Elger Esser
L’âge d’or


September 12, 2014

Elger Esser
L’âge d’or

September 18–November 7, 2014

Opening: September 17, 6–10pm 
The artist will be attending.

Brüderstr. 10
D-10178 Berlin

gallery [​at​] kewenig.com


“Elger Esser’s images are saturated with time, but a time that places the moment into time, into a duration in which present seems past, and the past seems present and without end.”

The German artist and Becher student Elger Esser, who grew up in Rome, is showing in Berlin for the first time a series of new works. The motif is the Giardino di Ninfa, an historic garden situated in the southern part of the Italian capital which magically attracted already in the Renaissance painters such as Giorgio Vasari and later writers such as Gabriele d’Annunzio, Virginia Woolf and Truman Capote. To the present day this place has remained a source of fascination and inspiration for artists and poets.

The garden grounds were laid out in the ruins of the ancient town of Ninfa that was stricken by the plague in the Middle Ages and thereafter abandoned by its residents. Over the centuries the buildings of Ninfa decayed and became overgrown. In the 16th century, Cardinal Nicholas III commissioned the architect Francesco Caetani Capriani to lay out a park on the town’s former grounds. Apart from the old, luxuriant stand of trees, the garden exhibits also elements of classical English landscape gardening. Today the Giardino di Ninfa is cultivated and maintained by the Caetani Foundation, which was established by Leila Caetani, the last heiress of the family.

Elger Esser’s works reflect the unique water landscape and the flora and fauna of the Giardino di Ninfa, thus awakening the world of ancient mythology to new life. Already in Pliny the motif of the nymphs rising out of the river can be found, a phenomenon that the scholar believed he had observed near the historic site. In his photographs, Esser evokes the same visionary and mythical scenery by conjuring up again the allegorical world of old myths that is hidden behind the decayed stone walls, proliferating undergrowth and wild aquatic landscape.

All the photographs of the Ninfa series are one-offs. They were printed directly onto aluminium and sealed with shellac. In this way they resist the conventions of classical photographic printing procedures, oscillating between the genres of photography and painting. The combination of a conceptual approach with timeless composition can be found, however, also in recent works by the artist, thus continuing the tradition of his landscape pictures and vedute in an innovative way.
In the current exhibition, Kewenig is presenting for the first time video works by the artist that engage with the element of water and its movement. In iPad formats, Esser stages the particular quality of water and its multifarious forms of appearance in the realm of the garden.

Elger Esser, who was born in Stuttgart in 1967, lives in Düsseldorf. He spent his youth in Rome, where he attended the German School. From 1991 to 1997 he studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy with Bernd Becher. From 1996 on, he was a student in the master class, receiving in 1997 his Academy Certificate. From 2006 to 2009 he was a professor at the Karlsruhe State College for Design in the media art department. This was followed in 2008 by a guest professorship for photography at the Essen Folkwang College.

In 2010 Elger Essen was awarded the Rhine Art Prize. In 2012 he received a working stipend at the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK), Institute for Advanced Study, Delmenhorst.

Since the mid-1990s, his works have been shown at numerous exhibitions in both national and international museums and have also found their way into international collections and museums, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), the Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast (Düsseldorf), the Kunsthaus Zürich, the Fonds national d’art contemporain (Paris), the Centre Pompidou (Paris), the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus (Munich), the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and the Museum der Moderne Salzburg.