Inner worlds put to canvas

by Florian Steininger


Katrin Kampmann, as an artist, operates quite naturally between the poles of figuration and abstraction. In her work the graphically representational mixes with processually structured traces of painting, thus making it a hybrid that sees itself neither as purely a window to the real world nor as a self-contained construct. We would be perfectly within our rights to refer to such a work as a painted collage, a meshing, a merging of different distinct parts of a greater whole. Think in this context of the revolutionary collaging techniques of a Picasso or Braque and, evolving from these, the constructions and assemblages of the Russian constructivists or Kurt Schwitters, the Combines of Robert Rauschenberg in Pop Art or, in terms of painting, Francis Picabia’s Transparences, the latter layering heterogeneous qualities of the abstract and the representational. In addition to that, Picabia is considered to be a precursor of postmodernism whose repertoire, of course, also featured the mixed collage. David Salle, Albert Oehlen, Martin Kippenberger, Daniel Richter, to name but a few of the most important protagonists. Katrin Kampmann continues this tradition in masterly fashion. The combinatory aspect also shows in terms of a technique that combines the opaque application of acrylics with expanses of the watercolor’s transparent sheen; into this mix graphic structures and shape complexes are added by means of woodcut printing. The painting alternates between the two-dimensional – the printed surface – and depth, with figuratively representational elements – humans, animals, plants, mountains – intensifying its three-dimensional quality.


The painting conveys an air of constant unsettledness – this is no idyllic view of a landscape, but rather a vibrating scenario of a counter-world. Garishly psychedelic colors make an abstraction of the work’s realistic content, their hallucinatory reflections on the retina reminiscent of the colorism of Peter Doig or Daniel Richter whose choice of color also is beyond true-to-life. Reminiscent of their artistic outlook, photography in Kampmann’s work takes on a central role as the template whose subject matter is sensitively translated onto canvas. Intuition and the freedom of means, though of central importance, are by no means expressive. New Fauvism was a thing the 1980s: fierce gestures, violent brushwork, heavy impasto – Baselitz and his cohorts paid their respects to expressionism. From there, a new artistic realism began to develop that, while acknowledging the artistic process, tied it to photography and film. Marlene Dumas, Peter Doig, Luc Tuymans should be mentioned here. Instead of forceful, precisely directed brush strokes we find delicate pourings of watery colors the sheen of which reflects both figure and reality. Similarly, Kampmann puts a stress on watercolors in her work. Her imageries are imaginations, inner realities resolved in pure painting. In this case, for instance, the artist references Paul Keller’s 1915 novel ‘Ferien vom Ich’. The protagonist of the literary work, after a heart attack, seeks out the countryside for health treatment and, managing to free himself from his middle-class life, leaves everything behind, and begins feeling his own desire-driven ego. In May 2017, the Viennese exhibition will, for the first time, show newly created, abstract-figurative works dedicated to this subject.