Peter Uka | Inner Frame
Aug 28, 2020 - Oct 24, 2020




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“Inner Frame”or Poems on Permanence

On the Pictures of Peter Uka

An Essay by Heinz-Norbert Jocks

Visiting Peter Uka in his light-flooded studio, one is greeted with a far-reaching view of the kind one would hardly expect to see in Cologne. In front of us, alongside completed paintings, there are also canvases on which figures and things are sketched in advance with black paint, waiting to be animated and brought to life through colors. The outlined sketches - which, for example, show the back view of a man pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with bamboo sticks across a street, while a passerby paces the sidewalk next to him and, further back, a car drives by - exhibit an inner tension, that allows one to anticipate the energetic atmosphere the painting will have after its completion. Next to them is a black-and-white photo, that he uses as his starting point. On another sketch, a young, bearded barber is at work, his gaze totally concentrated on his everyday task. The temporary face-to-face interaction between the barber and his client provide true evidence of minutes of strong intensity. All in all, it is a “poem to permanence” in the sense Peter Handke wrote about, that directs our attention to a routine action that has repeated itself day to day, year to year, since time immemorial.
Another picture exists in an interim state. The first surfaces are already enhanced with opulent colors. There is a wall, in front of which two young men sit across from each other on patterned seat cushions, gazing into each other’s eyes both intimately and intensively. At the same time, they hold hands in a communion as heartfelt as if they were just in the process of pledging long- lasting friendship. There is also a television set that indicates their social status, and in addition, a small photograph set on top of it, in which a man in a suit is pictured kissing his wife. All these things are already bathed in lush colors rich in contrast. The wall in the background blazes fiery red, while the colors of the television and the frameless photo placed on it change between grey and brown. Viewing the picture, one has the impression that Uka wants to reveal a contextual connection between the little photograph from the album of memories and the intimate scene between the two men. Inquiring who is pictured on the photo, we discover that here we have the parents of a friend of the painter, while the two men have originated from the rich pool of the painter’s imagination and make their appearance as archetypes without references. Although they function here as representatives of the people of his homeland, they convey the impression that Uka feels a certain proximity to them, as if they were close friends from earlier times or had played an equally significant and essential role in the story of his life up to this point. That Uka appears to know the people extremely well most likely has to do with the fact that he has displaced them into a privately charged situation. Yet, although the scene is composed in such a way that it seems like a symbol of the abiding nature of friendship, it merely depicts one brief moment. However, due to its enormous intensity, it appears as if torn or lifted from the monotony of a completely normal day, because, being of essential and timeless significance, it reaches out far beyond this short period of time. In this case, the gesture of holding hands symbolizes the loyalty between two men. Consequently, the elapsing moment, eternally immortalized by Uka, implies the mutually assured, shared future of a friendship. The scene seems like a ritual. The subtle manner, in which the painter constructs the building, allows the conclusion that this imagined reality, assembled out of a montage of different moments, rather embodies an inner truth that only appears to be an external one.
On the table, standing in front of the picture with the two boys, there is a terrible confusion of all kinds of things like tubes of paint, brushes, newspaper cuttings and the diverse photographs that Uka draws on in order to define, substantiate and concentrate certain aspects of a picture. Among the shots is one of a Nigerian woman in colorful, traditional dress, whose aspect aids him in recreating what is typical and striking about the outer appearance of women in his homeland, as well as a black-and-white photo of three happy-looking women. One of them, wearing a head covering, is sitting on a chair, while a younger one squats behind her on a bureau with an old television set. A further woman can be seen behind the two, her left hand touching the upper arm of the sitting one and her right hand resting on the shoulder of the young girl. The gazes, the gestures, the postures and the touches are indeed contrived, but nevertheless we sense the inner bond between the people who happily pose in front of the camera. When we consult the painting made on the basis of this snapshot for the purposes of comparison, it becomes evident that Uka is not in the least concerned with translating the photograph into the picture on a one-to- one basis, and that he places no great value on documentary veracity. Rather, he wants to subjectify certain situations according to his memory by means of a well-tempered painting, through which he imagines a world just the way he likes it. In contrast to the black-and-white template, the painting appears in glowing colors. As the set comes from the time of black-and-white televisions, it occurs to us that, here, the painter not only completes the sudden transition from black and white into color but also an easy leap in time into the complete now, tantamount to the illustration and visualization of the eternal memory of a past that appears to him neither dead nor in the past. It is also striking that, of the three women in the photograph, only two can be found again on the painting. Amongst other things, one reason for this is that Uka does not cling to his template 100 percent and in its every detail. Rather, he uses it as a tool for orientation, in order to mobilize his capacity for remembering. Like the French novelist Marcel Proust, he crystallizes something essential for himself out of it, and this is related to the coincidence between what he lets us see and what he has especially committed to his memory as something significant. Indeed, he transcends the documentary character that is innate to photography, and, on this basis, embarks on a search for the inner substance of the images that trigger true sentiments in him and that he would like to transport into the light from the depths of his unconscious. It is precisely here that the fine difference between photography and painting becomes evident in a striking way. At the same time, painting proves itself a special form of “lying into truth” (Louis Aragon).
