- For Teachers
I am not able to understand the highlighted text in the following passage.
Fewe, Lübbe, Mehm, Moeder: the syllables are like murmurs. And just like Beckett's Krapp, Clov, Hamm and Watt, the names have a primitive ring. But these are paintings, not characters from a novel or a play. And even though their upright rectangular proportions recall domestic portraiture, there is no one there. Naming a painting is the last thing Tomma Abts does, and she takes them from a German dictionary of regional first names. This is more than a conceit.
Naming these paintings compounds the feeling that they are somehow unknowable, and not to be easily dismissed. They look back at you, much as a character might; staring you down and dragging you in, to enmesh you in their inner complications. What strange paintings they are - uncanny and disquieting, even though quietness is a large part of their appeal. You want to have some sort of human relationship with them. Yet so restrained, impersonal and inexpressive is the artist's touch, that their author might as well be absent, too. Abts' paintings are full of paradox, uncertainty, flaws and personality, which might amount to the same thing.
But they also wake you up, sharpening your perceptions, making you alert to composition and contradiction, to their spatial anomalies. Again, like characters, they are filled with deception. You might think of them as snares or traps. One glimpses things hidden just under the surface, traces of things buried under the skin.
Abts has lived in London since 1995. She is in the current British Art Show, and took part in the prestigious Carnegie International in Pittsburgh last year. She has shown at the ultra-cult Wrong Gallery in New York (it occupies nothing more than a Manhattan doorway), and at the Kunsthalle in Basel. Last week, she opened a new exhibition at Greengrassi, an unexpectedly generous, barn-like space tucked away in a south London backstreet.
Abts' paintings are small and muted. They look like they ought to belong to an earlier form of modern art, such as neo-plasticism, or to a movement in European modernism that never existed: one of those last-gasp appeals to utopian idealism, coming after cubism, futurism and constructivism, some sort of abstraction about to be nudged aside by surrealism. Even their colour looks a bit old and dimmed, as though one were looking at some of her paintings under a low-wattage light. Such colour gives me a slight sense of synaesthesia, as if one might smell its age, or its shrillness might induce a feeling of queasiness.
Circles, triangles, dynamic rhomboids and compound, curvilinear forms predominate. There's often a collision between aesthetic cleanliness and clarity, and a sort of overwrought ornamentation, like a pattern on a prewar scrap of wrapping paper, or old abstract wallpaper. There are shadows where shadows shouldn't exist, highlights where none ought to appear, fault-lines like decorative metal inlays, 20th-century geometries modelled like early renaissance drapery. Frankly, they're weird, and sometimes almost unpleasantly mesmerising.
Thanx and Regards,
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