FÜRCHTE DICH NICHT (FEAR NOT) IS THE TITLE OF A LARGE-FORMAT OIL PAINTING. YET FEELING FEAR IS INEVITABLE. VIEWERS ARE FEARFUL OF THE FEMALE BODY WHICH ERUPTS FORCEFULLY FROM EVERY PAINTING, OF FAT, THAT GLOSSY MOUNTAIN OF FLESH, OF THE SHEER PHYSICALITY, THE MERCILESS GAZE ACROSS EVERYTHING. BUT YOU CAN’T TURN AWAY FROM THE GAZE. YOU CAN’T STOP YOURSELF FROM LOOKING. THE GAZE FULL OF DESIRE ON THE WOMAN.
What helps viewers when facing fear? Rationalising, analysing, interpreting it? Sure. Rolf Ohst has painted desire. A sentiment which would escape the confines of a small format, hence the need to resort to gargantuan ones. The ‘self-guzzling of the world’ is symbolised by fat in our western society. A repulsive, disgusting, and alluring element. We’re all greedy and, maybe, especially to women who feel the imposition of a slim diktat, greed is a sort of social bodice, a cocoon to mask greed. Fat is given free rein in Rolf Ohst’s works.
He wants to awaken certain emotions, shock, terrify, shake, bring joy and stimulate his viewers.
He spares nothing and doesn’t simply observe from the sidelines. Moreover, he doesn’t give the viewer any say on the matter either. They tremble. Like the trembling rolls of fat on his models who are, without exception, all women. Extremely feminine. Wide hips, undulating breasts, heavy calves, fat stomachs. To Ohst they’re an allegory of motherhood, life, and fertility. His obsessive gaze on those feminine details is his inspiration; and not only for artistic purposes. But with his art he wants to stand up for women – and stand against the oppression of femininity. Against its exploitation and confinement. His stance is clear as day in Earth, a work depicting Mother Earth: forced to her knees in a slag-heap, ensconced in a laughable building and ready to be dismantled by workers and soldiers. On the pages of the altar, viewers can glimpse meteorites, spermatozoa for our planets, harbingers of life. If you close the wings, Earth looms, an apocalyptic scene from an astronaut’s perspective.
All this is produced with the skill of the masters of old. The student of Hausner, Rolf Ohst, has his feet firmly planted on the ground. Both in terms of form and content. As a painter and sculptor. His staged paintings nod to the fathers of painting itself, masters the likes of Botticelli, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Corinth and many more. With his baroque clouds, the dark roiling ocean, and the lively nudes he moves on what is undoubtedly the modern classic – which he reshapes into impressive pieces with his critical interpretation of our modern times and society. There’s more: his works are bursting with humour. However, humour doesn’t always transpire in all his paintings. His Vater Unser (Our Father) with a fat woman on a cross, shocks viewers. It may be interesting for psychoanalysts, among others, to posit why such a vision creates a more drastic reaction and awakens a stronger emotion than that of Jesus on the cross. Rolf Ohst explains his intention: femininity is pinned to the cross. Everywhere. At all times. By all religions.
Rolf Ohst manages to unite all those facets of being a woman in his paintings: accusations, libido, happiness, and fights. Opposites like sense, beauty, and disgust come together in his works of art, becoming impossible to forget. Why? Because rationalising, analysing, and interpreting alone do not help. Because of those blasted goddamn emotions… The fear of femininity – the fear of letting ‘things go out of hand’ – the fear of letting go – the fear of not being loved – fear, fear, fear. Fear not is the name of the painting, which is reminiscent of Botticelli‘s The Birth of Venus. And one does not know if the title refers to the women in the oil painting or to the viewers, simulacra made of flesh and blood. His titles are just as deeply layered with meaning as the contentof his paintings. It’s completely intentional. Rolf Ohst wants to shock. He wants ‘for something to move – in the head, heart, or anywhere else.’ And of course, how could we even doubt it, every picture if a self-portrait. It depicts his outrage, his love, fears, behaviour, emotions, and thoughts. Just like every other artist, he always only paints a part of himself.