If art is an overheated sauna, then Michael Tedja (Rotterdam 1971) is the ice-cold plunge pool within it: instantly refreshing! In art, it is all or nothing, and if that applies, Michael Tedja is all and just a bit more. Excess excels. His exhibition “Hypersubjective”, which is on display until the 14th of October 2018, is an overwhelming presentation of how to put words into action. More or less simultaneously with this SHOW – in this case, exhibition or expo cannot fully represent what is offered –, Tedja’s book “The brilliant man” has appeared, an at least as overwhelming display of the imagination as this presentation of his 134 large drawings. Michael Tedja shows life to the full.
“Hypersubjective” is without a doubt one of the best and most important exhibitions of the year. What Michael Tedja shows here is that, as an artist, he excludes nothing, and for that very reason has to be extremely selective. It is his fate that there is always more that he cannot show than that he can show, whatever the abundance of the drawings on display. “Hypersubjective” is a bloodletting, but blood is thicker than water. Everything involves everything else and is summed up or cancelled out; it is a curious mix of multiplication and division. The walls in the relatively modest exhibition halls have been covered from top to bottom with large framed drawings behind glass, which turns the show into a hall of mirrors. In this way, the confined space of the museum rooms is turned into a shamelessly monumental display of the artist’s potential. So that’s also a way to do it: drawing like a madman in total disregard of the ethics of the white box the museum all too often is. However subjective the work is, you can always see yourself reflected in it. Tedja draws you in. Even a quick tour of the linked narrow corridors makes the work inescapable. It yields a view to an inner world that reflects what is happening outside and how that impacts the reasoning and the emotions of the artist. While, in art, a dichotomy is cherished between socially motivated, politically activist art and the free, autonomous imagination that creates its own separate universe, detached from all and everyone, Tedja proves that the two extremes can also work as a whole. In his studio, closed off from the outside world, he manically rages to make the work that emanates from him like an electric current, but at the same time, he has his antennas pointed everywhere and once away from his studio, he leads a busy and loving existence in a society that continually demands of him to take position and responsibility. Which he does to the full.
Tedja himself views drawing as a conscious restriction of his idiom. In earlier exhibitions, he has shown fierce paintings, exuberant collages, complex installations and big-hearted multimedia work. Compared to these, the making of a drawing is to him a simple and direct means of expression which allows him to concentrate on his handwriting. In itself, his signature is so comprehensive that, in connected series of drawings, he investigates what he can express about figuration and abstraction, about language and sign, about writing and image, about origins and destination, about all and sundry. Nothing in this is demure or didactic. Everything is outspoken, sharp, distinct. It is not palpable to reason but palpable to friend and foe. Who is not for him, may be against him. There you have it! He lays himself on the line: his own life, his identity, this personality with all his flair and faults. The more he reveals himself, the clearer it becomes that he cannot accomplish the impossible. He strives for the highest attainable level, and cannot always reach it, but Michael Tedja does not let off, does not give up.
The draftsmanship in this exhibition shows great persuasiveness. Tedja is a virtuoso who does not recoil from recklessly questioning the craft of drawing for its virtues and for what it has to offer him. At first sight, this is impulsive work, but over time, the drawings show themselves to be examples of the well-considered employment of means and techniques. Michael Tedja thinks while he draws. His hand follows the thoughts tumbling about in his head and draws conclusions from them. He makes a point. He is not who he is in the eyes of others. He is himself.
The exhibition will be on display until the 14th of October at the Centraal Museum