The painter, sculptor and musician Markus Oehlen (b. 1956) belongs to the influential generation of artists in Germany who had their breakthrough in the early 1980s under the name ”Die Neue Wilden”. Along with among others his brother Albert Oehlen, Markus Oehlen was part of the Hamburg fraction of the neo-Expressionist movement of young painters who, in opposition to the dominant avant-garde movements of the time, minimalism and conceptual art – which had with great self-assurance proclaimed that painting was dead – took up arms with a decidedly expressive formal language dominated by intense colours and quick, ’wild’ brushstrokes. The inspiration came from among other sources foreign cultures and older visual art, in particular German Expressionism and the French Fauvism of the earlier 1900s, given new life by the punk culture’s informal codes. Markus Oehlen and ”Die Neue Wilden” inspired what we know in the Danish context as ”De Unge Vilde”.
Markus Oehlen developed his easily recognizable, vibrant palette at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where he studied between 1976 and 1982. During this period he also liked on occasion to exchange his brush for drumsticks, strongly committed as he was to legendary punk bands such as Mittagspause and Charley’s Girls. It is thus no coincidence that Oehlen’s pictures work with amorphous shapes that move freely, almost anarchically, among one another.
The paintings balance between the figurative and abstract, and with their many layers and intense colour composition mime the hybrid expression of the collage. Often too the thoughts turn to the perceptual experiments we know from Op Art and optically influenced art. Searing swaths of agitated colour collide with scattered appearances of digitally printed figurations, and the result is a kind of controlled wildness framed by stabilizing grids. Oehlen represents a radical approach to painting which nevertheless, through a certain seriality, communicates light, depth and rhythm.
Markus Oehlen, b. 1956 in Krefeld, Germany, has worked since 2002 as a professor at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste München. His works have earlier been exhibited by among others: Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Kunsthalle Gießen; Deichtorhallen Hamburg; Museum Frieder Burda; Baden-Baden; Hamburger Kunstverein; Centro Cultural Andratx, Mallorca; ZKM Karlsruhe; Ursula Blickle Foundation; Kunstverein Frankfurt; Haus der Kunst I München; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.
Markus Oehlen is in the following collections; Sammlung Essl – Kunsthaus, Klosterneuburg; Kunstraum Grässlin, St. Georgen; Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach; Museum für Neue Kunst, Karlsruhe; Museum Villa Haiss, Zell am Harmersbach; Sammlung Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden; Kunsthalle Weishaupt, Ulm; Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn; Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen; Sammlung Alison & Peter W. Klein, Eberdingen; Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO; Centro Cultural Andratx, Andratx/Mallorca; Proje4L / Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul.