Carolein Smit & Juliane Hundertmark
The dynamic between Carolein Smit and Juliane Hundertmark coalesces in their subversion of the ordinary, relying heavily on satire and boundary play. For Juliane Hundertmark, the quotidian is rendered as unfamiliar in her eccentric, grotesque, and almost dream-like worlds. The paintings are psychologically complex and provocative. Hundertmark's narrative scenes depict satirical portraits of humanity. The exhibited works are entitled Scenes - secretly uncanny. Grouped are mythical creatures, animals, and real figures, brought together to form unusual, theatrical, and sometimes disturbing scenes. Solid bodies morph into outlined forms which allude to the figure's alter-ego or subconscious musings. Comic characters and stereotypes are illustrated, often based on historical and religious themes, such as The Last Supper. Removed from their original context, the protagonists become contemporaries, grounded in irony. The artist indicates her work's starting point, which she names "the human flaw". Hundertmark’s newest body of work points to metanarratives such as man's weakness, the height of inability to fall, and the abyss of human existence. Each work traverses humanity's dark side, as the artist paints with genuine pathos by compositionally placing strange fellows in strange relationships. The faces of the various beings look mockingly, or at least self-confidently, at the viewer, thereby triggering curiosity and a little uncertainty within. The spectator may decide that they’re missing something that the depicted group has long recognized. There is an anthropomorphic aura in the artist’s relation of the figurative elements to certain social critiques. This weight of meaning is further emboldened by the artist’s use of dark and ‘romantic’ colours. Slightly ominous in nature, these paintings complement Carolein Smit’s frighteningly detailed pieces that are painful, fragile, unfulfilled, and sometimes dangerous.
A similarity lies in the complexity of Smit’s examinations of life. Her sculptures bring back memories of precious Meissen porcelain and yet, simultaneously the artist’s intention is not to solely conjure a loving nostalgia. Overexuberance buttresses the visual language in Smit’s borrowed themes relating to biblical theology, temporality, vanitas, and classical mythology – a large Herculean figure a looming character in this exhibition. The artist states that “the presence and certainty of death make living in the now worthwhile, a kind of Memento Mori – remember to die.” Skeletal imagery influenced by ‘Wendekopf’ (ivory sculptures which are half human and half skeleton) is expressive of an awe for death, as well as a lust for life. Anatomy, both human and animal, stands as a search point for the artist in finding raw and confrontational explanations for being. The link between mysticism, science, and man’s introspection is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for Smit. The pieces and their startling imagery are codified to reflect thematic nuances, symbolism and critique following hand-in-hand. Although some of the pieces are charming in nature due to their Baroque-like aesthetics, brought to the fore are tensions of emotional dilemmas, trying to separate right from wrong. For Smit, the duality of life is an active question that has withstood the test of time, examining unattractive subjects through an attractive lens. By maximizing the beauty of the object, it becomes increasingly difficult to look beyond the imagery.
Irony is the red thread in this exhibition as CREATURES! proposes a heightening of the subconsciousness and the psyche. Tension and conflict underpin the two mediums, inviting the viewer to examine a complicated knot of conflicting messages. For Hundertmark, a mode of messaging is directly integrated through her use of language as an artistic element – the titles are incorporated into each painting and do not represent an inscription. However, a sense of melodrama is subverted through the artists’ use of the theatrical, and a certain element of humorousness. For Smit, beauty turns into overkill and love becomes hate as she encourages a viewer’s onlook to contain both admiration and disgust, whereas Hundertmark’s narratives are wonderfully balanced by fast and brilliant paintwork creating a world that is equal in beauty as to its strangeness. There is a united element of the surreal as the handsome visuals explore a sort of dark humour and carry an essence of German expressionism in the depicted provocative alter-realities. Human contrariety is called into question through these probing artistic masterpieces. The curated display suggests order and security, while at the same time warning us of a natural and internal chaos that teeters on a balance beam.
Carolein Smit (NL, 1960)
Animal life, nature, religion, mortality and mythical characters play a large role in Carolein’s Smit oeuvre. In her work, the dilemmas between chaos and order exist as a complicated knot of conflicting messages. The sculptures evoke the turning-point where seriousness becomes melodramatic, beauty turns into overkill and love becomes hate.
The subjects render a subtle balance between irritation and intrigue. Smit’s images are about that emotional short circuit; about the tension between guilt and innocence, power and impotence, life and death. About our attempts to clearly separate pole and opposite pole while almost everything is born out of clumsiness, chance and misunderstanding. We now live in a world that has many beautiful but also very difficult sides.
The charming work of Carolein Smit is easy on the eyes. She uses a visual language that alludes to cabinets of curiosities; collection of scientific, religious, anatomical studies. These collections are for her, an attempt to explain mysterious phenomena, why is there life and where do we come from? They challenge the normative ways of being in the world. In their deviations, they classify the weird, the rare, to maintain the scientific order and security. At the same time, the sculptures warn of the chaos that will arise as soon if the proposed order is released. They contain images that both frighten and ward off fear, a beautiful ambivalence.
Juliane Hundertmark (D, 1970)
Award winning artist Juliane Hundertmark was born in Mainz in 1971 and lives in Berlin, Germany. She was commended for her “unique style unlike any other painters working today” by Barbara Bloemink, curator of the Guggenheim Museums
Juliane Hundertmark is one of Berlin’s most creative and inventive painters. In her work, the quotidian is rendered as unfamiliar in dream-like worlds. The paintings are psychologically complex and provocative. Hundertmarks narrative scenes depict satirical portraits of humanity. Her figures too, are not what they seem. Solid bodies morph into outlined forms that allude to the figures alter-egos or subconscious musings.
Hundertmark paints mythical and rebellious characters from her imaginary world, brought together to form theatrical and disturbing scenes. Many of the characters in her paintings refer to historical and religious events. Hundermark approaches her work with confidence and a touch of genuine phatos. Her narratives are beautifully balanced by fast and brilliant paintwork, which she combines with small sections of collage, to create a world that is equal in beauty to its strangeness.
Saturday 3 June - Saturday 8 July 2023
For an overview of the available works click HERE