Oliver Westerbarkey creates real virtual images of nature that induce the viewer to sense an unfamiliar field of tension between hyper-realistic scenery and direct contact with nature herself. Honoring the virtual, he reconstructs an imaginary nature, yet his work does not rely on computer-generated animations, but rather on the application of meticulously gathered twigs, pebbles and other natural materials to a canvas through an elaborate process.
While contemporary understanding predominantly associates the virtual world with the numerical reproduction of physical experiences into an interactive digital space, Westerbarkey’s works subtly prompt us to remember that digital experience would be just one variation of the innate human pleasure that lies in making imaginary experiences.
Approaching his large-size dioramas from a distance creates a quasi-secondary illusion. From afar, they give the impression of a photograph of a landscape, yet as one gets closer, the work becomes graphic and reveals itself as an intricate collage of artfully arranged grasses, clumps of earth and branches. The fascination and allure of his work really derive from this dual semblance, these transitional moments or illusions of the second and third degrees.
The exhibitions title “When The World Hits Your Eye”, resounds an old Dean Martin song, which famously concludes with the line “that’s amore”. Westerbarkey intentionally irritates the viewers perspective, yet not in order to shock or to alienate, but instead to provide an opportunity for heightened intensity and contact. In present times, it seems to be a wide-spread notion that the world could exist well or even better without us, the human beings. But Westerbarkey’s pieces reinforce the ancient philosophical idea that humans bring the world into existence through their gaze and consciousness. At the same time, it is the world’s specific mere existence that assures the perceiving human of its own self.
These considerations, these impressions resonate with the viewer, when standing before Westerbarkey’s depopulated landscapes. We can feel a warming fireplace in the “The Hut” or ascend a driveway and approach a flower bed, while walking the space. There is a natural concurrence of emptiness and vibrancy, of the imaginary and the associative, of the here and there in his works. His dioramas demand no decision, no pursuit of an either-or scenario. Instead, they emanate a fusion of refined illusion and playful architectural enthusiasm – a cabin in the woods, a camp in the park, a trap in the terrain. These scenarios do not exist in the literal form they seem to suggest and that very fact allows for a fluid coexistence of multiple levels of imagination, aptly justifying the title: “When the world hits your eye…, that’s amore…”
Oliver Westerbarkey (born 1969 in Constance, Germany) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich after graduating as a stonemason. He currently lives and works in Munich and has had numerous exhibitions in Germany. Most recently his work has been shown at the Maximilliansforum (Munich, 2022), at the Kunstverein Rosenheim (2022), at the Kunstverein Ebersberg (2021), Haus der Kunst (Munich, 2017) and Rathausgalerie (Munich, 2016).
// Press release
// Oliver Westerbarkey
// When The World Hits Your Eye (01/26-04/13/2024 | Brussels)