A picnic blanket on canvas, a casual group with cake (or cheese?) sitting around it, a bottle, a few glasses of wine: Here they are, mouse, caterpillar, colorful bird. Dolphin, snowman, octopus (with half-bald head). A dog, saying something, namely: “we are human”. And then: “no nationality”. Smoking Kills (2015) is the name of this painting by Paul Sochacki. It is part of an exhibition that is titled Epistemic Heartbreak, which somehow seems to make sense: It’s crawling with breaks. Animals that claim to be humans and therefore resist the nation state; drinkers that smoke and somehow argue that smoking kills; humor and cuteness, thwarted by the cynicism that comes with this chiseled, calculated way of breaking. But just at the first glance; at second glance: complex and paradoxical, up to the point where you suspect that it might not be thought out all the way. The breaking of comprehension and the breaking of the heart. I would be lying if I said that I knew what this is all about.
This feeling carries on as I look at the other paintings in this exhibition. A few other examples, first and foremost the series Le Monde est un portrait (2015). It serves as a structure for the exhibition (like a planetary system): moon faces with eyes and mouths wide open (except according to the title they are world faces and according to Paul they are actually sun faces). Inside of these faces there is a white something – Cumshotplanetportraits. Or the mouse disco in Untitled (2015): a big, holey cheese with a vicious-looking bouncer in front of it, and some tarted-up night crawler mice standing in line; the problem here is not the combination of cuteness with topics of power and exclusion within the pictorial language. The problem is that the analogy itself is (intentionally?) flat. A mouse trap for people? No idea. And then there is the big stomach, laid on so thickly that the paint crackles. Inside there is a delicate fountain – the title: Being hungry is a human right (2015); again, it’s at skewed and folded on many levels – inside-outside, hunger-thirst, human right-basic instinct – and brushes past the politically correct, leaving a slightly uncomfortable feeling. One step back: Who says that the mice want to go into the cheese for dancing rather than eating, because maybe they are very hungry?
In short: There is more than just one crack running through these images. They gape open – between not-verifiable claims and the expectations that they raise; between humor and tragedy; between embracing the world and separation; between complexity and simplicity. The world’s heart is breaking in the image. And puts it back together as a holey cheese. If only the stomach could quench its thirst with its own water fountain! But it cannot. Only on the canvas.
Text by Dominikus Müller.
Translation to English by Nina Franz.