After several very successful presentations in recent years, Jarmuschek + Partner is now showing Michael Merkel's latest series of works, Sacri Monti, in a first solo exhibition at the gallery.
Mountains have always been places of projection, emotionality and intense experience.
They rise up in our landscapes primordially and sublimely and stand since then for our aspirations, our fears, for overcomings, triumphs and failures as well as for protection and danger. As seats of gods, places of spiritual contemplation, cult worship or even crucifixions, they are narratively charged sites of various religions and, beyond that, strongholds of cultural creations, places of sovereignty and overview as well as – for some of us - the epitome of a travel destination.
Michael Merkel has dedicated himself to the mountains as a hiker, climber, explorer, observer and last but not least as an artist. In his auratic and at the same time delicate portraits of single peaks and mountain ranges the individual associative can be located as well as the symbolic and transcendent. With fine pencil lines he draws the observer deep into the rocky structures of the mountain slopes and shows him the majestic size of the stone giants. Bright parts and those remaining in the dark alternate and, expressive and rich in detail, form a sublime moment of nature experience, silence and contemplation. The visible haptic quality of Michael Merkel's deliberately chosen yellowing paper of discarded books emphasizes the fragility and detailedness in contrast to the monumental subject and subliminally alludes to the former function of the material as an instrument of knowledge preservation, narration, mediation and remembrance. One would hardly want to separate the medium of the book from the cultural impact of the mountains, both in thought and in history, as both complement each other so perfectly in the work - and beyond.
Impenetrable on the one hand and atmospherically brilliant on the other, the gold foil applied to the paper in Michael Merkel's collages finally evokes a feeling of supernaturalism and importance. Whether as a symbolic and at the same time playful gold line that suggests a mountain silhouette or as a sacred, flat sky - the observer can always feel overwhelmedness and a certain mysticism.
Clever, enigmatically allusive and astethically highly demanding, Michael Merkel finds a strong artistic approach to an ancient phenomenon that so far seems just as untouched by the digital age as some of the depicted peaks may still be today. Without superfluous pathos or romanticizing frills, he confronts us with the fascination of man in the face of loneliness in a majestic nature, with his longings and his everlasting quest for meaning.