In CDU/CSU, Ellen Gronemeyer’s second solo exhibition at Karin Günther, the artist presents a series of new paintings, investigating in the genre of portrait. Figures are drawn on the medium size, pastose tableaux, their black outlines render visible the features of human faces, creatures with bright, clear eyes, which are often gazing at the spectator. Their faces are shifting into becoming open annotations, which are being painted with numerous intensely coloured brush strokes. Colour here seems to bring form out of joint, humanity seems to bend over into its other. In Gronemeyer’s portraits it extends into the creatural.
Figuration, implied by the genre itself as much as by the fact that Gronemeyer’s paintings of the last years have mostly featured a recognizable set of human features, in her new works is no longer clearly strictly opposed to abstraction. Abstraction seems to have become an undercurrent of Gronemeyer’s paintings, trying to rise to the surface. The formless, the unknown and the abnorm, which has been forced to exist at the fringes of society in the history of the European bourgeoisie, here seems to aim for centre stage. Figuration itself becomes perceivable as an abstraction, as the violent exclusion of normativities’ incommensurabilities. Gronemeyer’s paintings are not offering any point of visual fixation to their viewer but instead include him into witnessing a process. This process, in which the painterly conception of the image delineates the synthesis of a range of different cultural figures, their appearances in the past and present mass media, in the ghost stories of the 19th century, the surreal monsters of the beginning 20th or the cyborgs of today, recognizes otherness in the margins of the known.
In Gronemeyer’s artistic investigations into the phantasms, the exotisms and the productions of otherness in the European tradition of novels and travel literature, the portrait, the classical form of representation of past and present political powers in Europe, serves as a focal point. It is this focal point, which begins to shift within Gronemeyer’s paintings. Her almost comic-like lines in combination with the vantage points she introduces, give an excessively frontal perspective on the heads, while the use of colour in Gronemeyer’s works suggests a sensuality, which is as remote from reality as it is from the current tastes of aesthetization.
It is specifically her use of colour, which in Gronemeyer’s works seems to perform an emancipated function within the picture frame. Colours are introduced as materials rather than as surfaces and stage a palette of contrasts within the painting, letting its figurations slide out of their unambiguousness. In CDU/CSU the genre of portrait returns as a friendly monstrosity, which turns its back onto its representational functions.
Kerstin Stakemeier, 2011