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16.06. - 23.07.2022 STEPHEN WILKS "Traveling Donkeys. Dedication"

16.06. - 23.07.2022

Galerija "Māksla XO"

Elizabetes iela 14, Rīga, LV 1010

On ira ensemble. 2005, pencil on paper, 42x29,5cm


Traveling Donkeys. Dedication

In cooperation with Galeria Szydlowski (Warsaw) and Kai Hilgemann Galerie (Berlin), from June 16 till July 23, 2022 Maksla XO Gallery offers a opportunity to experience the exhibition-performance by Stephen Wilks, a British artist living in Berlin, Germany. The exhibition will feature porcelain sculptures, paintings, drawings and a mechanical, rotating sculpture-donkey carousel, as an allegory of danse macabre, warning the visitors about the secular nature of this earthly life...
This will be a unique opportunity to see this object in person, which exists in only two variations, the first of which, “Donkey Roundabout”, was sold at the Sotheby's in 2010, with the proceeds donated to the Rijksakademie van Beelende Kunsten, to keep it from being closed down.

Despite Stephen Wilks’ interest in the search for the higher truth, each of his works reflect on modern realities, from mundane things to urban structures, the depths of the earth and oceans, climate change, the encounters of a meager individual, or greater politics. He draws inspiration and ideas from long walks through the city or the countryside. According to the artist, elevating everyday phenomena to something unexpected and poetic is the great mission of art.
Wilks walks the city’s labyrinths to capture fleeting moments. And vests these with poetry and politics, irony and drama” - Raj Kamal Jha.

Stephen Wilks is a keen observer with a good sense of humor and a deep knowledge of world cultures. Gifted with a good sense for various materials, the artist plays with their versatile properties and the connotations they create. Any material in his hands turns into art.
Stephen Wilks challenges the viewer to re-evaluate their views on how we think and see, awakening a sense of wonder. The artist is convinced, that everything changes, when we change the way we look at things.
Stephen Wilks’ extraordinary travels around the world began in 1999, when the artist created his first donkey: a large, life-size rag doll made of gray fabric, complete with a tail, mane, large button eyes and a belly with a zipper, which also doubled as a bag. The first rag donkey, named Balthazar, became a constant companion of Stephen Wilks on his walks around the city. Artist borrowed the name for his new friend from the French director Robert Bresson’s 1966 film “Au hasard, Balthasar”, whose protagonist, the donkey, becomes a metaphor for a creature that has to endure cruelty, ingratitude and neglect. After a while, Baltazar was joined by six other donkeys who began a life that was somehow independent of the artist, traveling around the world and visiting one host after another. A rhythm of departure, arrival and parting emerges in the process, and there is a constant alternation between public and private space. During these journeys, their bellies are filled up with notes, photographs, sketches. The encounters, the memories, the individual realities are transported further with the continuity of travel. The donkeys turn into mediators and producers of social intersubjectivity.
So far the donkeys have visited Moselle, Paris, Marseille, Bremen, Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Beijing and Tokyo. In May 2022, a completely new donkey, sewn by Stephen Wilks, arrived in Latvia with hopes to fill its belly with new impressions and adventures, choosing Riga as his first destination.
“Autobiography and the danse macabre seem strange partners in pursuit of an engaged artistic life. But the nature of performance, sculpture, and now the first exhibited paintings, have always seemed strange emotional bedfellows in the works of the Berlin-based English artist Stephen Wilks. [...]
To travel with ‘a donkey on your back’ is not only a slang regional English usage, but also an inverted use of humour noir in the case of Wilks. The donkey as an itinerant beast of burden, an animal entity associated with the poor and the impoverished, is given a dominant role throughout his recent body of work. The autobiographical component of the work, is the idea of an association and identification on the part of the artist, a seeing the world from the position of 'other' as a reversed viewpoint. If it appears as humour so much more so in that it is critical of the unjust conditions of our contemporary world. Also the ass or donkey has such powerful associations with Hispanic cultures, that we are tempted to see Wilks acting as some latter day Sancho Panza, whose paintings are ironic commentaries, modern sanchismos or proverbial 'belly' laughs based on black humoured observations on the world. A contemporary Cervantean hero (more anti-hero) tilting at the windmills of modern injustice” -
Mark Gisbourne.

Stephen Wilks (1964) was born in Bridgwater in Somerset, UK. He has studied literature and fine art at the Canterbury University in Kent, UK; fine art at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. In his art practice Stephen Wilks uses various art forms - sculpture, photography, printmaking, painting and ceramics. Since 1991 he has held over 40 personal exhibitions and participated in over 100 group exhibitions all over the world.
Stephen Wilks’ artworks are in more then 20 public collections all over the world: FNAC – National Foundation for Contemporary Art (Paris, France), Regional Funds of Contemporary Art FRAC PACA (Marseille, France), Centre Nationale de la Photographie (Paris, France), Collection Lambert (Avignon, France), Champagne Vranken Pommery (Reims, France), Museum Ludwig (Cologne, Germany), Kupferstichkabinett (Berlin, Germany), Berlinische Galerie (Berlin, Germany), NBK - Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (Berlin, Germany), Kunstmuseum Bielefeld (Bielefeld, Germany), Akademie der Künste, Kunstsammlung Berlin (Berlin, Germany), Fotomuseum Winterthur (Winterthur, Switzerland), J. K. Van den Broek Collection (Arnhem, Netherlands), Soho House Dean Street Art Collection (London, UK), Soho House Miami Art Collection (Miami, USA), ACAC – Aomori Contemporary Art Centre (Aomori, Japan), AGSA – Art Gallery of South Australia (Adelaide, Australia), China Artists Association (Beijing, China), Collection Azcarraga (Mexico City, Mexico). Stephen Wilks currently works and lives in Berlin, Germany.


Thanks for SUPPORT:                      Michel Castaignet  Renars Derrings  Inta & Lauris Liepas  Andris Breze   Juris Cekulins