Stephen Brandes : Heron

Stephen Brandes; Schmerzbau: It’s not all just misery

Sat. 2 Jul. – Sun. 25 Sep. 2022


The Model is pleased to present a newly commissioned body of work by the artist Stephen Brandes.
Schmerzbau: It’s not all just misery explores how both comedy and tragedy can sit side-by-side through juxtapositions of representation and abstract form.

Schmerzbau itself is a made-up word, joining together two German words; schmerz, meaning pain or grief and bau, meaning construction. It is also a play on another constructed word, Merzbau, which was coined by the German artist Kurt Schwitters to give a title to the installations and collage work he created between 1920 and his death in 1948. In his lifetime he started several different Merzbauten in different locations. Each, however, was doomed to suffer tragic misfortune.

Central to this exhibition is a complex walk-through architectural and sculptural assemblage, which is partly an homage to Schwitters, his humour and resilience throughout the darkness of the first half of the last century. It pays tribute to the idea of creating something compelling, and often humorous, out of the mess our culture leaves in its wake.

The exhibition also includes new monumental paintings on lino and smaller works on paper and canvas. Throughout there are cameo representations of historical and fictional characters who have entertained Brandes’ interest during the creation of this body of work: Maud Gonne and love-smitten WB Yeats; Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt alongside philosopher and Nazi Party member Martin Heidegger; Ken and Deirdre Barlow from the long-running UK soap opera Coronation Street, amongst others whose relationships with the world - and with one another – have been plagued by contradictions and misadventure.

The exhibition continues until 25 September and is accompanied by a publication by Brandes and art historian Sarah Kelleher, which is available from The Model’s reception desk.

The exhibition was commissioned by The Model and was supported by the Arts Council’s Visual Art Project Award


Artist’s Bio

Stephen Brandes was born in Wolverhampton, UK in 1966 and now lives and works in Cork after moving to Ireland in 1993. He represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale 2005 as part of ‘Ireland at Venice’, and has shown in numerous exhibitions both in Ireland and internationally.

His practice explores both word and visual language as vehicles for storytelling, with particular reference to travel fiction and European traditions of absurdism and satire.

For several years he embarked on a series of very large, highly detailed drawings on floor vinyl, which charted a perpetually expanding fictional universe – the genesis of which was a journey through contemporary Eastern and central Europe, following a route his grandmother had made in 1913, escaping pogroms in Romania.

More recently, he commenced a body of work which not only includes drawing and painting, but monumental posters, signage, collage, printed publications and animated slideshows.

The underlying theme of this work considers the legacies of European history, by viewing human endeavor within the landscape and the constructed world from oblique cultural and historical perspectives. It is fueled by an interest in how visual and pictorial languages from the recent past have been adopted within particular social movements, from the avant-gardes and totalitarian aesthetics of the early 20th century to the graphic sensibilities of more recent years. These are often put into conflict with the subject matter: the landscapes, the monuments and architecture that have evolved throughout Europe over the past 400 years.

His re-engagement with this material is not out of nostalgia, but rather for the purpose of misappropriation, in order to reinvest fresh meaning to these subjects. The challenge is to create objects and images that present alternative views to commonly accepted standards of beauty and authority. It also attempts to consider our shared histories and future with a measured mixture of poignancy and humour.


Current Exhibitions