Two of his aunts and a niece of his can be seen on the photo. In the painting, he consciously omitted the latter and only captured the older women. This is because he is primarily concerned with the free associative reconstruction of his memories of those family members who mean something to him and with whom he connects formative experiences. Through the view of both women he basically builds a connection to the lost time and the land of his birth he left behind that he vividly shows us, and he creates a bridge between here and there as well as between now and yesterday.
He achieves this just as subtly with a large-scale street scene. On it, one can recognize the façade of a yellow house with a covered, shade-spending inner space, screened off from the road by a wooden wall. In the background, we catch a glimpse of a cupboard and a shelf and in the foreground, facing the street, two young men. One of them, wearing a red short-sleeved shirt, is leaning out onto the street. In contrast, the face of the other man, wearing a green shirt, is hidden from view by the head of a woman walking by on the street, in such a way that their bodies merge and fuse together. A street vendor is sitting on a plastic chair in front of the wooden wall dividing the inner and outer spaces, in the process of selling oranges to a man. To the left of him there is a green station wagon with an open rear door, from which a packed and tied-up load protrudes. A man with red flared trousers enters from the right, his gaze directed to the woman coming towards us. What seems to us like a completely ordinary scene on the busy streets of Nigeria, is the result of a quest for the lost sights of daily life. The visual appearance Uka lends them does not just depict the all-too typical. Rather, through them he explores or develops the essential core of his remembered perceptions and their enduring echo.
The most recent pictures - conceived by Uka for the exhibition titled “Inner Frame” - have nothing whatsoever to do with duplicates, painted after photographs he either took himself or was sent by friends. Rather, they are the product of the gradual distillation of the essence of the perceptions buried deep in his memory from the time of his early farewell from Nigeria in the year 2007. Ultimately, he wants access to what photographs conceal, because they truly always only touch the surface of things. Something solemn resonates when he gazes at them. Indeed, as a melancholic, who zooms in on the distant world back then with his inner eye, he paints pictures out of the summery freshness of the past as if they had a solid consistency and complete contemporaneity. They are painted freely from memory and shaped by his desire for a clear composition, so they are not authentic in the sense that they intend to capture and document lost time and its appearance exactly how it once was or still is. What Uka strives for is the benefit of an illusion of eternity, based on the gestures and postures of the people, known and unknown, who have remained in his memory.
When asked what the impetus for this splendid retrospective was, Uka speaks of the sudden confusion he experienced during telephone calls with friends and his sister and brother. In them, he found out that much of what he remembers has disappeared and a few of the people he once knew have died in the meantime. Like a magician, he projects these virtual inner images on the canvas as if he wanted to save them from ultimately being forgotten. This is also the case with the portrait of a woman in a white dress with a hat, sitting on a green sofa in front of a blue wall. Next to her on the pillow is a copy of “Nervous Conditions”, the first novel by black Zimbabwean novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga, published in 1988. By symbolically placing this book that Uka himself is currently reading in her hands, he establishes a link between his current examination of one of many African cultures and the time before he arrived in Europe. This image of an unknown woman without any direct references, creates a connection between the person reading now and the person remembering and is also distinguished by the beautiful freshness of his contemporaneity.
Uka - who left his hometown at the of age 16 studied later Art in Lagos 2000 - 2006 and came to Germany 13 years ago as a 32 year-old in order to further his studies at the Arts Academy of Düsseldorf - pores over the vast landscapes of his memories like an archaeologist. At the same time, he delights us viewers with an imaginary, unblinkered journey to an African country, its way of life and its culture. We travel to a continent beyond our Western field of vision alongside a passionate insider, whose heart oscillates between Western and African culture. The group picture of two women and a man, sitting together near an open fireplace with a large pan of the kind used to cook with in Nigeria, also bears witness to this. In composing his pictures Uka feels no inclination towards the documentary. This fact does not just have to do with him being an artist who creates what does not exist as such while awakening the appearance of its existence; it also has to do his deep mistrust towards the authenticity of memory. His preoccupation with memory has taught him that it is rather gestures and postures that imprint themselves on our minds and that memory is simultaneously deceptive and true. This is also a reason why he composes colours into something approximating the feelings his memory unleashes. Then again, he subordinates them to the logic of his artificial compositions. All in all, he is a visionary in love with color, who fabricates significant pictures parallel to his memory and, in doing so, displays their essence.





