Tried and Failed – David Ostrowski

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Installation view Tried and Failed


David Ostrowski – Tried and Failed
3rd of November – 22nd of December

David Ostrowski is a painter based in Cologne, who studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy from 2004-2009 under Albert Oehlen. His first solo exhibition at BolteLang consists of paintings from Ostrowski’s F series; they have been painted this year, though the series has been developed over several years. This is an exhibition about nothing.

The titular F stands for failure, which pinpoints what is at stake in these works. ‘Painting means war to me’ Ostrowski has stated; it is a Sisyphean undertaking, as the artist strives to achieve an impossible standard of beauty. The works may not at first suggest this, being spare white, and occasionally black, canvases whose complex surfaces are formed by adding and removing paint and other media, culling and sticking. Any application of a shorthand towards the achievement of his aesthetic aims (like that which is easy on the eye, a distracting assault of colour or other sign of complacency,) would be anathematic to Ostrowski’s approach. The artist does all that he can to avoid deploying practised gestures, painting with his right hand as if it were his left. (Lest the painstak- ing method itself becomes a trap, other works, like F (Val Kilmer), are simple, swift gestures on unprimed canvas.) He tries to forget his significant training in painting in order to create an environment in which the unexpected can occur.

Unplanned happenings in the studio are Ostrowski’s means towards new knowledge; his process is an ongoing struggle to unlearn and rediscover, learning in so doing not just about painting but also reframing his understanding of beauty. The use of chance is evident in the work F (Dann lieber nein), whose rectangular shapes were formed by dust accumulating on the canvas while it was stored in his studio. His painterly vocabulary equally develops from accidents of form, taking unforeseen lines that appear and recreating them in future works. These swift gestures are akin to the furtive signature of a tagger who works fast for fear of being caught; he and Ostrowski share the medium of the spray can too. Ostrowski is not concerned with graffiti per se, but his paintings build patina like buildings, a combination of design and accidental elements, abuse and care and the passage of time. This is the nothing that unifies the works in this exhibition – the artist’s concern for the disregarded, fruitful everyday.

Aoife Rosenmeyer

Exhibition documentation