From 11.12.2004 to 22.01.2005
Il tema del corpo come diaframma tra interiorità ed esteriorità dell’individuo rispetto alla società è interpretato in questa mostra alla Gas Art Gallery da due artiste austriache, Ulrike Lienbacher ed Eva Schlegel, che pur nell’utilizzo di media differenti, dimostrano sensibilità e ricerca tematica affini.
Ulrike Lienbacher realizza, matita su carta, segni netti, puliti che, nel descrivere gestualità femminili, si affiancano in modo sottilmente ambiguo a sculture in resina dalle forme sinuose e evocative. Lienbacher analizza la figura femminile in relazione al concetto di pulizia e igiene, metafore di ordine, in alternanza a quello di sporcizia, metafora di disordine. L’ordine e il disordine si avvicendano e diventano regole di comportamento, codici sociali non scritti che il corpo esprime e interpreta. Nel quotidiano l’aspettativa di ordine e controllo viene spesso delusa. I chiari riferimenti erotici di numerosi disegni dell’artista evocano la possibilità di eludere tale ansia di fallimento e perdita di controllo con una promessa che può assumere i contorni della piacevolezza.
Eva Schlegel, attraverso il mezzo fotografico, analizza figure femminili colte dalle copertine di riviste e quotidiani o da frames televisivi. Esili silhouettes, dai contorni sfocati, acquistano significato nell’annullamento dell’estetica corporea, così da permettere allo spettatore di immaginare un’interiorità più profonda. Dalle figure intere si passa, in un processo analitico, al ritratto e alle figure in negativo, questi ultimi trattati con una tecnica fotografica che rivela una evidente sensibilità pittorica. Il sovradimensionamento delle figure si alterna così alla particolarità del ritratto e all’effetto drammatico e poetico del negativo, quasi nella volontà di cogliere significati e chiavi di lettura sempre più intime e diversificate.
Nei lavori delle due artiste emerge pertanto una ricerca che tenta di raccontare per immagini, linee e forme l’inesplicabile, il non detto: pensieri, pulsioni, percorsi emotivi e cerebrali che spesso, e in modo privilegiato, il corpo femminile riesce invece ad animare, in qualche modo a concretizzare.
In this exhibition held at Gas Art Gallery, two Austrian artists, Ulrike Lienbacher and Eva Schlegel deal with the theme of the body as a diaphragm between the inner and the outer dimension of individuals in their relationship with society.
Although using different media, both artists show a similar sensitivity and an interest for similar themes. In her pencil on paper works, Ulrike Lienbacher draws neat, precise signs that hint at women’s gestural expressiveness and subtly, ambiguously play with serpentine-shaped, evocative resin sculptures. Lienbacher analyses the female figure in its relationship with the notion of cleanness and hygiene, as metaphors of order, alternating them with dirt and untidiness as metaphors of disorder or lack of order. Order and disorder alternate and become rules for behavior, unwritten social codes expressed and interpreted by the body.
In everyday life we have expectations about order and control that are often let down. The openly erotic references contained in many of the artist’s drawings evoke a scenario where this failure anxiety and loss of control can be avoided through a promise that can also have pleasant aspects.
Using photography, Eva Schlegel analyses female figures taken from magazine and newspaper covers or from TV frames. These sleek silhouettes, with their blurred outlines, get their meaning from the annihilation of the esthetic of the body, which allows the spectator to imagine a deeper inner world. The next step in this analytical process is the shift from whole figure to portrait and negative figure, the latter being treated with a photographic technique that clearly reveals a painterly sensitivity. Thus oversized figures alternate with the peculiarity of portraits and the dramatic, poetic effect of the negative, as if the artist wanted to capture new meanings, ever-changing, intimate reading keys. The work of both artists therefore bears witness to an artistic research that tries to narrate – through images, lines and forms – the unexplainable, the unsaid: thoughts, drives, emotional and brain patterns.
The female body is often the privileged channel through which these patterns can come alive and somehow get materialized.
