I met Adrien last April on the 21st. He had arrived in Vienna the night before, and we drank some beer in a bar at Naschmarkt, a “meltin’ pot” market in the center of Vienna, quite a suitable place to meet a new artist.
We had a pleasant conversation, talking about his passion for traveling (he travels a lot, staying away for long periods). He defines himself a “professional tourist”. He told me how exciting it is to live in Mexico City, a city on the rise. I had the impression that he doesn’t love interviews. Anyhow, after the third “Grösses Bier”, when the conversation started to become quite fluid, both he and I had to go. I had a dinner with friends in the best Chinese restaurant of the city. The guarantee? There you find no tourists and very few Austrians. Just Chinese people.
Adrien, instead, had to go for an opening at MAK. At one in the morning, after all of that, we met again by chance at a famous Viennese bar designed by the architect Adolf Loos. This time our words were definitely more fluid. Funny! Vienna is small (too small sometimes).
We had another short chat. And what I can remember is that Adrien was tired but very excited for the preparation of his solo show at 21er Raum, 21er Haus, which was actually the reason why he had come to Vienna.
With such a premise I could not help but visit the show, Gelassenheit, inaugurated on June 21st.
When an exhibition has a strong conceptual background, when the artist has a very spontaneous sense of aesthetics and quite an evident manual talent, monumental spaces are not needed at all. Infact this room is relatively small. What particularly impresses me is a certain homogeneity achieved through very different materials and media. Traveling to Missika means to fight against the flattening of representations and perspectives. His own point of view, travel, exotic representation and advertising iconography are the elements that originate in his work.
The way Adrien Missika mixes, literally grafts, one material onto a different one is almost hypnotic. I am not even able to recognize if a blue spot – on what seems to be a stone – is water or some kind of resin. The artist has a proper illusionistic talent. And when he transforms a banana into a grey / light blue / white marble (?) banana, the result is more charming than ironic.
The materials he uses are many and differ one from another. Some of them are quite classical, like marble, scagliola, cement, glass and resin, but he never uses them in an obvious, “expected” way. If it looks like it’s too spontaneous, then one can / should change her/his perception of the work. The stones / epoxy works are the most impressive in their synthetic yet very complex nature. What is interesting is the possibility that they offer the viewer to look at them and enjoy their decorative nature, while at the same time discover and be enchanted by their dualistic/misterious/ primordial / reassuring nature. Matte and translucent finish are perfectly mixed together. I am not afraid to define as properly “Virtuoso” Missika’s use of materials.
Looking at these works, one could think they are based on a spontaneous / natural / casual / instinctive process. But in reality it is very much the opposite. Entering the room, for example, Algaerithm, 2015, the first work on the left is made of plaster, bone glue, microalgae pigments, cochineal and steel. Impressive I’d say. First of all it’s not possible to distinguish all the materials it is made of and secondly, it looks very spontaneous, almost like a found object or a ready-made. It is, as mentioned before, the opposite; and as the title states, it’s the result of a very structured process. Missika’s process is as it should be in every artistic expression: one has to learn perfectly the technique and subsequently forget about it and feel the right and structured freedom to express himself.
New Colonies (series), 2015, is a mix of Offset transfer on plywood, algae, fertilizer, paint, saltwater, resin, and is probably the most complex work. Almost figurative, with an apparent digital nature. In these works, there are so many recognizable elements that seen from one meter away, you could underestimate them. But if you look at them from 30 cm away you see things like penguin themes, cruises, slightly three-dimensional objects, human figures, ice and much more. Some of these four works have a painterly quality to them, they even look like watercolor in some parts. I would definitely give New Colonies, 2015, the “Gran Prix de Virtuosité”.The unexpected in Missika’s work has almost a linear logic. Works that seem very simple, have a very structured/complex process as background, and works that look very articulated and technological, have an extremely handcrafted quality to them, with simple, unexpected and even organic elements and materials inside.
Art is made first with the brain and immediately after with materials. If an artist is not able to play with them, it can become very boring. This is most definitely not true in Missika’s case.
Adrien Missika was born in Paris, in 1981. He lives and works in Berlin.
Images: © Adrien Missika, 21er Raum (21er Haus)