In the exhibition Rescue! (If you can), Claudia Reinhardt-Teljer shows a new series of small and medium format paintings derived from press photographs that the artist has collected over the past year from newspaper and magazine sources. In earlier bodies of work, CRT herself took photographs. These series often consisted of incredibly detailed stagings of suicide scenes. These were derived principally from written descriptions, which Rein-hardt recreated as images. The process of creating these works brought the artist out of the studio to locations that she scouted and then furnished and peopled with actors and objects that brought deaths to life, in the instant of the camera’s click. In Tomb of Love- Grabkammer der Liebe (published as a book by Verbrecher Verlag in March, 2016) she portrayed scenes of group suicide that included couples like Stefan and Lotte Zweig, or Arthur Koestler and his wife Cynthia Jeffries. An earlier series, Killing Me Softly – Todesarten (published by Aviva Verlag/Berlin and Bergen National Academy of the Arts, 2004) featured reenactments of the deaths of women artists and writers, like Unica Zürn and Ingeborg Bachmann. CRT’s nearly obsessive attention to detail rendered these private acts tangible, memorializing them with remarkable vividness, but also dignity. While these works required extensive textual and historical research, they also drew the artist out of the studio and were created, principally, on sites located outside of the atelier.
In her most recent work, however, the artist has in a sense reversed her working method. Beginning in 2016, CRT started collecting a vast array of press photographs, which she initially transformed into watercolor and pencil drawings. In these images, bits of disparate current events comingled with each other on poster-sized pieces of paper. They formed a collage of images that flowed together into a ‘world landscape’ in which the artist’s outline and overlapping, liquid colors drew the media barrage into a fractured, yet unified whole: all of the images that stream into one’s daily life, or into the studio congealed. The process of drawing led from outside to inside the studio and the speed of the camera’s shutter gave way to a meticulous rendering of images of the world drawn, literally, near. CRT gradually transferred this process of slowly examining and rendering images taken by strangers into paintings on canvas. While her earlier photographic series had focused on heavily on precise details, the process of making her new paintings tends to obscure details, instead presenting them as fields of color and shape. Ironically, the slower technique of painting leads the artist to spend time gazing at and representing images that become less clear and detailed the more one tries to mine them for information. In this manner, the artist’s use of press photographs plucked from the public domain emphasize the anonymity of her subjects. The closer she comes to them with her brush, the more they resist intimate knowing; ubiquitous images of death and destruction elude our inquisitive gaze. This does not mean, however, that they necessarily become defamiliarized. On the contrary, CRT’s exuberant brush strokes and colors make the photographs oddly familiar. They could even sometimes be mistaken for family snapshots of children with their dolls, or large groups playing games. Yet when seen as a group, we recognize that they are culled from more lamentable circumstances, which we comprehend if only indirectly from daily exposure to a massive array of images of violent dislocation and disorientation. Her paintings thus balance along a taut tightrope, zooming in slowly to focus on images that are as opaque as their sources and which produce a familiarity while simultaneously reminding us of the limits of visual description to fully grasp its subjects.
Claudia Reinhardt-Teljer’s work has recently been featured in solo exhibitions at Galerie prinz george, raum für Kunst (2016) and Galerie Malopolski Ogród Sztuki (2016), as well in numerous group exhibitions including Radical Gestures- Uncanny Feminism at the Coreana Museum, Seoul, Korea (2015) and Global Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, New York (2007). Reinhardt-Teljer is also active as a curator and recently opened the exhibition EXITUS – Death, Grief and Melancholy at Galleri F 15 in Moss, Norway. The artist lives and works in Berlin and Oslo.
Text: Jan Dietrich/Sascha Rossmann
Opening: Rescue! (If you can)
kjubh Kunstverein e.V.