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Lea Schäfer: Colliding

Lea Schäfer: Colliding

Location: EMDE GALLERY - Mainz

Lea Schäfer: Colliding


Emde Gallery is very pleased to present the exhibition "Colliding" with paintings by Lea Schäfer. On display are paintings on canvas and wooden panels created over a period of approximately two years. The exhibition also includes Lea Schäfer's latest compositions and thus offers an insight into her artistic development.

For several years now, the artist has been dealing with grids in different variations in her artistic work. Inevitably, a connection between the grid and the pixel and thus the computer is established. In addition, Lea Schäfer questions the grid as a motivic pictorial formula. The flatness caused by the two coordinates pushes back the reference to the real world in the picture and once again emphasizes the autonomy of abstraction in the 20th century. In her works, Lea Schäfer reflects this historical as well as today's digitally influenced dimension of the grid and transfers it into the material world.
A characteristic feature is that she fleshes out her paintings very intensively in terms of material and colour. Her painting practice includes various techniques and experiments in colour application. She builds up her multi-layered compositions using various instruments such as brushes, stencils, rollers and palette knives in lacquer, acrylic, wax or oil paint. In this way, she creates grids with only slight deviations up to more fragmentarily torn structures.

Lea Schäfer lives and works in Mainz and Wiesbaden. In 2016, she first completed her studies as a master student of Prof. Anne Berning at the Kunsthochschule Mainz, and the following year she also completed her art history studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Lea Schäfer is an artist and works as a curator at the Museum Reinhard Ernst in Wiesbaden.

Interview between Lea Schäfer and Sabine Tress (artist, Cologne)

Sabine Tress: My first question is directly related to something very obvious in your current work namely the grid, which is always visible in your painting in some way. How did you come to it? Have you been looking for it for a long time? How has the grid changed recently?

Lea Schäfer: For over a decade I worked figuratively, driven by the question of what painting can tell today. I was primarily interested in transferring historical visual images from the 17th and 18th centuries into the present day. At the end of my studies, I created a series dealing with the Cage People of Hong Kong. Here, grid and lattice structures appeared for the first time as a motif of the cage. What attracted me to the series, in addition to its content dimension, was the growing tension between printed, patterned surfaces, and free painterly colours on the canvas. In a roundabout way, I had thus formulated a new question that did not require narration. Initially, I was interested in the contrast between painting and graphics, or between painterly gesture or free line and rigid, printed pattern. In the meantime, this question has expanded further. Going beyond questions of decoration and ornament, I have been concerned with the history of the grid as a motivic pictorial formula. Since Malevich and Mondrian, it has stood for an autonomy of abstraction, as the flatness of the grid, determined by the two coordinates, pushes the reference to the real world out of the picture. Today it reminds us of the ordering system for pixels that generate our digital images. I deal with this current as well as historical dimension of the grid in my painting.

ST: The title "Colliding" seems to me to be an apt description for your painting, because the grid sometimes also meets the surface or color very violently and a kind of conflict arises which, however, does not necessarily have to be negative. Do you agree with that?

LS: With the title "Colliding" I wanted to describe precisely that clash of opposites. I would describe the resulting conflict as a kind of tension that makes the picture interesting for me. In addition, different materials collide in the process. Some repel each other, some mix and merge. When painting, I try to specifically target these situations in which materials, forms, surfaces get out of control. In these moments, the unpredictable happens. These surprises keep me working.

ST: How do you choose your painting surface? Could you also imagine working on an unstretched, huge canvas?

LS: In my artistic work, besides the choice of paint materials, the painting base grounds play an important role. They essentially determine the painting materials and possibilities. A few years ago I started working on mirrored cardboard. I was fascinated by the reflective surface, which makes the colors glow and always throws a person looking at them back onto themselves. In the meantime they have become part of collages on rigid picture carriers. Small and somewhat larger wooden panels I use as a base for different material experiments. They allow a completely different type of work than the canvas. Discoveries I try and transfer to large canvases. In the process, they at times lie on the floor, paint is poured on top or I work on their rear sides, because the fabric is very fine and permeable.

However, mounting on a stretcher frame is essential in this process. I can not imagine working on unstretched fabric, because the distance to the wall and the object-likeness of the painting with its limitation of four corners are important to me. Without the stretcher, my work would be considered in the field of mural painting, as patterns can potentially expand in all directions. Where does an ornament begin, where does it end? I am clearly concerned with questions about the so-called panel painting or easel painting. Patterns end well before the edges of the picture and emphasize once more clearly: this is also where the picture ends.

ST: I understand your need to maintain limitation in your painting, but that doesn't preclude a monumental format, does it?

LS: The question of format is a difficult one. I prefer portrait format to have a counterpart on the wall and to avoid landscape connotations. Often canvas sizes repeat, it's certain aspect ratios that I like to work in. A monumental format is not out of the question.

ST: Do you do preliminary studies? Do you have concepts or ideas that you write down? How do you choose your colors?

LS: There are no preliminary studies, sketches or anything like that. As I described, it's the work that formulates the next questions or suggests new directions. I find that very relieving, that for me there is no need for theoretical considerations or research. During my studies and also now when I work at the museum, I have the great privilege of dealing with art, especially painting, all day long. Many paintings I encounter there reverberate in some way during my own work in the studio: Many a color tone or texture is found again in my paintings without my having actively thought about it. The pictorial memory is an infinite storehouse that guides one's fortune now and then in the process.

ST: The question about the necessity of painting: can you imagine painting all your life?

LS: I can't imagine not painting all my life! For the longest part of my life I have been engaged in painting, both on a theoretical and practical level. Certainly, some constants that I have worked out and that now give me support will change, questions will develop in a different direction or new materials will open up unknown paths – and that is the exciting part. Each work poses a different question that I can pursue on the next image carrier. One is never finished, never arrived, and can never be sure of what one is doing.


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