Kaye DONACHIE and Terence KOH

Walpurgis Night is traditionally an evening of pagan ritual and spectacle that blurs the boundaries between the living and the dead. Donachie adopts the title Walpurgis Night from the last chapter in book five of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. Amidst these bleak times Donachie extends her previous interest in Monte Verita into paintings that embrace the mountain, the idyll and the sanatorium from Mann’s book. Using bohemian individuals such Hermann Hesse, Ludwig Kirchner, Colette and Hans Castorp with performer Emmy Hennings, barefoot poet Gusto Grässer and pioneering anti-psychiatrist, Otto Gross she creates portraits that transfigure and evoke something of both the tragic and romantic aspects of their life and times. The historical is layered with reference to a period of optimism and modernism that is checked by the tragedy of the unattainable. The works are subdued hopeful and romantic. The surfaces of the works being created through an intensive process of addition and subtraction with active use of virulent colour and light.

Terence Kohs sculpture was initially presented a few feet away from the sea in Yokohama as part of a site-specific performance, in the dark, flanked by two boys wearing loin cloths. Terence Koh appeared, painted head to toe in white, and wearing a similar loin wrapping, to lead several boys in a procession, several of which carried the wood sculpture to the seafront, where it was placed atop its pedestal. He then climbed up to the sculpture, tied the ears of the sculpture with strings from his loin cloth, and then climbed on to the matching pedestal, wrapping the other end of the string several times around his mouth, thus creating a bridge between himself and his smaller, pearl covered alter ego. The boys then walked underneath the string bridge and one by one flung a pearl into the sea.

Many know Terence Koh’s work for the heavy tasks it calls materials to perform: precious gold to encase profane feces, patina white to smother and equalize disparate objects (perhaps akin to the last scene of Joyce’s Dubliners, in the story “The Dead”: “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”), black glass, neon light, a saccharine but perishable chocolate trophy memorializing Michael Jackson; The most conspicuous medium in this work are 65,000 faux pearl and faux pearl fragments, each hand applied to his body to create a resplendant surface, somehow animalistic in its scaliness, yet sublime in its subtle variations of texture.

Yet to stop at the materials and merely the web of references in the work all having to do with the sea/water/pearls, would overlook Terence Koh’s deep understanding of the power of the sea, both at its murky depths and its lofty heights in renditions of Western art, among them Gaugin’s drawing “Dramas of the Sea: Descent into the Maelstrom.” The drawing, an inspiration for the curators of the Yokohama Triennial, is itself a reference to Edgar Allen Poe’s story of the same name, in which a man, travelling with his brothers at sea, encounters a maelstrom. One brother is pulled ito the waves, the other is driven mad, and the protagonist ages from a young man to an old man overnight. The curators of the Yokohama Triennial see this as a jumping off point for a metaphor for the art experience, akin to plunging to the depths of a crevasse of time. With this work, as with his 2008-2009 major solo exhibition at MUSAC, “Love for Eternity,” Terence Koh’s forays into self-eternalization knowingly tap into a common well of bedazzling thanatos to reveal the true nature of time, movement, and action.

Peres Projects

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