4 APRIL – 12 MAY 2006
Christina Niederberger’s is a singular practice which, although stylistically quite diverse, shares a conceptual unity in its investigation into the nature of perceptive reality. So whether she is painting semi-abstract discs or roses, or chandeliers in varnish and powdered glass, or even cutting cartoon animals into fur, the work is primarily concerned with the limits of the flat picture surface and its two-dimensional reality.
Paintings like Grauzone and Landscape after Corot are composed of multicoloured discs and seem to hover between abstraction and figuration. But using the simple device of these discs uncovers a field of narrative possibilities as the artist sets up a dialogue that invokes depth and emotion, moving from elegant sparseness to kitsch overkill. Initial allusions to abstract painting fade as the viewer realises how each canvas is loaded with academic art historical references.
The Chandelier series again explore abstraction and figuration, with the added tension of beauty versus vulgarity. Delicately painted, each chandelier appears to hover on the canvas, emerging as the light hits the powdered glass in the paint. Forcing the viewer to adopt a suitable vantage point, these paintings dissolve the chandelier into its surroundings, conflating the foreground and background on the picture plane. The latest of the series, painted in varnish on clear perspex, achieve a further dissolution as the depicted image is activated by light, appearing as shadow on the wall behind. Chandelier and painting, both elite commodities, are effectively rendered immaterial.
With her fur ‘paintings’, Christina Niederberger creates objects that invoke a world of innocence, fantasy and comfort. But just as Mike Kelley imbues cuddly toys with an air of menace, so her apparently innocent cartoon cats, deer and monkeys hint at underlying disquiet. Cut and combed into fake fur, they appear as soft reliefs that encourage touch, but their manufacture exposes their fragility: they could almost be brushed out.
Chinese Dancing after Brice Marden is the artist’s response to abstraction and its refutation of narrative content. Lifted directly from Marden’s work, Niederberger subverts the language of modernism by giving the composition a depth the original did not possess. The abstract flatness is further thwarted by the yellow and red roses which blossom like a tumour of healthy kitsch on the rigorous purity of abstract expressionism. Once again the artist casts the picture plane as a site of homage to the power of narrative fantasy.
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Saturdays 11am – 5pm, Thursdays until .