LILI & JESKO
Art is transformation of the purposeful into pure existence.
The work of Lili & Jesko is the antithesis of the rigid, digitally-controlled world of money-making. A rebellion against the dictates of modern functionalism. A radical alternative to the reduction of man to an economically exploitable being. The artists celebrate the “defunctionalisation” of things and people, free them from their purpose, allow them to be what they are – simply beautiful, fascinating, enchanting, unique, wondrous and wonderful.
Lili & Jesko’s portraits show people at the moment when the mask falls. They allow an impartial view of the person, stripped of status, role and function – reflecting their innermost self. The pictures capture the moment when the shell breaks, when people drop their façade and the veil is lifted. The view of the person behind their social identity is revealed. Who are we, when we are no longer what we are?
Those who constantly have plans in mind always have something in front of them, something that obscures their view of what surrounds them. They are not there where they currently find themselves. Mentally they are always a step ahead. Unable to stop, unable to experience the moment as it happens. They are driven, in a mental traffic jam – always stuck, always delayed, miles and more of stress. Their goal gets in the way!
The travels of the two artists escape this world. The world of appointments, unrest, haste and breathless rushing around. They are without destination, without purpose, without plan and without predetermined route. Without planned end and endless. They are voyages of discovery. A dive into the deep unknown, allowing the impact to sink in. An exploration of a country by surrendering oneself to it.
Lili & Jesko’s paintings are condensations of these experiences. In them, time seems to stand still, the world seems to freeze. A boat glides over the shimmering silver surface of the water, silent, fragile, still. The viewer looks with childlike amazement, with a judgement – free perspective of things, as a child would see them. A meditative gaze, a therapeutic experience, authentic.
Do buildings have a soul? Maybe, and maybe not. But certainly one can ensoul them, one can give them a soul. Make them unique. Lili & Jesko make complete works of art out of them, creating poetry in motion from a stone shell.
They transform buildings into artistic landscapes, free them from their former function as if one were to remove paint and plaster and reveal what lies behind. The visitor dives into this landscape, moves in it, and is moved by it. In doing so forgets everything, that which is and remains outside. Like a magic forest, a fairytale landscape, that one wanders through by losing oneself and forgetting oneself. In which one can be a child again and let go. It is art that envelops, takes one in and gives one access. In the middle – the artists themselves – colourful, shrill, beyond normative conventions. Part of the complete work of art.
The beauty of decay shimmers through in many works by the artists.
They transform transience into timelessness, decay into permanence.
A run-up of the rotten run-down. In the mouldy wallpaper the mildew is preserved. Here it flowers in bright colour. How beautiful mildew is! Paint flakes off, and what is hidden underneath becomes visible. Layer by layer, the history of the building reveals itself. Reveals its creation and how the object has changed over time.
And so transience becomes permanent and eternal. Only the change is immortal and perpetual. Just as a person changes, as long as they live.
by Ortwin Meiss
Lili & Jesko fell in love right away when they met dancing at the famous dance club Soul Kitchen in Hamburg/Germany in 1990, when they were both studying art. They have lived and worked together ever since. Over the years their ambition increasingly became to build up and not to destroy – to get something blossoming is their deepest wish. Both of them are survivors of traumatic childhood/youth experiences.
So for both of them it was a very long process to overcome and to transform negativity into positivity. Although one will never overcome those traumatic experiences completely, you can learn to live your life more in peace and freedom, and love for sure is a very precious gift and the most powerful support along the path of life.
Since they met, the two have traveled the world seeking inspiration from other cultures and landscapes. Their collected impressions are transformed into paintings, sculptures, wall hangings and short films. For them, it’s not just the physical travel that counts. They’re as interested in how the excursion goes on – in their memories, in their artistic style, in their exhibitions – and, eventually in the minds and hearts of their viewers.
Between 1998 and 2000 the couple went to Florence/Italy, learning old Italian painting techniques under the painter Stefano Ficalbi.
Since 2003, they have turned their exhibitions into environments: they transform buildings into artistic landscapes that reflect their travels and experiences. A Lili & Jesko exhibition is never just a hanging of work on blank white walls. The two are known for radically altering spaces using a bold and vibrant aesthetic inspired by their travels, but led always by the paintings that are to be shown.
Working on their own, they re-paint walls, floor and even ceilings. They construct ‘rooms’ within the space, installing windows, mirrors and furnishings. They change the lighting and include short videos. The aim is to create what they call ‘environments’ and ‘moods’ which enhance the viewer’s experience of their work.
Working independently, the artist couple has realized several big solo exhibitions.
In 2008 Lili & Jesko opened their own exhibition space La Bel Étage, working and exhibiting in a space covering 230qm.
In 2015 in the context of the 56th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia Lili & Jesko were part of the exhibition “Personal Structures – Crossing Borders” with an expansive installation in Palazzo Bembo at the European Cultural Centre.
In 2017, Lili & Jesko inaugurated an additional art space in Berlin/Germany. Currently, they share their time working and living in both Hamburg and Berlin.
Although we have a 24 hour, 365 days a year relationship, there isn’t so much routine in our daily work as the variety of activities change a lot. We even share so many passions and interests that some people say we are symbiotic, but we don’t care.
At some point we may have an exchange about a new dress we want to create by upcycling vintage clothes, like a discarded leather jacket which Jesko is giving a new surface by gilding the jacket with gold leaf. The next moment we might talk about a painting, discussing the colours, how to proceed or when is the right moment to complete a painting, since four eyes see more than two. We even paint some paintings and big wall hangings together, but not simultaneously. One of us starts and hands it over to the other one at some point; this is how we have a constant exchange until it is completed.
A lot of people wonder how we can stand each other working on the same painting, as they would only end up fighting. We have made the wonderful experience that a painting often improves in this manner and our Italian teacher encouraged us to work on paintings together to combine our skills. Together we create something that neither one of us could create alone and that’s such a beautiful experience.
At the end of the day or even in between you can find us dancing a Tango together or shaking the hips to a piece of James Brown.
by Lili & Jesko