opening thu 9 jun @6-8pm
concludes sat 23 jul @10am-2pm
“Extracts” | An exhibition of new painting by Karin Preller.
Conceptually and thematically, the paintings exhibited on Extracts form part of a body of work presented in a number of solo exhibitions starting with Family Album at the ABSA Gallery in 2001. In the paintings, Preller explores relationships between painting, photography and memory through the prism of family snapshots and stills from home movies mainly of the 1960s and 1970s. All of the paintings are autobiographical; a personal history archived as photographs and film, revisited and ‘re-presented’ in paint.
The innocuous banality of the images is deliberate but also reflective of the selective and fragmented nature of the ‘family album’. They register a childhood characterised by ‘innocence’ and by the inertia of the white middle class of that era; of events and outings (the office parties so inevitably also a part of Preller’s own life) mediated through the lens of the camera. But however personal, they cannot be removed from the context into which they are always inscribed. Never overtly ideological, the paintings become visual manifestations of identity constructed within the framework of a particular historical context; the absences and omissions arguably more palpable in the painted image than in the snapshot.
The interaction between painting and photography is pivotal to Preller’s work. Caught disquietedly between painted and photographic layers, painted surfaces reveal their potential as signifiers of uncomfortable complicities and a ‘charmed life’. While the source material was compelling, it was ultimately the process of painting that allowed understanding and internalisation of working with photographs and painting; personal and collective memories.
An extract refers both to the photograph or film still as extracted/abstracted from a timeline that can never be fully recovered. But is also refers to ‘extracts’ from the body of work (in the form of paintings) that Preller has repeatedly revisited, dissected and re-examined. The process of selection involved photographs in which some detail – of a place, an event, a person – struck a chord; a gesture or a glance, a technical rupture in the photograph that defined remembrance of people or places.
Karin Preller, May 2016
by Robyn Sassen
INSTINCTIVELY, YOU CAN hear the gentle, almost innocuous concatenation of 1960s office party dialogue as you look at these paintings, with the delicate clink of glasses and the understated and polite chatter, the men in their tuxedos and cufflinks and the women in their cocktail best. You can almost smell their perfume as they whisper. This is Karin Preller’s latest body of exhibited work, and in many respects, while it rests firmly on her own traditions of foraging through personal photographic archives, which she has established over many years, it takes unprecedented leaps in refreshing and important directions for her oeuvre.
Intimately ensconced in what is known as the Collectors’ Room of the Fried Contemporary Art Gallery, these seven pieces in blue tints and tones boast brushmarks which are looser than we’ve ever seen of Preller. What happens is the hard-boiledness and the irrepressible sense of perfection takes a side seat to something far more compelling, less containable and more indicative of the artist’s maturity.
While the works are dim in their tonality and present a slice of life that can at times feel harsh, the energy and subtlety of the work gives it the gravitas to stand on its own, and yet, as in The Unofficial Party, where a young woman in her shift dress sits on a verandah chair and smokes, a playful pathway into the untrammeled sexiness of the era, the fabric of the time, is honed.
And similarly, there’s a painting which takes a detail of another work, called Function 1960sand blows it up. Here, the two women side by side, become almost gestural shapes. But what they seem to lose in their polished sense of identity, they gain in terms of the subtlety and the directness of the painting itself. You look upon the relationship of startling hints of venetian yellow against the deep teal of the work, and the swathe of colour which describes the dress of the woman on the right, and you think directly of the work of German Expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, sans the crude and harsh colours.
Less emotionally bleak than her previous body of work, Preller’s Extracts, which also includes three strong slice-of-life drawings in charcoal on paper, is an immensely vital development for her as a painter. Looking at these pieces, it feels as though Preller’s whole career of working with photographs, memories and the cloying intractable nature of paint was pointing toward this kind of direction.
- Extracts, an exhibition of new work by Karin Preller is on show in the Collectors’ Room at the Fried Contemporary Art Gallery, 1146 Justice Mahomed Street (formerly 430 Charles Street) Brooklyn, Pretoria, until July 23. 012 346 0158 or http://www.friedcontemporary.com