northwestern continental Europe and the range of low-lying Frisian Islands, forming a shallow body of water with tidal flats and wetlands. I walk the “Watt” as it constantly changes, coming and going, never still… It delivers and it washes away, in-between is a perpetual condition.

My stories play in these in-between spaces. My beaches are conveniently located between the gates of a bubble-gum heaven and some eternal dumpster, call it hell, an angel’s La La Land, where physics and ethics are redefined, and unity seems only possible as a Sisyphean struggle between one side and the other. Peace here is movement; struggle is the best possible peace. I think of these drawings as fun-loving days at the beach, in a Hieronymus Bosch-ian kind of way. Fun can turn into gruesome horror as much as great joy. Or both…

There was a time when the idea of heaven gave me comfort, but I gave up on that. The heaven I once knew and which comforted me has evaporated. Now it’s bubble-gum occupied and claimed by patriots and fundamentalists, fanatics swarming the beaches to plant their flags and to get a good tan line. I was always more interested in life before death than life after death.

Farewell pink flamingo!

Nils Karsten

Exhibition checklist
Installation Views of the Exhibition