When I arrived in May 2013 at the Madrid airport Barajas I saw a middle-aged man gently kicking and following a football as he walked past me along the taxi lane. He wore many adornmens such as arm bracelets, finger rings, neck chains and a heavy wrist watch. I was immediately fascinated and touched by his performance that I decided to take photographs. At first I didn't realise what exactly had captivated my interest. I can imagine a school boy playing football on his own who might have fallen out with his play mate, preferring playing the ball against a wall rather than confronting his friend. A kind of stubbornness leading to boredom. The middle-aged man seemed to have given up his hunt for play mates, and he also seemed at the wrong place for that. He obviously wasn’t there my mistake but followed a routine.
Back in London I decided to re-enact his performance in all complexity. I dressed up as he did and walked the centre of London for 5 hours, kicking a football along my path. The football became became my friend and companion, guiding me through the crowds of people.
NARR, Ash Wednesday
On Ash Wednesday, as the first day of Lent, I created a situation in which I deliberately disrespected a ritual convention. The carnival dress symbolizes an overturning of the norms of daily life over a specific period of time which occurs immediately before Lent, ending on Fat Tuesday. A fool is being transformed into a fool.
HOMENAJE A SANTA TERESA DE AVILA
In my performance ‘Homenaje a Santa Teresa’ I wanted to approach Santa Teresa de Avila physically, after having read and admired many of her writings.
I went to Avila, where on a Saturday morning I cleaned and swept the public spaces and pavements facing the monasteries’ outer walls in which she lived 500 years ago as a contemplative nun. Her rich spiritual and inner life, led to physical foundations of her new order, the Discalced Carmelitas, she founded together with St John of the Cross.
'Extreme attention is what constitutes the creative faculty in man and the only extreme attention is religious. The amount of creative genius in any period is strictly in proportion to the amount of extreme attention and thus of authentic religion at that period.'
'Spiritual life cannot be grounded on consolation'
Santa Teresa de Jesus
UNDER THE DIALECTIC OF SALVATION
by Daria D. Pervain
(A Party for Boris, Citric Gallery, 2008)
Stefan Kraus favours the drawing as initial language within his work. It is the medium which most promptly responds to immediacy, a space apparently incorruptible, where the line can exactly remain what it is.
Stefan Kraus's drawings are even more surprising since they can be corrupted: the artist can transform them into objects, and he can bring these objects back into two-dimensional space. This dual nature seems to be a necessary condition for Kraus's entire body of work, where the border between the real and the non-real is broken, and the archetype becomes an almost tangible presence.
With an unusual appetite for visual semiotics, Stefan Kraus seems, in a very specific sense, an iconophile. Interested in the sublime nature of things and using a highly personal ontological vocabulary fed by several pre-conceptions about reality ('the space within my drawings is as real as the space we call reality'), the artist distills a visual alchemy for moments of metaphysical anxiety.
In the context of his works (either drawing, painting, sculpture or performance), the title of the exhibition A Party for Boris*, inspired by the homonymous play by the controversial Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, can be understood as the pretext for an episode of exorcism: in the sense of relieving the absurd, the exaggeration, the negation and the dialogue with death. The space created by Kraus, inscribed within Thomas Bernhard‚Äôs colossal umbrella, opens up a dialectic of salvation: the works are silently conciliating and inviting the spectator to a poetic, introspective approach.
Stefan Kraus takes a fictitious initiatory route: from the performance of The Sleeping Soldier (which descends from a Christian metaphor), to the paintings and archetypal drawings, to the sculptural object Arches. We are in a locus amoenus, where emotions, cultural symbols and inner visions of reality seen as mental projections are interwoven. Nothing ostentatious or explicit; instead, a deeply intellectual attitude that interrogates the symbolic nature of things and at the same time instigates revelation.
* A Party for Boris by Thomas Bernhard, 1969. This play is a grotesque, nihilist drama, populated by defective characters, built around a macabre birthday party for the legless Boris and thirteen fellow cripples.