./ Participating Artists


Peter Uka


Exhibitions Overview

 
  Idowu Oluwaseun | REVOLUTIONS PER MINUTE: a synthesis of time and sound
Oct 30, 2020 - Dec 12, 2020


 
  Peter Uka | Inner Frame
Aug 28, 2020 - Oct 24, 2020


 
  Harding Meyer | new works
Jun 05, 2020 - Jul 15, 2020


 
  Mary A. Kelly | Chair
Mar 14, 2020 - May 30, 2020


 
  Michael Tolloy | Solid Solidarity
Jan 17, 2020 - Feb 29, 2020


 
  Kate Waters | Love Shacks and other Hideouts
Oct 18, 2019 - Jan 09, 2020


 
  Frank Bauer | Paths of Inaccuracy
Aug 30, 2019 - Oct 12, 2019


 
  Christian Bazant-Hegemark | Kindness of Strangers
Jun 07, 2019 - Jul 13, 2019


 
  Sandra Ackermann | Escape into your Reality
May 03, 2019 - Jun 01, 2019


 
  Kay Kaul | Cloudbusting
Mar 08, 2019 - Apr 27, 2019


 
  Jurriaan Molenaar | Fermate
Jan 18, 2019 - Mar 02, 2019


 
  Harding Meyer / Humanize
Oct 19, 2018 - Jan 12, 2019


 
  Mihoko Ogaki / Soft Landing
Aug 31, 2018 - Oct 13, 2018


 
  Iwajla Klinke / ONEIRONAUTS
Jun 08, 2018 - Aug 18, 2018


 
  Peter Uka / Fragment of the Present Passed
Apr 13, 2018 - May 26, 2018


 
  Daniel Heil / Monologues
Mar 09, 2018 - Apr 07, 2018


 
  Düsseldorf Photo Weekend 2018
Feb 16, 2018 - Feb 18, 2018


 
  Sandra Senn / Zwischen Zwei Meeren
Jan 26, 2018 - Mar 03, 2018


 
  Frank Bauer / Die Gelassenheit der Dinge
Nov 17, 2017 - Jan 20, 2018


 
  Kate Waters / Whistling In The Dark
Sepr 01, 2017 - Nov 11, 2017


 
  Untitled
Jul 12, 2017 - Aug 02, 2017


 
  Davide La Rocca / 13K ( Part 1 )
May 12, 2017 - Jun 27, 2017


 
  Sandra Ackermann / Lost in Nothingness
Mar 24, 2017 - May 06, 2017


 
  Claudia Rogge / CONCENTRATION
Jan 27, 2017 - Mar 18, 2017


 
  Christian Bazant - Hegemark / The Rise and Fall of Transformative Hopes and Expectations
Nov 11, 2016 - Jan 21, 2017


 
  Harding Meyer / The Others
Aug 26, 2016 - Nov 05, 2016


 
  Crossing Borders
Jun 03, 2016 - Jul 15, 2016


 
  Sandra Senn / Flüchtiges Getriebe
Apr 08, 2016 - May 21, 2016


 
  Iwajla Klinke / Red Sandals and a Mirror for Gabriel
Feb 12, 2016 - Mar 26, 2016


 
  Corrado Zeni / Éloge de la fuite
Nov 27, 2015 - Jan 09, 2016


 
  Claudia Rogge / PerSe
Oct 16, 2015 - Nov 21, 2015


 
  Kate Waters // Tell it like it is
Aug 28, 2015 - Oct 10, 2015


 
  Visions Of Sensory Space ( by Weightless Artists Association - SPARTNIC )
May 15, 2015 - Jul 04, 2015


