doing the work
Murat Önen

Saturday 25 March 2023
7 — 11 PM

26 March — 21 May 2023


Vernissage: 25.03.2023, 7 p.m.
Exhibition: 26.03. – 21.05.2023

Greeting: Dr. Werner Dohmen (Chairman of the Board NAK)
Introduction: Maurice Funken (Director NAK)

NAK Neuer Aachener Kunstverein is pleased to present doing the work, the first institutional solo exhibition of artist Murat Önen.

Entirely new works have been created in Önen’s studio for the exhibition, which are now being presented at the Kunstverein for the first time. In his artistic practice, the painter always challenges the established formulas of academic painting, breaks with them, but also his own work and identity, the tropes of masculinity and queerness. The result of these fractures is thus by no means defined in advance – Önen works from something, but not towards something. His painting is self-reflexive, sometimes drawing on real situations or personal incidents as references, but combining them with imaginary strands that are crossed with elements from the history of painting. The works refer to old masters, whose artistic potential they take up in their artistic essence and steer them onto newly conceived paths, bring them into the present and place them in genuine contexts.

Color, light, movement, tension, body, silhouettes, and space collide in the intuitively created process images, which intentionally and visibly inscribe their own history de facto with overpainting, overlaying, and layering. Artistic intuition clearly takes precedence over narrative. The emergence of the works is a constant search, eagerly approaching the new.

The works shown at Neuer Aachener Kunstverein once again represent a new formal direction for the artist. While his earlier works showed a queer sub- and club culture coupled with a circling around ideas of subtle melancholy, subliminal loneliness as well as sexual desire, in the series Haystacks from 2022 the clearly visible struggle around ideas of masculinity and queerness, while not overcome, seems to recede into the background.

Now, with the exhibition doing the work, Murat Önen opens up to a broad, multi-thematic field. The works examine complexes such as isolation, loneliness, the desire for togetherness and belonging, and pose questions about the origins of sexuality. For example, in the painting Wärst du doch in Düsseldorf geblieben (If Only You Had Stayed in Düsseldorf), which shows a group portrait of the painter’s circle of friends at an afterhour. In the composition of the bodies, the picture is reminiscent of the Haystacks, but Önen skillfully creates through the personal references an ambiguous snapshot full of room for interpretation. Pictures like these are the painterly attempt of the will to open up, but also of the failure of this endeavor, which is, however, understood by the artist as an opportunity. They show the resulting state of restlessness, uncertainty, glancing at the psychological moments. Trauma, archived in boxes, opening, closing, allowing the insight. Also, on Önen himself, because for the first time in the new works one recognizes isolated self-portraits of the painter.

Önen’s painting is sometimes figurative, sometimes more abstract, gestural, omitting, surface instead of setting, concrete, not concrete, complex in composition or captivatingly simple, curiously discovering a colorfulness, dynamic, interlocking, moving, exploring the boundaries, coming from the drawing not necessarily always formulated, better: not formulated at all, why should it? Murat Önen’s works thus double the change and the doubt of a contemporary figurative painting. Murat Önen’s paintings are captivatingly free of fear, experimental, remain open, the motifs assembled like a panel painting and yet individual ideas, snapshots, nothing is completed, not even the exhibition. Painting is liberation.

The title of the exhibition, however, also speaks against the romantic idea of the painter as a contented genius in the seclusion of the studio. Önen emphasizes the value of work, but also the associated loneliness and effort of the artistic process, the inner conflict, literally and constantly doing the work. Moreover, in a figurative sense, the title can also be related to the artist and his personal development: Önen works on himself.

For NAK, Murat Önen has also opened up his artistic practice in a multidisciplinary way. Thus, for the first time, he has developed an installative light and sound work that compliments and incorporates his painterly œuvre, but primarily exists alongside it as an independent work. The installation shown on the upper floor of the Kunstverein creates a dark space, club-like, intimate, always in motion, soundscapes, noises, recordings, collaged and emphasizing one specific moment. A coming and going. Hearing and seeing thus come together. It is this expansion of his own practice for which Önen collaborates with Paul Förster (light) and Aki Vierboom (music) – and thus once again fractures his own loneliness in artistic creation as a painter.

Murat Önen (*1993, Istanbul) studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden. He is currently studying painting at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf with Professor Yeşim Akdeniz. He lives and works in Düsseldorf.


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