November 2, 2015

Svenja Deininger: Shape and Surface

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, 90 1/2 x 59 in. 

Shapes which nod towards geometry, but are not bound by it, are strongly or subtly colored: rhythms flow and jump.

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, detail

Svenja Deininger's exhibition "Untitled/Head" at Marianne Boesky is a deeply satisfying one: there is a sense of exploration, of expanding ideas; there is also a wonderful sensitivity to the weights of color and shape. Each of 12 paintings in this show, large or small, has beautifully realized surfaces: they are smooth and glassy, or revealing of the canvas beneath the color, or richly textured.

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, 90 1/2 x 59 in. 

The work is all from 2015, and untitled. I learned from the gallery press release that with the title of the show the artist tips her hat to Philip Guston's paintings from the late 1960s, when he was transitioning from abstraction to figuration. The painting above has a balance between the density of shapes––with some having a feel of transparency––and the pale area to the lower right; somehow that light, with two additional small bands, supports the rest of the painting. Some of the works have thin bordering lines, calling attention to the boundaries of the image. Although there's that reference to Guston's figurative works, for me the paintings remain resolutely non-referential.

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, detail

Another fascinating quality that Deininger brings to her paintings is that of low relief, having shapes meet at different levels, and with great clarity. This isn't always evident unless we walk up to the painting and look at it closely, and our attention is richly rewarded.

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, 70 3/4 x 51 1/8 in. 

This subtly colored painting is primarily a relief....

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, detail

....with building layers of paint or primer creating the form. I love seeing the care and precision which Deininger brings to her work.

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, 90 1/2 x 59 in.

Here is another compositional idea: a simple curved shape, almost disappearing at its top edge, bounded by a thick black line and beside whitish shapes. (The mustard yellow is a flat color; the variation in the photo is because of the lighting, and my not-perfect photography; here's a link to the gallery photo.)

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, detail

Like the red area in the first painting pictured, the yellow reveals the texture of the canvas. Pointing to the raw canvas makes us more aware of the process of making a painting, its beginnings, its magical illusions.

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, 90 1/2 x 59 in.

A neutral colored shape outlined in gold floats above a blue-ish ground, a ground that is very much a textile.

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas,  detail

We all know that many paintings are made on canvas, but it is usually covered over; it's a convenient, light, and durable surface that accepts gesso and paint well. Here, Deininger reminds us that canvas is indeed a textile, with its own nature, different from that of paint.

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 18 1/2 in.

Lastly, two smaller paintings, one that is shaped, pushing off into the space around it. The black shape at the center is thickly textured, with a volcanic feel. The off kilter edges keep the piece in tension, and don't allow it to settle calmly into balance....

Untitled, 2015; oil on canvas, 19 5/8 x 15 3/4 in. 

....while this painting has a clear contrast between the linear edges at top and the more organic shape below, bringing them into an equilibrium which is enhanced by the quieter colors. There is so much invention and liveliness in this show that I look forward to seeing more from this young (41 is young to me) Viennese painter.

No comments:

Post a Comment