Darkness is a constant refrain in Jana Gunstheimer's consistently black-and-white drawings and aquarelles. It almost seems as if daylight can never dawn on the derelict spaces and desolate zones, reverted to nature, that are her preferred territory. Her reports tell of a shadow reality characterized by flowing transitions between fact and fiction, dream and nightmare. The murky twilight that broods over her scenes spawns an existential feeling of nowhere-ness and disorientation.
It is precisely here, where the radiant shopping malls of our consumer reality give way to a counter-world permeated by a feeling of utter desolation in the wake of an apocalyptic catastrophe, that NOVA, PORTA the "organization for overcoming risks", has found its field of activity. With impenetrable rituals, evaluation procedures and leisure activities, it offers all those who suffer from unemployment and a lack of prospects a structure that combines close group cohesion and a rigid hierarchy with a structured lack of goals and meaning. The project thus resonates with the great romantic yearning for another reality - free of the constraints of efficiency and utility - while ultimately developing it ad absurdum by showing how its promises lack consequences as it churns in circles without going anywhere.
It is a sign of the intelligence of her work that Jana Gunstheimer avoids any hint of unequivocal meaning and uni-dimensionality as she tenderly explores and encircles her - obviously invented - corporate cosmos. The same applies to her new work group. "Regulars' meeting place" creates the illusion of the Villa Hügel, the former family home of the Krupp dynasty in Essen, as the domicile of NOVA PORTA, a place where "Persons without a task" (POAs) are taught the art of etiquette and perfected form at an advanced level. The series consequently combines the aura of that peculiar place, saturated with representation and power, with the meaningless rituals of politeness performed by neophyte no-hopers in which nothing resembles itself any longer. The constant balancing act between image and invention that leads to a conflation of fiction and reality makes the work into a metaphor of all artistic activity: a creation of worlds that draw their explosive power from their potentiality rather than their factuality.
Although it is certainly grounded in sociological realities, this artistic microcosm is no critique of social policy, but rather an allegory of a sensory hallucination that consists in an invention of mutually contradictory images. To this extent, we may see Jana Gunstheimer as an "artist of possibilities" who sows adventures in the niches of everyday life that leave behind a lasting impression precisely because they destabilize themselves.
Dr. Stephan Berg, Kunstverein Hannover