*1960 in Bonn, Germany
† 1992 in Wuppertal, Germany
Bertram Jesdinsky, Serie Baukasten [Modular Series], 1989, Epoxy, cardboard, iron, 240 x 200 x 200 cm, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst Aachen, loan of the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021
Bertram Jesdinsky, Der große Fischfang [The big fish catch], 1989, wood, iron, aluminium, plastic, 175 x 110 x 250 cm, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst Aachen, loan of the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021
Betram Jesdinsky’s (1960-1992) style developed through graffiti art and the association of a group of students (Anarchistische Gummizelle (AGZ)) who critically and ironically dealt with political themes of the 1980s and well-known art styles. Jesdinsky’s particularly large formats show an apparent chaos of figures that come together in complex webs and depict recurring animals as motifs. A fantastic world emerges that calls (visual) habits into question.
To mark the reunification of the FRG and GDR, Jesdinsky created the sculpture Der große Fischfang (The Big Fish Catch) from 1989: a bear made of wood, iron, aluminium and plastic. Only one fish lies in its right paw, which it brings to its snout. The eyes are small and directed forwards. The body of the bear is composed of different pastel-coloured plates. Five D-Mark coins placed under the top rubber layer create the elevations, which are reminiscent of those of small building blocks and reveal the German eagle.
The variation of the material and the more precise anatomy of the animal point to Jesdinsky’s development, in which he turned towards a natural representation of animals. The focus is on the relationship between man and animal, whereby the influence of man on the animal world and nature becomes apparent: Almost mockingly, the title describes the bear’s catch, which, with only one fish, turns out to be rather small and, compared to the bear’s large body, will hardly suffice for satiation.
In terms of socio-political structures, the bear could be classified as Berlin’s well-known landmark. It is covered with a fur made of German coins showing the federal eagle. The fish caught embodies the GDR. This assignment shows the unification of the FRG and the GDR via the reunified Berlin, while critically addressing the different relationship between the two countries. Similarly, the bear can be seen as the national symbol of Russia, which captured the GDR before it reunited with the FRG.
According to the artist’s own statements, the work Serie Baukasten from 1989 embodies his oeuvre as a whole and the ongoing changes in his approach, work and oeuvre. The sculptures depict animals that appear repeatedly in Jesdinsky’s works: Bird, Ram and Dog. The individual objects can be rearranged again and again and are not fixed in relation to each other. Thus, not only the possibility of the variable arrangement of the figures can be related to the title, but also each individual figure. The bright colours and the composition of different basic shapes make the figures appear as if they were from a construction kit. The monumental format is not only very expansive, but also turns the viewers themselves into figures and includes them as part of the work and the construction kit. The particularly intense colours are reminiscent of Jesdinsky’s painting, which is distinguished by the colourfulness that carries the motifs, while supporting the connection to a construction kit for children.