"noch nicht mehr"
November 2nd - February 9th
Landscapes of emptiness - The artistic cultivation of timeless and spaceless terrains by Anna Fiegen
Beyond a grass-covered surface a white, vast firmament with dim rain clouds stretches across. A shadow faintly shoves its way into the picture in which raises a complex of houses in the midst of the earth and the sky. Another time, the foreground is splitted by a deep furrow: earthy ground contrasts with light evening sky. A solitary squared building is suggestive of potential business which might has come to standstill for one night, maybe forever. At the uppermost floor a yellow light indicates lonely overtime. But perhaps it is only a reflection which is mirrored in a piece of glass – a deceptive sparkle, reminiscent of something which is no more.
It is a paradox of Anna Fiegen´s landscapes that the consistent presences of architectural buildings is determined by the people and yet intensifies them. The mostly isolated buildings seem like rests of a extinct or at least left civilization: ruins of a closed down industry, houses with nobody living there, modernistic constructions like alien elements in a remote, diffuse area of arable and exploited land, having no more being there.
The large-format works of the 1981-born painter, who has been studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Münster, display their atmospheric density and mysterious suggestive power by specific breaches and contrasts. The central issue is the analysis of the wide construction programme of modern times, still effective today although being declared a failure several times. Anna Fiegen refers to the modernistic construction language which, for the last decades and with decreasing precision, has found expression in the architectural mass production which is known from shopping centres at suburban roadsides, company headquarters on green lawns or other isolated purpose buildings. Through her laconic and sparse pieces of architecture the artist takes the modern credo “form follows function” to extremes and places emphasis on the functional building. And yet, it is made nonsense of, as she remarks, since the question arises “for what it is functional”. Being photographed from far distance and out of a passing vehicle, the buildings, isolated within the countryside, seem secluded and rejecting. There often lack doors; the windows do not permit an insight.
Thus, the greatly reduced, almost minimal architectural pieces receive an “iconic” quality and, because of their abstract symbolization, are reminiscent of conceptually paintings of landscapes with frugal functional buildings by the Californian artist Ed Ruscha, specifically of his black-and-white Blue Collar-group from 1992 which, in his several-piece picture installation Course of Empire for the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale of 2005, he expanded by a colourful series of counterparts from 2003 until 2005: manufacturing facilities of different goods in typical box-like shapes underneath Hollywood´s sky (Californian vastness meets the artistic aesthetic of a film still) including a phone box which, being outdated by our mobile culture, does no longer exist in a later version of the painting.
Similar to Ruscha, Anna Fiegen bases her paintings on self-taken photographs which she arranges on the canvas to own situations. While Ruscha in the aforementioned confrontation of his both groups of works investigates and makes visible, among other things, the transitoriness of time and the cultural changes from industrial to post-industrial, digitalized era respectively, the landscapes of Anna Fiegen are prevalent of a peculiar timelessness: a sort of vacuum, almost, accompanied by an atmospheric charging which, on the other hand, shows a affinity to Edward Hopper´s creations of “playing with lights”.
The encounter with the oeuvre of Hopper was, according to the artist, the actual inspiration to shift from still life, nude and macro drawings to rarely built-on landscapes which position themselves in the tense atmosphere of presence and absence, emptiness and abundance, scarcity and depth, abstraction and figurativeness. Hopper´s characteristic contrasts of light and shadow, to which the “film noir” corresponds, were inspirational to Anna Fiegen, as well as the always effective dichotomy of nature and culture in the works of the painter. In Hopper´s way they mean a confrontation of the putting in order, literally “light” forces of civilization versus the dark powers of nature, whereas in her work the relations change, so that in her compositions “the architecture itself is more hostile than nature”. “The windows of Hopper”, according to the culture theorist Thomas Macho in his essay about the exhibition Western Motel – Edward Hopper and contemporary art in the Kunsthalle Wien in 2008/2009, “design a choreography of time; they second a phenomenology of waiting.” In the extreme case, being liberated by all narrative elements, they represent “pure pictures of light, literal photographies”.
In most of her large-format landscapes (normal-gauge: 180 x 190 cm), by Anna Fiegen also described as “doors to the world”, she visualizes – as aforementioned – overtemporal, spaceless rooms which withdraw from access. Even so, they are a manifestation of references to aesthetic of modern times (by aforesaid buildings, oscillating at the frontier of “outdatedness”) as well as of the specific topology of Westphalia, the artist´s home area. The latter, however, is not depicted in a photorealistic manner, but painted with a “certain atmosphere and light setting”, explains the artist, “which are based on recognition factor”. This atmosphere penetrates all landscapes of the artist, even when the photographic references derive from a Westphalian no man´s land (in her view), partly from visits to more distanced regions like Bulgaria, Japan or Istanbul.
In her new works the certainty dissolve once more, also in terms of the painterly: the scenarios / scenes and the containing constructions loose contouredness for the benefit of a more extensive brushwork and an increased abstraction. In doing so, their specific emotional atmosphere is maintained, corresponding also to the transcendent panorama of longing by Caspar David Friedrich as well as to the existential wildernesses of Samuel Becket in which scattered people await the arrival of Godot. The sky areas, interspersed by clouds and the daily cycle of dusk and dawn, extend over unpopulated terrains with yet visible traces of civilization. They impede the aura of desolation and emptiness, which is inherent in the works, through the magic of natural(ly inevitable) beauty: The contrast-larded landscapes of Anna Fiegen point out this beauty´s lastingness in contrast to the relativity and unsettledness of our built culture without committing themselves to a only one way of looking at things.
(Text: Bellinda Grace Gardner)