Kerstin Drechsel's usual subjects are the capturing of intimate personal moments, of how an individual or group expresses or identifies themselves through their rituals or the environments they create around them. Often working on series of several large paintings at a time, Drechsel depicts everyday lives in all their oppressive reality, underlying dreams of escape, and obsessions. Her work uses images from the internet, magazines and books, as well as her own snapshots and from life, in order to transform them into an archive of constantly recycled wishes, dreams and memories. Captured and adopted motifs combine in her paintings with the vague promise of desire, fulfilment, and adventure.
'Jan-Holger' consists of a series of oil paintings, smaller than Drechsel's typically large-scale canvases, but, in common with many of her other works, dealing with our notions of gender rules. In each picture, we see a man dressed in a bikini, posing as if for a magazine fashion shoot. From one canvas to another his pose shifts between the 'heroic male' and what might be typically considered the 'feminine/female'. Mainly depicted in wide shots, but also in some close-ups, Drechsel shows a person whose mood seems to switch between one of extreme self-consciousness and awkwardness and one of fragile loneliness and vulnerability. Although Drechsel depicts her subject without any outward sense of pathos, all this serves to provoke the conflicting senses of attraction and disgust in the viewer and his body becomes a surface for projection of our own thoughts.
Any sense of resolution to such feelings is frustrated by the fact we do not know who 'Jan-Holger' really is. The work causes the viewer to ask questions about his personality, but does not give away any answers. Drechsel plays with both his identity as well as his intimacy: is Jan-Holger a gigolo/hustler, is he a model, is he somebody indulging a secret fantasy, or is he an exhibitionist? Drechsel paints him in soft and pastel tones and in colours one might associate with a make-up palette. In some paintings, the figure is painted more clearly, in others the figure melts together with an indifferent background, one that does not depict any recognisable physical place, but instead vanishes in a blurred space of colour in beige-pink or grey-green.
Kerstin Drechsel was born in Reinbek, Germany, in 1966, and currently lives in Berlin. Recent group exhibitions include 'Meatdistict', MAMA showroom for media and moving art, Rotterdam, 'A Room of One's Own', Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Berlin (2007), 'The Eighth Square: Gender, Life and Desire in Art Since 1960', Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 'Berlin: Tendenzen' (Berlin trends), La Capella, Barcelona, 'A room', de Markten, Brussels, and 'Ensembles', Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (2006). Her last solo exhibition, 'Mittelerde', was at September, Berlin, 2007, and her work was recently included in the book, 'New German Painting', (ed. Christoph Tannert, pub. Prestel Publishing).