Passage of Time • Berlin–Charlottenburg • 18.11.–21.12.2023

We are happy to announce our new presentation “Passage of Time” at Soy Capitán passage, with works by Shahin Afrassiabi, Matthias Dornfeld, Caroline Wong and Rachel Youn. Weaving together various aspects of time, whether they concern societal norms, temporality of technical devices, undoing what one has learned, or the possibility of timelessness, the works question our conception of progress and stagnation.


The work series by Shahin Afrassiabi (b. 1963 in Tehran, Iran) remain elusive to being read. They are still lifes, yes, but what is the subject, scene and time? One might make out a form and find in it an everyday object, the eggshell coloring could evoke materials like marble, wood or ceramic to the trained eye, and place the subject in a sunny winter noon. But can we be sure? Traditionally, the still life genre works with obvious and subliminal hints within the picture. The objects relate to one another and communicate their meaning to the literate. Afrassiabi’s quiet shapes exist without this. They ask you to unlearn to read, or as Jan Verwoert put it, Afrassiabi’s paintings “tell your mind to be at ease, and your gaze to lay down its arms, and quit its enquiries.”


Matthias Dornfeld (b. 1960 in Esslingen, Germany) is trying to unlearn what he has learned, which makes his work hard to pin down. You could put him in a corner with Abstract artists, but then his works are mostly too figurative. Naïve Art? He’s got a degree and has been a visiting professor in Munich. What makes his paintings exceptional is his approach. Imagine a Hilma-Af-Klint-esque situation, of summoning holy spirits to bring form and color and structure onto the picture plane, but switch the stuff about ghostly phantasms for the artist’s own subconscious. In the end, it’s not about what comes to light, be it a church with an impossibly shaped tower, or a horse with boots on. It’s about ditching what one has learned to find spontaneous clarity.


The protagonists in the work by Caroline Wong (b. 1986 in Malaysia) bear a high degree of uninhibitedness, quite uncommon to traditional depictions of femininity in Chinese art history. Referencing the genre “meiren hua”, which translates to “images of beautiful women”, Wong subverts the underlying didactic notions inherent in these portrayals. Temperance and propriety are swapped for exuberance and vivacity. The neat and orderly style of “meiren hua” is toppled by colors and characters that become an outburst, conveying the eruption that takes place when they’re let loose. In the end, Wong’s work focuses on favoring female pleasure over everything, even if that means eating on all fours or falling asleep on a fruit salad.


The kinetic sculptures by Rachel Youn (b. 1994, Pennsylvania, USA), for which they combine plastic plants and laid-off technical devices, offer a wide variety of “moods”. Some seem agitated, some manic and at the edge of explosion, some appear to be feeling very low on energy today and others look like they’d give you a sensual pet if you came too close. Though fake and mechanical, they give off an air of vivacity and are brought to life by emulating gestures we can relate to. This might be the magic behind these art works. By combining dead material and lively movement, Youn’s sculptures elicit emotions from inside the self. “Neither Fruit Nor Flower” (2021) speaks to this skill of influence. With commercial window display in mind, this moving sculpture calls for attention and refuses notions of having only decorative and lifeless properties.


Luisa Del Prete