 
  Sandra Ackermann / Wasteland
Mar 13, 2015 - May 02, 2015


 
  Lost Scapes
Jan 30, 2015 - Mar 07, 2015


 
  Christian Bazant-Hegemark / Calibrating Aesthetics
Nov 14, 2014 - Jan 17, 2015


 
  Frank Bauer / Back to Basics
Aug 29, 2014 - Nov 08, 2014


 
  Harding Meyer // recent paintings
May 23, 2014 - Aug 23, 2014


 
  Till Freiwald - memoria
Apr 11, 2014 - May 17, 2014


 
  Quadriennale Düsseldorf 2014 / Gallery Evening
Apr 05, 2014 - Apr 05, 2014


 
  Iwajla Klinke / Ritual Memories
Jan 17, 2014 - Apr 05, 2014


 
  Giacomo Costa // Traces
Nov 22, 2013 - Jan 11, 2013


 
  DC-Open Galleries: Matthias Danberg - Inventory by Appropriation
Sepr 06, 2013 - Nov 16, 2013


 
  Christian Bazant-Hegemark // VOW OF SILENCE
May 24, 2013 - Aug 20, 2013


 
  Corrado Zeni // Generation Why
Apr 12, 2013 - May 18, 2013


 
  behind the Non-Colours
Mar 22, 2013 - Apr 06, 2013


 
  Sandra Ackermann // Running to stand still
Feb 15, 2013 - Mar 16, 2013


 
  Düsseldorf Photo Weekend 2013
Feb 01, 2013 - Feb 09, 2013


 
  Mihoko Ogaki // Star Tales - White Floating
Nov 30, 2012 - Jan 31, 2013


 
  Claudia Rogge / Lost in Paradise
Oct 12, 2012 - Nov 24, 2012


 
  Harding Meyer // features
Sepr 07, 2012 - Oct 06, 2012


 
  Summer 2012 - Part 2
Aug 10, 2012 - Sepr 01, 2012


 
  Summer 2012
Jul 06, 2012 - Sepr 01, 2012


 
  Maria Friberg // The Painting Series
May 11, 2012 - Jun 23, 2012


 
  Mary A. Kelly // Father & Child
Mar 30, 2012 - May 06, 2012


 
  Maia Naveriani // Future Wolves and Chicks so far
Feb 10, 2012 - Mar 24, 2012


 
  Düsseldorf Photo Weekend 2012
Feb 04, 2012 - Feb 08, 2012


 
  Kate Waters // The Air that I breathe
Dec 09, 2011 - Jan 28, 2012


 
  Frank Bauer / ...den Wald vor lauter Bäumen....
Nov 04, 2011 - Dec 03, 2011


 
  Claudia Rogge // Final Friday
Sepr 09, 2011 - Oct 29, 2011


 
  Davide La Rocca - STILLS
May 27, 2011 - Jul 16, 2011


 
  Giacomo Costa // Post Natural
Apr 01, 2011 - May 21, 2011


 
  Harding Meyer - to be a real vision
Feb 18, 2011 - Mar 26, 2011


 
  Shannon Rankin - Disperse / Displace
Dec 03, 2010 - Feb 12, 2011


 
  Sandra Ackermann // I look inside you
Oct 15, 2010 - Nov 27, 2010


 
  Amparo Sard / AT THE IMPASSE
Sepr 03, 2010 - Oct 09, 2010


 
  Kate Waters // The Land of Kubla Khan
Jun 11, 2010 - Jul 17, 2010


 
  Jurriaan Molenaar // Lessness
Apr 30, 2010 - Jun 05, 2010


 
  Claudia Rogge // The Paradise of the Onlooker
Mar 05, 2010 - Apr 24, 2010


 
  Ivonne Thein // incredible me
Jan 22, 2010 - Feb 27, 2010


 
  Frank Bauer // Jet Set
Nov 27, 2009 - Jan 15, 2010


 
  Michael Koch // forever more
Oct 23, 2009 - Nov 21, 2009


 
  Masaharu Sato // SIGNS
Sepr 04, 2009 - Oct 17, 2009


 
  Harding Meyer // blind date
Jun 19, 2009 - Aug 22, 2009


 
  Maria Friberg // way ahead
Apr 24, 2009 - Jun 13, 2009


 
  Claudia Rogge // Isolation ( aus: Segment 8 - die Blasen der Gesellschaft)
Mar 06, 2009 - Apr 18, 2009


