Gregor Torsten Kozik 


Manhatten Vision / 2000
Charocal, Chalk, Graphit, Oil pastel

Night Thoughts

On the artwork of Gregor Torsten Kozik

Minimalist sweeps of colour create enigmatic, poetic landscapes in which the mind can move freely with no boundaries. The daydreams of Gregor Torsten Kozik are related to the night thoughts that sometimes haunt us when we cannot sleep or when we sleep too deeply.

Kozik was born as Gregor Torsten Schade in 1948 in Hildburghausen, Thuringia (Germany), and studied at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig, HGB). In 1974 he relocated to Karl-Marx- Stadt (present-day Chemnitz), where he co-founded the legendary artist group and cooperative gallery Clara Mosch together with Dagmar Ranft-Schinke, Thomas Ranft, Carlfriedrich Claus and Michael Morgner. In the early days Kozik was best known for his drawings, graphics and performance art. Later, he turned his attention to painting, systematically and imaginatively evolving the pictorial approach that he had developed through his lettering and drawing work.

The art historian Britta Milde described his paintings from as early as the 1990s as „exciting visual inventions that congeal into power symbols of the day far from any literary content”, and referred to the „ecstatic creative process” that still characterises the work of Gregor Torsten Kozik to this day. Kozik says that his paintings and drawings come into being “through meditation” – they are a probing, a feeling out, an exploration of the canvas or paper, and his three-dimensional objects are a sounding out of the space, far removed from the triteness of everyday life, far from any need for illustration, for the imaging of a modern life that is already flooded with fleeting images. „Now it’s God who’s guiding the hand,” says Gregor Torsten Kozik, and he refrains from expanding upon the allusions that transcend the current sensitivities in which the world is enshrouded as an enigma, as a beginning and an infinity. In Kozik’s artwork, light and dark, good and evil, the be-all and end-all, human, humanity and nature, near and far coalesce into a mysterious and sometimes ominous entity that, both literal- ly and metaphorically, holds an enchanting light particle fits to particle. Possible associations are revealed through the carefully chosen titles, many of which reference philosophy, literature and religions from every corner of the earth.

Kozik is on a quest, to this day. He does not commit to any certain form. Paintings, huge wooden sculptures that are actually printing blocks for woodcuts, light objects, improvised installations. A burqa, the Afghan covering, for example, assumed the roles of the cycle on Islam „Cloths without Sweat” („Tücher ohne Schweiß”), and the series „Ark without Noah” („Arche ohne Noah”) on Christianity is broken up into 240 individual works.

At times, his artwork plays with an idyll that is burst asunder by fate: fear, injury, destruction in the midst of almost romantic flows of colour. Escaping from My Silence (Meinem Verstummen entrinnen) is the title of a 2003 oil painting that suggests a kind of veiling, a cocoon from which no butterfly will ever emerge, a cocoon from which there can be no escape. Except through art itself. Or in other words, Everyone Needs an Untranslatable Song (Jeder Mensch braucht ein unübersetzbares Lied), as Kozik entitled one of his more recent paintings in which the world opens around a kind of embryo and leaves unanswered the question of who is dealing with whom and how.

This is also a topic in other recent works by Kozik. He has painted angels and apocalypses, sometimes together with other artists.
Kozik was raised in Communist.
East Germany with a keen and curious view of and into the world in spite of, or perhaps even because of, the walls that were built around this country. East Germans were quite well informed about the liberation move- ments in Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Angola, Palestine, Portugal and Spain. They grew up with a sensitivity for injustices in the world and with the feeling that it was up to individual citizens to do something about them.

That „something” could be anything from rejecting the real-socialist follow-my-leader attitude or privately enjoying independent life in the niche of Clara Mosch, as Gregor Torsten Kozik did, to completely genuine solidarity. In this context, art was often more than a step ahead of life and politics. Because there were, and they indeed exist, the evil days:

The evil days begin yesterday
And are not on the calendar sheet
Like older sisters, they’ve nothing to say
And don’t leave when the day is complete.

The newspaper comes when the morning cracks
And lies harmlessly next to the candy dish

Too much blood on the pages; build pirate hats
And in the cellar, the stinky fish.

The evil days. Alas! Stand and stare
Under the massive heading.
Where we looked for words that were never there.

Their ignorance seems to be spreading!

They take the butter from your bread
And leave you behind with the rest

While you’re still alive, they wish you were dead
And celebrate with foreign guests.

The evil days come when it’s friends you lack
And never leave you behind

You show them out the door in back
And they return from the other side.

We toast our work with great delight
And leave much sooner than planned

We go looking for and find a fight
But it’s one we can’t withstand.

Days like these wallow in bitter regret
They’d love to take flight with the wind

With a cleansing thunderstorm, and yet
They’re no eviler than our sins.

The evil days are also tomorrow
And from them we’re never freed Mum,
there’s still no reason for sorrow.

Too much blood on the pages as if
Something has happened indeed.

Dagmar Zemke & Gregor Torsten Kozik
“Apocalypse” 2018 / 3 m x 8 m,
Acryl with woodcut collages

Embedded in the wild, destructive and already destroyed world, which is also a colourful, diverse, multicoloured, multishaped world, as is typical of Gregor Torsten Kozik’s paintings, are glimmers of hope, shapeless like hope itself often is in real life.

As was written in the biblical Revelation to John: „Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees.” However, humans failed to follow this commandment, and therefore „the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree castet her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.”

This mighty wind sweeps through Gregor Torsten Kozik’s paintings. The red of love, of blood, of war runs through the huge canvases like a wound. Sometimes forming a cross, as if it is trying to heal the wounds that are still unhealable. Between them, intimations of figures skulls that were once heads they could be the victims of the recent Paris attack, or perhaps victims of the war in Syria, in Sudan, in Israel and Palestine. Between them the blue of the sky and of the sea, which for many people today is no longer a place of hope and yearning, but instead merely a way out of one misery into another, and a place of doom.

And this was also something that John the Baptist recognised as early as 2,000 years ago: „And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk. Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”

Kozik’s paintings and drawings can be read like wordless stories, like the news of the day. The difference is that, in spite of the apocalyptic mood that is fed on a daily basis from games with nuclear weapons and the sleazy game with authoritarian Russia to the economic migrants and war refugees, whose misery we in the wealthy countries played a part in creating his paintings also radiate a certain hope, a force that could be the force of a reversal, of fantasy, a hope for survival.

In this context, a belief in the apocalypse, a term that comes from the Greek word for „uncover” or „reveal” could be useful, because that which Eugen Drewermann described as the „apocalyptic concern of Jesus” is a concern for and of all people. „With humanity, one cannot wait. Only he who lives it now, only he who fulfills it today, finds himself, saves himself, proves himself as a human being. He who, on the other hand, does not live now, not today, not in this moment, he makes a mistake, he loses himself, he is a lost man, regardless of how much he hopes to gain.”

Matthias Zwarg, October 2018

Copyright © 2021 Gregor Torsten Kozik