Unbecoming, on view until 26th May 2024

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Yulia Mahr, the acclaimed Hungarian-born British visual artist, is pleased to present Unbecoming – a solo exhibition of new and unseen lens-based works and installation curated by Margot Mottaz, that opened on 27 April and is on view until 26 May 2024 at Wehrmuehle, Berlin.

Marking a significant change of direction in Mahr’s artistic journey, Unbecoming delves into the intricacies of human existence, exploring themes of birth, death, and transfiguration. A study of the beautiful and the ‘unsightly’ as inseparable facets of the human condition, the exhibition directs a raw lens onto the interplay of life – pictures of women’s bodies bearing the scars of childbirth and life sit alongside those of unborn foetuses, and gnats alighting on still ponds.

Through layered and repeated figuration, scarred bodies, decaying matter, and lifeless animals contrast with moments of birth and life. Presenting a body of work that carries a nuanced touch of tenderness andvulnerability, each image is intentionally presented outside of ‘time’. Speaking concurrently of personal stories like the artists’ own journey through childbirth and the passage of a close friend into middle age, Unbecoming dives into narratives that resound universally, underpinned by the rhythmic ebbs and flows of the natural world.

Mahr’s creative process embraces a certain formalism, frequently employing Chiaroscuro and other traditional techniques, working with largely monochromatic tones, and embracing a still-life compositional framing. This deliberate departure from the throwaway constructions often found in post-disposable/portable camera lens-based work aims to evoke a sense of near religious sacredness.

While the exhibition prominently features lens-based work, Mahr refrains from identifying herself as a photographer with the distinction arising from her deliberate fusion of techniques that draw from painting traditions. Contemporary printing methods are skillfully employed to evoke brushstrokes, while a focus on achieving rich blacks underscores her commitment to a unique aesthetic. This approach attests to Mahr’s artistic identity, eliding conventional labels and inviting viewers into a realm where photography transcends traditional boundaries.

Unbecoming also marks a return to Mahr’s roots. Berlin holds both personal and creative significance for the artist, having spent close to ten years living and raising her young family there. Mahr views the city as more than alocation, rather a liberating space and a reassuring step back into her Middle European heritage. Born in Hungary, Mahr’s personal history of geographic displacement infuses her creative process, resulting in compositions that probe memory, identity, belonging and trauma.

Speaking of Unbecoming, Yulia Mahr said: “The guiding principle behind all my work has been to be as honest, open and as raw as possible. I often go to the studio guided by this one principle alone – that each day I should try to ‘unzip’ myself; and be completely truthful about that which I might otherwise avoid. For me, Unbecoming is a coming-out party of sorts. For the past twenty years I have been bringing as much of myself into projects as possible, with the full knowledge that they would be constrained and shaped by commercial and familial imperatives. That was always a fairly depressing process for me. Three years ago, I stepped into my first studio and from that point have not looked back.”

Margot Mottaz, Curator of Unbecoming also said: “Soon after meeting Yulia a couple of years ago, I became particularly drawn to her singular ability to capture the natural world, including those aspects we often consider too gruesome to dwell on, with a distinct sense of empathy and hopefulness. This exhibition, titled Unbecomingas a double entendre referring to both the state of being unsightly and the process of becoming undone before becoming again, shines a light on all stages of life and the beauty found within them. Set against the Wehrmuehle landscape, the show invites us to contemplate the perpetual, biological transformations that govern all lifeforms, not least our own.”

Unbecoming by Yulia Mahr opened on 27 April and is on view until 26 May 2024 at Wehrmuehle, Berlin.