Thank God and be content
Thomas Behling presents in Bremen´s Galerie des Westens “Devotional Images and Small Clouds of Apparition”.
By Rainer Bessling (Published in Achimer Kreisblatt, Verdener Aller-Zeitung, Diepholzer Kreisblatt, Sulinger Kreiszeitung, Wildeshauser Zeitung, Thedinghäuser Zeitung, 09/11/08.)
Avariciously he gorges the shining bowls into himself. Being nothing but a black silhouette the “Gold Ball Gorger” cowers like a captive in a show box. Noble metals are swelling out of his eyes. A blessed enlightenment looks different.
This gold which the black gestalt incorporates we re-encounter again in Thomas Behling´s exposition in the GaDeWe many a time. Here in a frame engarlanded with flowers it circles round a figure hardly visable but easily to be recognized by any Christian. There it is the stronghold for something crouchy which levitates without form appearing rather heavy and exhausted than elevated and lifts the hand blessing towards the sky. The paintings, folios and objects in showcases or frames are entitled as shrines and devotional images. Religious motifs dominate the exposition of the 29-yr.-old man from Bremen. The title indicates that Thomas Behling´s relation to Christian thoughts leaves many questions open and a smile possible. If You Still Have Got Courage, Then Thank God And Be Content.
The sentence loaded with patina, dust and long gone simplicity is like many exhibits of the exposition an object trouvé having experienced an adaptation by the artist ("The Girl and the Black Man", 2006). A motif popular in the 19th century for the bourgeois living room wall crosses with a highly romantic topic: “Christ knocking”, 2008, after having been grinded the old artistic print is almost dissolving. The image is hanging right across an acrylic painting with the title “Small Epiphany cloud”, in which spherical damp is enthroned as a spiritual bubble over a mighty pine wood. Piety devout to nature in most beautiful citing of romanticism. The contemporaneous painting in a yesterday´s frame with a pantheism of times even older causes gaiety of course. But provocation and lust for gags mistreating belief and the believers are far from Thomas Behling´s art. Confirming the theme there is rather something emanating of miracles, might and the origin of spirituality out of his work.
Even a couple masturbating on a park bench under a flowering shrub and the starry sky takes a look so serious and forlorn in the vespertine world that one can only sarcastically read the sentence of hope at the bottom of the image: “God blesses your love!”, 2007.
Serving as an example for many a different formal sophistication by which Thomas Behling allows material and technique to have a word on internal antagonism. There is a digitally programmed chain of lights blinking in from behind onto the overloaded cartouche.
If the representants of higher welfare and spiritual promise appear in difficult roles being pretty down many a time, the target audience of the holy rendition is not better off.
Preferentially those low creatures seemingly fallen out of the world or crouching and cowering come as cut or painted silhouettes.
Into a study of nature vagabonding between confirming reality and idealizing artificiality tumbles a black fetal figure.
This simple folio "Homage to Otto Quante" (2004). allows us to perceive aspects of the so much praised and discussed relationship between man and nature.
The original sin, getting and being aware of the own wickedness and ignobility, the whole programme of anxiety, guilt, sin and punishment which turns the religious anchoring of our existence into a heavily laden matter, all this Thomas Behling resumes in “Gloria”, 2007.
But even pre-Christian spirituality shines through as in Myth of “Antigone”, 2006. A drawing with this title shows a girl in a costume who looks anxiously but decided, upright and truly with her bright eyes.
She IS Antigone by a steadiness of her attitude which we nowadays –if at all- suppose to be exclusively children´s.
Thomas Behling cites from a patrimony of images which a member of a Christian marked culture-group carries within himself. It is less important to the artist to create and form something properly own. Illustrating Images is linked anyway to considerable losses.
Thomas Behling liberates rather what has been deposited in the individual and general commemoration of images and he stimulates in their favour a re- and in our a self-inspection. And it is fine to him when here and there cannot be immediately decided what has been found and what created. At this point it turns out entirely obvious that veracity is based on fragile grounds, that is to say on our perception and what we consider possible and worthwile.
Published in Achimer Kreisblatt, Verdener Aller-Zeitung, Diepholzer Kreisblatt, Sulinger Kreiszeitung, Wildeshauser Zeitung, Thedinghäuser Zeitung, 09/11/08.
translated by Eckart