Dirk Stewen: Zen and the Birds of Appetite

28 Apr 2018 – 28 May 2018

Regular hours

12:00 – 15:00
12:00 – 15:00
12:00 – 15:00

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Gerhardsen Gerner

Berlin, Germany


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  • S5 Jannowitzbrücke
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We are pleased to announce some changes for our Berlin branch with the opening of Gallery Weekend Berlin 2018: an exciting new chapter starts for the gallery by opening a new office and showroom in vicinity to the Berlin Museum Island.


Dirk Stewen will inaugurate the exhibition space with a special selection of watercolor and ink drawings celebrating his 8th show with Gerhardsen Gerner.

Known for creating unique works that draw on a multiplicity of art-making techniques including photography, assemblage, painting, collage, and embroidery, Dirk Stewen will present a set of figurative drawings of birds this time, which are an exceptional and strange part of his extensive oeuvre. Their ambivalence is reflected in the Show´s title, which is borrowed from the book of the same name by the theological poet Thomas Merton.

The birds in Stewen´s drawings look competitively busy and their obsessions seem to be blinding them. They can appear delightful and macabre at the same time, part beauty, part parody. Sobriety and humor, controlled and uncontrolled moments coincide in them and this is where these creatures draw their power from. An ambiguity that belies in their making: the process of watercolor painting demands boundless trust in what will be. It presupposes trust in the moment, in the gesture of the brushwork and the combination of water and color. The watercolors and gouaches on display in this show are a counterpart to Dirk Stewen’s large-format black works and multi-parted assemblages: light, quick and as fleeting as moments, or notations.

Most of us are "birds of appetite“, circling constantly in search of a visible form that appears to offer the spiritual nutrition we require. Sometimes it is a religion or some other belief system; sometimes it is a defined philosophy; sometimes it is a new kind of spirituality or a new „ism". In almost every case, however, we appear to be seeking sustenance from something that has form and structure — something that can be easily understood, measured, defined, and labeled by our conditioned minds. 

"There is no body to be found. The birds may come and circle for a while... 
but they soon go elsewhere. 
When they are gone, the 'nothing‘, the 'no-body' that was there, suddenly appears. 
That is Zen. 
It was there all the time but the scavengers missed it, because it was not their kind of prey.“

(Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite, 1968)


Dirk Stewen’s work has been featured in numerous international gallery exhibitions. Institutional solo exhibitions include: The Locker Plant, Chinati Foundation Artist in Residence, Marfa; Exercises, Kunstverein Overbeck Gesellschaft, Lübeck; The Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers: Dirk Stewen, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; Sugar, Lump Sugar, Künstlerhaus Stuttgart.
Group shows include, among others: The Day will come. When Photography revises, Triennale der Photographie, Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg; Girls can tell, Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen; Liebe ist kälter als das Kapital, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz; Nur hier, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn; Art on Paper: The 41st Exhibition, The Weatherspoon Art Museum, North Carolina; Milk Drop Coronet, Camera Austria, Kunsthaus Graz; The Anxiety of Photography, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen);The Library of Babel / In and Out of Place, 176 Zabludowicz Collection, London; privat – Wuppertaler Sammler der Gegenwart, Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal; Pale Carnage, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol und Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee; Formalismus – Moderne Kunst, heute, Kunstverein in Hamburg.

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Dirk Stewen

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