Flowerbed in the Cellar is the first solo exhibition in China by German artist Benjamin Appel. Inspired by the geometry of rectangular forms, a familiar structure in daily life, the shape itself does not appear in nature. The exhibition brings together oil paintings, site-specific installations and video work with an associated text by Appel developed during two PIFO residencies in Beijing, one in 2016 and 2017.
Born in Augsburg, Germany, Appel’s family moved to Ecuador when he was a small child. Fifteen years later he moved back to Germany to study and has since lived in Peru, Bolivia and Santiago de Chile. Appel embodies the notion of transculturalism – absorbing images and ideas from his environment and the diverse cultures in which he has lived. His current practice reflects on nature, space, negative space, materiality, urbanism and the mundane – yet fascinating – beauty of everyday objects. This exhibition demonstrates how the existing walls of the gallery, its spaces and sightlines, even the horizontals and verticals of the architecture, can all be woven together with contemporary materials, objects and painted canvases to form a coherent whole that is, in essence, one total work of art.
The two new large-scale site-specific installations occupying much of the gallery space are titled Flowerbed in the Cellar and Flowerbed in the Attic. Created using simple materials, the geometric organization of the elements makes the space as a whole appear static, austere and unsettled but at the same time filled with energy and strangely poetic. The paintings, produced by the overlapping of more than 100 layers of rectangular blocks of vivid colour, are part of the series Putting the Table in the Corner that began in 2015. The artist text, distributed across the two floors of the gallery, is a tragicomic reflection on the tedious but nonetheless contented inner world of the animal in the video work Fish in the Flowerbed.
Located somewhere between constructivist utopias, minimalistic gestures and the here and now, Benjamin Appel creates a fragile but also sensual, in part even frightening, model of space. Using newly constructed objects of concrete, plaster and metal, alongside 14 geometric, abstract paintings, text and video works, Appel balances the abstract meaning of space as concept, location and material.