Magazine article Artforum International

Ellen Gronemeyer: Galerie Karin Guenther

Magazine article Artforum International

Ellen Gronemeyer: Galerie Karin Guenther

Article excerpt

Berlin-based artist Ellen Gronemeyer doesn't often show her paintings. But that's for good reason: Her pictures take time. She always works them over intensively, and her motifs emerge through this process. The small-format canvases in her recent show, "CDU/CSU" (named for the German center-right political faction), reveal that Gronemeyer, who is constantly developing and refining her artistic techniques, has brought her painting to a high level of compositional density. She presented just eight paintings and one drawing. Some are still, tight-lipped portraits; some retain a more cartoonlike or caricatural mode; and some are near abstractions in which a face can just barely be glimpsed. Portraiture has occupied Gronemeyer for years; again and again, always in different ways, she makes it an occasion to play at figuration within abstraction, combining and merging the two. The way she works human faces out of the material substance of the paint itself, taking her depictions to the point of deformation, often touches on primal and existential themes. Her work might remind you of Jean Fautrier, for example (especially his "Otages" [Hostages], 1942-45), Georges Rouault, or Jean Dubuffet.

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Gronemeyer's pictures clearly display certain art brut attributes, but everything rough and raw about them is also sophisticated and stylized, sometimes bearing the mark of ironic distance. The surfaces of the paintings, which are built up in a tight weave of countless fine brushstrokes, often darkly encrusted, conceal meticulously calibrated variegations of color--an intensity that immediately strikes the eye but only gradually reveals its full complexity. With often delicate pastel shadings and sudden bright specks of color, Gronemeyer purposefully smuggles a sense of artificiality into the archaism of her pictures, and this makes them utterly contemporary. …

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