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Christoph Tannert (2011)

Living through the Labyrinthine

Emerging as a form of exchange to reoresent the process of arguing back and forth, or a kind of discourse on wandering atray, hers are paintings in which one is all too glad to lose oneself. Indeed, they foster a suggestive undertow and pose an extraordinarily high risk of addiction. Kristina Girke’s pictoral language is Baroque, pulsating with liveliness, and full of intensity. ’I’m an Aquarius,’ she says, ’and need, each day, to reinvent everything.'


First, the canvas is classically grounded, and then she dives right in to painting: Kristina Girke commences her journey through an intermediary realm. When nothing else seems to do the trick, her painting grounds areworked with a hammer, or with her feet. The paint is scraped off, colour is stripped away, and the resulting layer is painted anew or partially sealed with lacquer.


These paintings have a skin-scarred, sealed layers that have been cracked and wrinkled from the intensity of various working phases-and they have a memory. When speaking with the artist, the term ’cultural damage’ is one that crops up more than once. Girke explains: ’Our present culture (Western culture – that of the industrialized nations) appears brittle to me and full of fissures. Below the high-gloss facade of prominent culture with which societies are want to present themselves, thingsare crumbling and substantial things emerge. It is as though, here and there, seedlings are beginning to sprout from below a thick layer of fallen leaves. They still need the protection of the overlaying foliage but have nonetheless made contact with the eternal mysticism – with the old myths. The upper layer has perished but still has yet to decay. In my estimation, culture is comprised of a layering of cultural appearances that are connected to the transitions from layer to layer. Perhaps a better metaphor would be to describe it as a kind of shedding: culture is a sheddingmachine. The archetypal images, the foundational pattern lies at the bottom and breaks through in the most varied forms and appearances, perpetually and anew.’


In the actual painting material, the artist’s painterly centre of thought is sealed. In the scenes she portrays, the ancestors of space and plane are summoned. Experiences and delusions; quotations and the realities of painting; familiar stories, political history and painterly materiality all become intertwined in the paintings of Kristina Girke. These otherwise disparate elements begin to amalgamate and harmonise with one another. The world makes ist appearances as a well-mapped network of pictorial inventions, individual projections and imagined actualities. Also as an inquiry into media-driven image production, into advertisement, film, and other mutifaceted ornamental crownings and delights. It is through her art-historical knowledge and studies of the tecniques of the old masters, however, that the artist is able to mobilise our consciousness in such plastic terms and send it wandering between the past and the present. All that she strives to communicate is brought together in asymmetric encounters of seemingly disparate elements, upon a platform that desists from any illusionistic foundations and evades any hierarchical interpretations of what lies between the surface and all that is behind it. Everything that happens within the pictures is a part of the entirety of all that is possible. The artist refrains from adopting any specific figurative conglomerations. Her formal motivation does not rest upon any pictorial centre but instead derives ist effectuality through a productive network that defies all structures or physical bodies. The dominance of a single element in this conceptual, as well as pictorical, model remains illusory. According to the artist, ’The various levels are worked together so that no level obscures any other. Wherever a single level in a given painting is visible, the existence of any others in the same place is impossible. ’ During the painterly process, she circles from one pictorial point of intersection to another. The amorphous quality of the picture plane thereby posits a questioning of any traditional understanding of form and awakens the beholder’s curiosity. It ist his especially productive relationship between the physically assertive dimension of the even haptically tangible paint-membrane and the more cerebral, intellectual level that distinguishes the experimential character of Girkes’s work. This proclivity toward staging, her avoidance of illusionistic spatial separation ort he contrasting of pure planes is founded, not least, upon her fondness of Giotto’s frescoes and Italian painting from the early Renaissance. For Girke, producing art means ’reconfiguration... and making adjustments to contemporary discourses’ .


Having grown up in Halle (Saale) as the daughter of a renowned monumental curator, she witnessed the socialist destruction of East German city centres first hand. It is perhaps thus that the artist’s pictorial conception encompasses an examination of artistic traditions, motifs and topoi that is bound to a reception of and simultaneous participation in the polyphony of contemporary debates. All that she extrapolates from the past is revealed by her paintings in visual form as part of a hybrid practice in which the most diverse array of pictorial phenomena are intertwined with one another: single figures and figural groups, ornament as a culturally universal element, patterns and passages of text. With decidedly postmodern pomposity, pictorial references are allocated a role that is rather equivalent than emphasised in any way. It is, accordingly, with great devotion that the notion of art’s sake is playfully employed. The incestuous relationships of art with Rococo courtliness as well as bourgeois modernism, along with romantic and classical implications, all wonderfully bathed in a woeful minor key, are sent spinning to rotate around themselves. Motives are no longer of foremost importance and have now become timeless and placeless, embedded into an indeterminable plane of occurences. Traditionally, the use of citation has always been a receptive as well as a creative process. Kristina Girke contemplates the world of achieving the greatest possible density of the work of art per citation-labyrinthism. Though the roundabout route of the repeating image, she seizes upon the metaphors of the present. Her pictures negate the feeling and knowledge of being imprisoned in the world by inverting the inescapability from the present time’s labyrinth into the possibility of experiencing the labyrinthine. Each of these paintings invite the beholder to embark upon an odyssey, to discover a boundlessly brachiate aethetic universe in order, in the end, to better understand one’s own path in life as an experience of the ontological constitution of human existence.


Girke’s painting techniques are likewise founded upon a non-linear, rather layered order of being, in which ink, acrylics and oil paint, as well as laquer, all find application – in accordance to the respective inherent mass of urgency encountered while traversing the labyrinth. In the title of her exhibition Beim Frühstück hat sich Gott verkrümelt [God Began to Crumble at Breakfast and Split before it was Over], misgivings resound together with the comical – and the hope that God might return after all? The illustration of the Weberin der Illusion [Weaver of Illusion] (2011) on the invitation card fort he exhibition points cryptically toward the ’unfolding’ of the labyrinthine as well as toward the roundabout routes and wrong way turns of liveable substance, sense and sensations.


Translation: Nathan Moore

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