5.2. – 18.4.2022
Zentrum für Aktuelle Kunst, Gallery upper floor
The four painters in the exhibition Figure. No. Figure. X. position their works on the threshold between figuration, structure, systematics and colour field.
Their works unfold a field of contemporary painting as rich in contradictions as it is in relationships and is equally classical and experimental. Drawing on various traditions such as Abstract Expressionism, Concrete Art or the sometimes different strands of painting strategies in East and West Germany, the four artists create a broad span of tension in their work series that reveals fascinating comparisons, correspondences and analogies, but also differing conceptions in the use of motifs and colouring.
Verena Schirz-Jahn’s Concrete Painting-related works; the atmospherically dense colour gradients of A. Paola Neumann; the intensively coloured often large-format figuration of Anja Billing, the structure-exploring; relatively calm images and objects of Salome Haettenschweiler: all engage with the traditions of 20th-century painting and its main lines of development.
What connects them all is the constant exploration of painterly freedom within specific coordinate systems, which characterises these four artists and which they continue in very contemporary adaptations. While some of the exhibited works clearly show their related references, others indicate only an indirect connection.
Anja Billing‘s painting “(…) is also about the physical presence, the force that inscribes itself into the painting, drives the process forward and makes us forget the calculated procedure again and again. The American abstract expressionists pushed the self-activity of painting to its limits. In this self-forgetfulness, the subject status is completely transferred to the painting. But Anja Billing does not go that far. (…) The image as a basic anthropological constant with its cultural-historical and mythical dimensions is too meaningful for that. She is concerned with the depiction of the world, which in all its complexity also swirls around the individual.” (Susanne Greinke)
The often monochrome paintings and sculptures by Salome Haettenschweiler are quite different. They appear to be characterised by “(…) sharply contoured pure forms. Only gradually does the scrutinising eye, which probes or tentatively moves around the surfaces, begin to perceive blurs, curves and softnesses, and the seemingly solid shapes begin to dissolve, as do the certainties about their clarity and essentiality.” (Brigitte Hammer) An important point of reference for the artist is always American Abstract Expressionism, as represented above all by artists such as Cy Twombly.
In her painting, A. Paola Neumann takes up the traditions of 1930s Concrete Art, such as those found in, for example, George Vantongerloo or Max Bill. Although references to the colour field painting of Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman are obvious, A. Paola Neumann goes far beyond focusing on the individual image but works in extensive series of works. “(…) In recent years my paintings have become increasingly lighter and the colouring more diffuse. The pictorial space is increasingly losing its definiteness. At the same time, the white is by no means the background on which something takes place, but it develops its own mass and luminosity, which connects it with the other colours and raises it a level. Thus, it is unclear whether something appears or disappears and how far the pictorial space extends beyond the actual format.” (A. Paola Neumann)
Verena Schirz-Jahn‘s works are as close to Concrete Art as they are distant from it. She works with elemental geometric forms in a strict system of surfaces and rhythms. And she uses – especially in the canvas paintings – a rather synthetic, artificial colouration. This chromaticity, however, sometimes eludes rigour through mixing and glaze-like application, even to the point of visible traces of the painting process, especially in the works on paper. Here, another aspect comes into play: Verena Schirz-Jahn’s “(…) series of experiments begin with studies on paper and an intuitively determined starting position, which is then subjected to systematic interventions and mixing processes. Nevertheless, she describes her colour investigations as an open system that leaves room for chance. She thus transcends the self-definition of concrete positions in art.” (Annette Jahnhorst)