Marlon Nikolai Osburg-Kokenbrink, master student of Leif Skoglöf, has been studying communication design at HAW Hamburg since 2018, and received a scholarship to the Ècole des Beaux-Arts in Poitiers, France in 2021. His current style developed while trying to answer existential questions in a painterly way. Pointing to the transience and contingency of life from an early age, the abrupt loss of his mother and the responsibility of his own fatherhood shape Marlon Nikolai’s biography. Against the maxim of a life that can be planned, the open process, improvisation and chance form his understanding of existence and art.
Following the guiding principle of curiosity and artistic development, it is difficult to speak of a general way of working, since Marlon demands that every work of art reinvent itself. Despite this work ethic, however, recurring elements can be discerned in his works, such as the open, movement-rich brushstroke and the spatula sweep through color fields, which often forms the spirited beginnings of paintings. An ever-expanding collection of symbols and cryptically spun-in signs from childhood memories form themselves into clearly delineated pictorial spaces and repeat themselves rhythmically. A juxtaposition of illustrated places, encounters, and memories, such as cookie recipes from childhood (“baking cookies with the angels”), can be described as a biographical self-appropriation and visual self-exploration.
Childlike notions of the afterlife are juxtaposed with thoughtless and detached structures that seem like an ironic response to this quest that ultimately constitutes being human, yet do not promise to provide a perfect solution. Marlon Nikolai’s art emerges from this tension. Rich in contrast and large in format, expressive colors and a lively ductus optimistically reflect the hopeful search for answers.
The contrasting experiences of death and birth, ecstasy and melancholy, as well as everyday banalities and great moments determine the different styles and moods that are transported through Marlon’s visual worlds and invite the viewer to a unique dialogue. When looking at them, the feeling is conveyed that in all the chaos of human life there are, after all, regularities that mean well with us. His work with coincidences feeds on the idea that not everything always needs to be controlled and that light and colors are also hidden in the dark.