Gareth Ernst’s work focuses on the intimate and fleeting, on mortality, desire, surveillance, and masculinity. Like the writings of Jean Genet, Gareth Ernst’s paintings, drawings and videos are illicit love letters. They deal with the secret and the underground, touching on the pornographic and the criminal. They are rapid, urgent and complete, revealing secret Worlds parallel to our own.
His studies of the human form are uncompromising and direct. Gareth’s work disrupts the tradition of idealising the male form, and instead uses it as a vehicle for exploring the themes of power, vulnerability and innocence. He often achieves this through unorthodox pop culture inclusions and juxtapositions with medieval memento mori symbols—Darth Vader masks, leaked police surveillance videos, stuffed Pokémon dolls and even nibbling mice dress his works. For his audience, these juxtapositions are destabilising and contradictory, creating tension with the erotic charge of the subject’s exposure.
Monuments of Berlin
The monuments of Berlin are sacred spaces, sacred objects. Built of bullet-scarred stone and metal, restored and repaired, of angels, warriors, animals and weeping mothers. They show death, sex, desire, violence, battle and adoration.
They are artefacts of importance handed down to us. Passed down from generation to generation saying
‘Here! Here is what we valued. Here is what we loved. Remember us.’
These works explore permanence and impermanence. What we are left with after loss, how we remember and how we continue.
The ash used is physically of Berlin, a substance of the city, changed by fire and now transmuted into new artworks. Referencing Berlin’s history as a city burnt and reborn so Gareth chooses ash as the medium for these paintings.
The ash was sourced from the refugee campfires on the Berlin Tempelhof Feld. Chunks of charcoal, ground to fine powder, are mixed with water and painted like giant water colours.