 
  Claudia Rogge - The Opening
Mar 06, 2009 - Apr 18, 2009


 
  JoJo Tillmann // What you see is what you get
Jan 30, 2009 - Feb 28, 2009


 
  Sandra Ackermann // Die Wirklichkeit ist nicht die Wahrheit
Nov 21, 2008 - Jan 24, 2009


 
  Kate Waters - Getting used to the 21st Century
Oct 10, 2008 - Nov 15, 2008


 
  Mihoko Ogaki - Milky Ways
Sepr 04, 2008 - Oct 04, 2008


 
  Summer 2008 // Painting
Aug 12, 2008 - Aug 30, 2008


 
  Silke Rehberg: Stationen 1,4,6,7,11,12,13,14
Jun 13, 2008 - Jul 12, 2008


 
  Maia Naveriani: At home with good ideas
May 09, 2008 - Jun 07, 2008


 
  Justin Richel: Rise and Fall
Apr 04, 2008 - May 03, 2008


 
  Davide La Rocca - Strange Object
Feb 08, 2008 - Mar 28, 2008


 
  Frank Bauer: AkikoAlinaAlinkaAndrew....
Nov 30, 2007 - Feb 02, 2008


 
  Maria Friberg: Fallout
Oct 12, 2007 - Nov 24, 2007


 
  Harding Meyer / in sight
Sepr 06, 2007 - Oct 11, 2007


 
  SUMMER '07
Jul 17, 2007 - Sepr 01, 2007


 
  Kay Kaul - Wasserfarben
Jun 15, 2007 - Jul 14, 2007


 
  Sandra Ackermann - Point Blank
Mar 02, 2007 - Apr 28, 2007


 
  Tamara K.E.: pioneers -none of us and somewhere else
Jan 19, 2007 - Feb 24, 2007


 
  Till Freiwald
Nov 17, 2006 - Jan 13, 2007


 
  Claudia Rogge: U N I F O R M
Sepr 01, 2006 - Nov 11, 2006


 
  Kate Waters: Killing Time
May 05, 2006 - Jun 17, 2006


 
  Katia Bourdarel: The Flesh of Fairy Tales
Mar 31, 2006 - Apr 29, 2006


 
  Mihoko Ogaki
Feb 10, 2006 - Mar 18, 2006


 
  Silke Rehberg: RICOMINCIARE DAL CORPO
Jan 27, 2006 - Feb 26, 2006


 
  Sandra Ackermann
Dec 08, 2005 - Jan 15, 2006


 
  Corrado Zeni
Dec 04, 2005 - Jan 11, 2006


 
  Frank Bauer
Nov 18, 2005 - Jan 15, 2006


 
  Harding Meyer
Oct 07, 2005 - Nov 12, 2005


 
  AUFTAKT
Sepr 02, 2005 - Oct 01, 2005


 
  Claudia Rogge: Rapport
Jun 17, 2005 - Jul 20, 2005


 
 
May 13, 2005 - Jun 11, 2005


 
  Kate Waters: Solo-Exhibition in the Gallery Thomas Cohn, Sao Paulo
Apr 16, 2005 - May 20, 2005


 
  Vittorio Gui: FROZEN MOMENTS
Apr 08, 2005 - May 07, 2005


 
  Kay Kaul - ARTSCAPES
Apr 03, 2005 - May 29, 2005


 
  SEO Geheimnisvoller Blick
Mar 04, 2005 - Apr 02, 2005


 
  Claudia van Koolwijk at Museum Bochum
Feb 26, 2005 - Apr 17, 2005


 
  Corrado Zeni - Six Degrees of Separation
Nov 26, 2004 - Jan 15, 2005


 
  Maia Naveriani: What' s the difference between ME and YOU?
Oct 15, 2004 - Nov 20, 2004


 
  Tamara K.E.: MAD DONNA AND DONNA CORLEONE
Sepr 03, 2004 - Oct 09, 2004


 
  Davide La Rocca: Real Vision Reflex
Jun 12, 2004 - Jul 17, 2004


 
  Kay Kaul COLLECTORSCAPES
Apr 23, 2004 - Jun 05, 2004