David Ostrowski - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Peres Projects, Berlin
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Imperfection, lack of motivation, vast emptiness, and beauty dominate Ostrowski’s artistic vocabulary. David Ostrowski was born in 1981 in Cologne where he still lives and works. He studied at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Albert Oehlen, graduating in 2009. He first exhibited in 2006 and since then his work has appeared in numerous solo and group shows in both Europe and the US. The present lot F (Jet Grill) belongs to the artist’s memorable ‘F series’. Developed over several years, every painting in this ongoing series is titled with the letter ‘F’, the imaginative potential of which knows no bounds.

    For Ostrowski, ‘F’, his favourite letter in the alphabet, also stands for Failure. For this series he strives to forget his significant artistic training in order to create an environment in which the unexpected can occur. He even attempts to use his right hand as he would his left to avoid deploying practised gestures. In the present lot a large area of thick white collage is interrupted only by a single arc of cobalt blue spray paint. Seemingly accidental marks recur rhythmically throughout his works; a streak of colour here, and a mysterious mark there. Ostrowski’s process can be described as intentionally ‘unlearnt’; undermining conventional notions of craftsmanship in painting. The artist muses on his working technique as follows, ‘I build and destroy the picture by adding and discarding canvas, colours, found fragments and dust without regard to any strategy or chronology. I strive to reduce my own decision-making power to the physicality of my actions’. As the artist seeks to discover the limits of painting and the depths of nothingness, his sparse canvases can be read as personal explorations. ‘Painting means war to me,’ Ostrowski has stated; this is an interminable undertaking, as he strives to achieve an impossible standard of beauty. His process is an ongoing struggle to disregard his artistic training and rediscover a childlike technique. In doing so he discovers more about painting and also reframes more traditional understandings of beauty. Meditative and compelling, the act of painting is stripped down to its simplest constituents: frame, canvas and paint. Some critics have described Ostrowski’s working practice as being akin to literary free association. Where he employs simplicity on a visual level, Ostrowski integrates carefully chosen wordplays into the titles of his works, introducing an element of witty subterfuge that deliberately hinders our interpretation.

    The artist’s mysterious persona is interlinked with his practice; much of his time in the studio is spent taking inspiration from music and novels, painting in sudden bursts of unpredictable creativity. A self-proclaimed ‘romantic’ painter, Ostrowski has pronounced, ‘my pictures are like me: often empty, full of emotions and with a penchant for suicide’. Ostrowski’s work is now compared to definitive abstract art movements of the twentieth century, including the instinctive gestural practice of Abstract Expressionism, the conceptual sophistication of Minimalism and the raw expression of Art Brut. The formalism of his compositions, however, is undermined by his dismissive attitude towards their creation, even incorporating the dirt and dust from his studio into his paintings. As with the irreverent student who disregards his teachers at school, the artist wants to make it clear that he does not take any of this very seriously. The 'F paintings' are not intended to please or conform; these are provocative visual statements that negate art historical notions of perfection.


F (Jet Grill)

oil, lacquer, paper on canvas
canvas 240 x 179.5 cm (94 1/2 x 70 5/8 in.)
frame 241.5 x 181 cm (95 1/8 x 71 1/4 in.)

Signed and dated 'David Ostrowski 13' on the overlap.

£50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for £80,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm