Strolling through the supermarket, vegetables, fruits, meat as well as fish – all kinds of food are conveniently presented, processed, wrapped and packed for consumers’ daily grocery shopping. Jens Rausch looks at one item in particular with his paintings of different species of fish which are freshly wrapped in plastic and are presented separately to be selected by the consumers. The paintings are impaled in object frames, speared with actual toothpicks, which evokes references of an arrangement of a collection of butterflies. But where we consider butterflies as sweet and beautiful animals, these fish stare at us rather reproachfully. In the supermarkets, meat is mostly presented in a ready cut and processed way far away from the actual appearance of an animal, whereas fish can be bought as a whole. Even though they are already dead, with their eyes open they look more alive than a piece of steak.
With his series called ‘fish will survive…’ Rausch contrasts two opposing pools of the alleged modern human being. On the one hand, the consumer is removed from nature and can only experience consumption of commodities in a supermarket and on the other hand there is still this archaic primary instinct of hunting for one’s prey in each of us. Grocery shopping in a supermarket can nowadays be considered as a way of hunting for food but as an ordinary consumer we are disconnected with the act of killing and the actual labour that is involved in the preparation of freshly wrapped fish. Rausch’s work is positioned between these two pools of the natural hunting instinct and the alienation of today’s modern society from nature.
The depiction of food and dead animals has a long history in fine arts with a heyday of still-life scenes in the 17th century in the Netherlands. Rausch’s paintings can be seen as a contemporary continuation of this tradition. The presentation of the dead fish wrapped in plastic feels normal to us, we are used to seeing and buying fish this way. The painted plastic surface gives the product a fresh and shiny touch. Additionally, this quality of light reflection is enhanced due to the paintings’ presentation behind the real glass of the frames. This way the viewer can see himself in the work and self-reflection becomes part of the art work. ‘Fish will survive…’ mirrors our own delusion of what nature and what reality is.
In line with this series Jens Rausch’s overall artistic practice critically investigates nowadays consumption and handling of natural resources, he finds motives in the forest as well as in the supermarket. Natural cycles of decay and compost, their processes and our mostly unsuccessful attempts of their artificial preservation drive the art of Jens Rausch. He is interested in the anthropological observation of the modern human being, his archaic internal behaviour as well as the self-effectiveness of basic instincts.