Robert Elfgen (b. in 1972 in Wesseling am Rhein, Germany, lives and works in Cologne) creates paintings, collages, sculptures and installations that are affected by an associative handling of the materials he uses. Drawing upon the symbolic power of imagery, he creates unstable allegories that challenge the fixed nature of representation. For seemingly surrealistic collages, Elfgen combines found and reworked copies of photographs, fabrics, and paintings, developing visual interpretations of everyday life. In these stage-like constellations, humans and their contexts appear to be focused on the systems and rituals that constitute society. At no time do these intimate settings appear unambiguous, nor are they static: Elfgen’s peculiar and engaging language ensures that they remain floating; a disconcerting quality that evokes instability and separation.
Elfgen’s technically innovative bricolage-art is of course not devoid of art-historical reference. His associative treatment of ‘objets trouvés’ recalls Marcel Duchamp; his strict conceptual logic is reminiscent of Rosemarie Trockel, who taught his master class. Clear allusions to the Romantic pictorial language of painters such as William Turner or Caspar David Friedrich, along with traces of a laconicism from Surrealism and Pop Art can also be identified in his work. All this notwithstanding, Elfgen’s artisanal investigations have lead him to achieve something attained by only a few artists –the creation of an utterly personal, unique cosmos. This cosmos opens up a series of spaces that demand biographical, phenomenological, and psychoanalytical interpretations. It is a cosmos in which nature and civilization merge into each other: one which enables the viewer to see the world in a new and subtle manner.