On the two floors of this exhibition, held at the Gas Art Gallery in Turin, the Italian public will be confronted with two major tends of Austrian contemporary art, both of them strongly tied to the body – this has a long tradition -, but using different media strategies. Ulrike Lienbacher’s central theme is the pure, autonomous drawing, as well as the object, which is often show in serial, slightly differentiated forms. Eva Schlegel uses photography; she takes blurred, unclear pictures – portraits, figures but also erotic drawings – and inserts them into dark enamel layers or applies them onto glass slabs. Her favorite theme is perception, the registering of an image and its identification, the deciphering of forms – also of texts that have been made unreadable. Observers are faced with glass barriers, hiding vague forms that slowly take shape, or they try hard to filter the image’s message as it emerges from the enamel layers. The motives are drawn from a private reservoir of images, anonymous depictions the artist perceives as mysterious, as well as from her own depictions of friends and acquaintances. Schlegel contrasts the overflow of explicit images on TV or on the outskirts of our cities, in newspapers or magazines, with her open, multilayered semantic schemes. A whole series of contemporary artists, ranging from Jacobson to Richter, have confronted themselves with the theme of the blurred photographic image, starting from very different assumptions and motivations. As for Schlegel, she is not satisfied with the painterly fascination of blurredness. What she wants to achieve is the creation of a feeling of irritation, the experience of openness and indetermination, which turns out to be an essential experience not only for Schlegel, but for both artists. For Ulrike Lienbacher, too, apparently harmless things, such as instructions for washing or sculptural hair designs, or even seed-like polyester cushions with cosmetic colors can turn into an ambiguous experience. In her work she combines differently-sized drawings that embrace, mostly in a linear fashion, the contours of the body and of objects, to form a series of drawings that acquire a narrative character. These drawings look like instructions for use of cosmetics and body care products. They deal with the dialectic relationship between clean and dirty, sometimes with strong erotic undertones. Even with objects, she always tries to throw a bridge across other, bodyrelated areas, and her works, be they objects or drawings, really thrive upon this underground tension produced by a constructed ambivalence. In this construction, Lienbacher avoids focusing on one specific style, resorting instead to the anonymity of stylized objects and drawings.
Prof. Peter Weiermair Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna
Ulrike Lienbacher statement
The body is a central theme in my works, as the carrier of both an individual and a sociocultural story. The way a society deals with the body is an indicator of its values. The discourse on hygiene and health; the relationship with untidiness and cleanliness; the cult of fitness and the wellness craze that have exploded with the growth of the European tourism industry; these are all reference points that I find very interesting in this context. Cleanliness is order, whereas untidiness is associated with disorder and danger: these are social norms that tell individuals what is valuable and what is considered unworthy.
In my drawings I reiterate the process of dirtying and cleaning, and these actions are somehow forced. The figures rub and dry themselves; they wipe, scrub and towel the paper surface of the drawing as a substitute for the body. The hair is a symbolically laden fragment of the bodily sphere and of femininity, and I always come back to it – be it an accurate, artful hairdo or a freely falling hair, the carefully crafted exemplary model or the letting yourself go, the falling to pieces, the flowing away. Loss of control is related to failure anxiety. But the drawings also evoke a very possible scenario where this loss of control and this losing yourself could also bring pleasure. Hence the erotic component of several of my drawings.
The theme of discipline and control can also be detected in my working method. In the plastic works it is evident in the impeccable surfaces, the regular forms and seriality, in the drawings it shows in the precision of the stroke and the finely elaborated details.
In my works I try to strike a balance between openness and a clearly defined content. The wall installations are made up of several drawings which can sometimes be hung close to each other, with their borders touching, other times they can be arranged more freely, but always in such a way as to further stimulate associative thinking. The observer’s look jumps from one point of the wall to the other, seeking new connections, turning back or taking another path.
Eva Schlegel statement
Polarities, appearance and disappearance, transparency and materiality, image and object, abstraction and reality: these are Eva Schlegel’s themes, the leit-motiv that runs through her whole work. Schlegel tries to confront painting in a post-medialized world, and she does this without even touching a brush. She comes up with her own rules of the game, and manipulates reality by means of visual supports, until the real world turns into little more than a surrogate of itself. (B. Huck)
In her most recent works, consisting of oversized feminine portraits, the theme is the idealization of media images in our society. These portraits are different in style, larger than life and, in their blurredness, they are reduced to stereotypes; yet they are almost impossible to avoid or escape, as they retain all the seductiveness of a body unveiled.
W.J.T. Mitchell refers to this critical perspective on the image as pictorial turn. Facing the global dominance of visual media, the “pictorial turn tries to rediscover the image postlinguistically and post-semiotically, as the complex interaction between visibility, technical apparatus, institutions, discourse, body and forms of representation.“1
These are the questions surrounding the image, and the relationship of the observer to the image. ”The reflection on separation and disintegration, on shadows without a body and bodies without shadows, lies at the very heart of the discourse on painting and on the practice of painting (just think of the definitions that have been used since the Renaissance: ombra, mezz’ombra, sbattimento, shadow, half shadow, projected shadow)” .2
The play of shadows, the tearing of shadows, for a long time a social pastime and an exercise in artistic virtuosity, a form of portrait, a body, a face, made again recognizable simply from their outline (not from their traits, wrinkles or look), a sort of portrait art, a physiognomy preceding the revolution of photography. According to Plinius, a young lady invented it in ancient Greece. And, before being named after Monsieur Silhouette, it was simply called shadow or shadow portrait. 3
(Elisabeth Schlebrügge in Wolken Schatten, Eva Schlegel, 2000)
1 Silvia Eiblmayr, Nachbilder im Auge/ Nachbilder im Kopf – Eva Schlegels inszenierte Brüche zwischen Wahrnehmung und Objekt .
2 Ernst Gombrich, Shadows, The Depiction of Shadows in Western Art, London, 1995. 3 See also Mario Praz, Silhouetten, in Mario Praz, Der Garten der Erinnerung, Essays, Bd. 1, Frankfurt 1994.