An exhibition celebrating the launch of Olaf Hajek’s latest book, Black Antoinette, is currently taking place at his publisher’s ‘space’ in Berlin’s trendy Mitte neighbourhood.
Hajek’s work questions the differences between painting and illustration. The artist mixes bursts of folk, ethnic, mythological and all manners of exotic imagery, creating allegorical panels that reach far beyond what is normally known as ‘illustration’ in terms of composition and texture.
The work may remind of Chris Ofili, but while the British artist pushes this kind of imagery beyond the cliché, Hajek embraces it with his own brand of mannerism. His pieces have often been used by fashion brands. Despite the colour combinations and the occasionally clichéd symbolism, the work retains a certain opacity – a certain mysterious sensuousness – which transcends fashion and illustration to make it worth a detour.
Disregarding labels is a Berlin speciality, and in the hot summer this is a perfect product of the new Berlin. The description at the back of Back Antoinette calls Hajek an ‘illustration artist,’ and it feels just about right.
The exhibit can be seen at Gestalten Space until 29 July, 2012.