More than a story
Markus Draper. Painting

3 September – 23 October 2021

With “More than a story” at Galerie Poll, Markus Draper is for the first time showing a selection of his paintings based on the eruption of Mount St Helens, in the US state of Washington, on 18th May 1980.

The volcanic eruption shook the United States: fifty-seven people and thousands of animals died, millions of tons of ash were ejected into the air within seconds, and hundreds of square kilometres were turned into wasteland. The mountain, a symbol of stability, set loose an explosion that violently dislodged one third of its mass – and not in Hawaii or Alaska, but on the contiguous mainland of the United States during the Cold War. This set the emotional tenor of news and media reports, with headlines that declared “Sleeping Beauty turned Killer”, “A diary of destruction”, or “The Day the Earth stood still”.

Photos and videos of this natural disaster began to fascinate Markus Draper in 2007. In the same year, he chose the peculiar formations of the ash clouds as a motif for the first time; to this day, they have sporadically though repeatedly served him as the subject of his paintings.

Draper’s painting style is characterised by glazing, the layered application of translucent oil paints. After finding the motif, he breaks down images of if that he has taken from the media into individual colour fields, which he transfers to the canvas with a brush – usually employing only one shade of colour, which varies from light to dark. What is crucial here for achieving a dense image is the precise transfer of tonal values. He then often finishes the canvas by covering it with a full colour glaze.

It is important to the artist that his paintings cannot be “located” at any one place (“More Than a Story”, 2020; “Hard to Say”, 2021; “Killing Me Softly”, 2021). “My pictures aren’t meant to reflect any concrete event. They don’t refer to any danger that could be localised at a specific time or place. Rather, they express a general feeling of insecurity, a kind of social diagnosis: they reflect a sense of unease, diffuse fears and anxieties that cannot be connected to specific causes. But they also express a kind of critique: perhaps it is more comfortable to remain in a state of fear than to act to change things.”

The question of how certainties collapse, and how this uncertainty can be triggered by images in the media, is one central theme in Markus Draper’s work. Over the last few years, it has been the subject of his work above all through his engagement with formative events in recent German history, such as the Monday demonstration in Leipzig on 9th October 1989 (“Demotape”, 2013), the hostage situation in Gladbeck (“Rentfort Nord”, 2011), or the unmasking of terrorists who had left the RAF and settled in the GDR (“Grauzone”, 2015).

Markus Draper, born in 1969 and raised in Görlitz, studied from 1991 to 2000 at the Academy of Fine Arts (Hochschule für Bildende Künste) in Dresden, Central Saint Martins College, London, and Columbia University, New York. In 2000 he completed his studies as a master student with Professor Ralf Kerbach. Draper has been the recipient of the Marion-Ermer-Prize (2001) and the Vattenfall Art Prize Energy (2006), in addition to numerous scholarships. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (2007), the Berlinische Galerie (2014), and the Kulturhistorisches Museum Görlitz (2015), as well as in institutional group exhibitions worldwide.  Works by the Draper can be found in the Collection of Contemporary Art of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Museum Folkwang in Essen, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and the Berlinische Galerie, among others. Markus Draper lives and works in Berlin.

The exhibition and catalogue are sponsored by: