The benefit of doubt


Matèria is pleased to present The benefit of doubt, the first solo exhibition at the gallery by Joachim Lenz — opening on May 18 — curated by Akiko Bernhöft.

Joachim Lenz, born in 1981, trained at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich with Sean Scully and Günther Förg, places the complex pleasure of the act of painting at the center of his practice. It’s through this process that Lenz reflects on matter as an element that lends meaning to the artwork: by applying multiple layers of paint on a canvas and often overlapping previously  finished motifs, the artist gives the impression that the objects in the painting have been fixed to the pictorial surface in a particular way or have formed directly out of it. The surface – made up of flat and fragmented areas and in some cases simple horizon lines that vaguely suggest the space of an environment – adds an atmosphere of unusual suspension to the depiction of the unfolding of events.

Indeed, the imagery in Lenz’s work appears whimsical and unsettling. We are faced with everyday and familiar objects, often humanized, performing strange actions. Banana peels sinking into the abyss, abandoned cigarettes burning, piles of hands, a single extended bare foot and a humanoid tree stump smoking a cigarette. These are the figures that inhabit his paintings; inert and introverted, whilst also bored and defiant. 

The protagonists dash with enthusiasm, surrender to gravity, crawl, stretch upwards, or remain motionless. Their bodies oscillate between autonomy and external determination, between agility and indolence, or maintain a state of rest projecting an unsettling appearance. Joachim Lenz’s paintings are permeated with suspended and indefinable atmospheres, alluding to a self-destructive condition, in a dialogue between paradox, humor and catastrophe. 

Irony and paradox manifest when the artist engages with art history through the representation of still lifes, garlands, heaps and piles of hands. Once icons of art history – benedictory, generative, and laden with meaning – the hands depicted by Lenz – stripped of the rest of the body, multiplied abundantly – lie solemnly, resigned to their fate in a realm of dissociation.

As the curator Akiko Bernhöft writes in the text accompanying the exhibition: “As strikingly naturalistic as Joachim Lenz’s images may be, they always head towards an intersection between the familiar and the unreal. They open up a space that challenges our seemingly familiar visual experiences, sometimes sharply cynical and sometimes with an ironic wink. Why is it worth distancing oneself from reality in this way? Because, unlike a mere reproduction of reality, these images express a psychological constitution of the world, with all its absurdities, states of waiting, and steadfast dwelling within oneself. Smoking, lying down, stretching, falling.”


Joachim Lenz (1981, Germany) lives and works in Berlin. He studied painting at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich with Sean Scully and Günther Förg where he graduated in 2009. In 2004 and 2005 he studied at the Facultad de Bellas Artes of the Universidad Complutense, Madrid. His work is represented in international private collections. The artist has taken part in numerous group exhibitions, most recently at the Credo Bonum Gallery (Sofia, 2023), Obscura Gallery (Seoul, 2022) and at Atelierhof Kreuzberg (Berlin, 2022). Solo presentations of his work were held at the the One Kids Museum (Seoul, 2024); at Pförtnerhaus Off Space (Freiburg, 2024); and at Matèria (Rome, 2022).


The benefit of doubt
18 May, 24
12 Jul, 24
Joachim Lenz
Akiko Bernhöft
Via dei Latini 27, Rome
Roberto Apa