Painting from Scratch: Nora Kapfer

By Last Updated: November 30, 2022Views: 579

Trying from a distance at Untitled (2022), a small portray on wooden that doesn’t appear to indicate something however scribbles in white paint blended with some traces of black, orange, and yellow, you may think Robert Ryman’s unending endgame of portray in all variations of white. However should you come nearer, this affiliation proves to be inappropriate. As a substitute of Ryman’s allover coloration utility in pure gestures, one discovers within the arbitrary squiggles and scribbles a bouquet of flowers, and, sprinkled over them like pollen, high quality particles of aluminum glitter that additionally don’t fairly match right into a neo-avant-garde-like place. Upon even nearer inspection of the small image, the scale of a sheet of paper, it’s revealed that the traces of fluorescent orange and yellow should not utilized to the floor however somewhat rising from the bottom of the portray, within the locations the place the scribbles erode the white paint to such an extent {that a} coloured background turns into seen, revealed in delicate strains vaguely defining the contours of petals and stems.

Nora Kapfer’s little portray hung on the very starting of her current solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Friart in Fribourg, Switzerland. Its adjacency to considerably bigger (compared gigantic) work, every of which produces fully completely different visible results, nipped any affiliation of portray’s endgame within the bud. Black-brown, partly reflective, partly matte surfaces during which stenciled contours emerge (Küriss [2018], Untitled (Salami II) [2017]) alternated with coloration fields overgrown by stenciled flowers in a half-regular, half-irregular method (Pythia I and Pythia II [2022]). Right here, motivic banality met painterly pathos (Dein Herz/Dein Garten [Your Heart/Your Garden, 2022]), the ornamental met the resistant, the mechanical met the gestural, figuration met abstraction, and nonorganic types alternated with natural ones. On the very finish of the sequence of work hung one other small-format wooden panel, this time in black, with comparable flower doodles, from which the coloured background partially emerges in skinny strains. By bracketing the sequence of enormous work with a lot smaller white and black panels—two works that reveal a quick, uncontrolled painterly manufacturing, akin to sketches—Kapfer steered that the works in between are likewise about making and letting the portray emerge from its materials.

What’s particular about this emergence is that Kapfer’s course of of creating is all the time outlined by opposing procedures of unmaking. The earliest works offered at Friart had been Untitled (Salami) (2017), Untitled (Salami II) (2017), and Küriss (2018), during which Kapfer developed a mechanical approach primarily based on the applying of bitumen, a tar-like liquid black substance, over the image floor to present it a reflective floor, into which the artist glued massive silhouettes of flowers manufactured from Japanese paper that soaked up the oily stuff. The natural construction of those papers certainly suggests the floor of a sliced salami—therefore the curious title. Or is Kapfer humorously alluding right here to her “salami techniques,” a coverage of small steps to grasp the nice maneuver of portray, of which she as soon as virtually despaired? In different work (not exhibited in Fribourg), flowers and different banal and kitschy motifs (hearts, stars, stylized figures) had been utilized as paper shapes into the bitumen layer solely to be taken out once more, leaving seen traces of the stenciled silhouettes.

Küriss bears no recognizable motif on its floor, however the black bitumen was partially scraped off the wooden with the assistance of solvent to visually reduce out checkerboard patterns and thoroughly stenciled circles in addition to natural shapes; these stand out towards the black fields and have been partly coated once more with vinyl. The mechanical processes of making use of bitumen, reducing out stencils, gluing on paper cutouts, portray them over with oil or vinyl, and scratching the paint off once more overlap with an auto-generative chemical course of attributable to the bitumen’s response with completely different layers of the portray, giving the floor an organic-looking texture in some locations. In fact, well-known procedures of a quasi-photographic écriture automatique are recalled right here, however they’re recombined with additional modernist and postmodernist components of portray such because the grid, the stencil, the pictorial gesture, the figurative cliché, et cetera. 

Grids, stencils, and flower clichés additionally underlie Pythia I and II, painted in gouache, acrylic, and oil on canvas. Right here, the largely mechanical, grid-like association of coloration fields into which flower stencils are serially inserted was supplemented by a somewhat painterly course of. The flowers instantly cite Andy Warhol’s Flowers and check with his Do It Your self sequence from 1962, which concerned the mechanical filling in of fields in accordance with a numerical code. However whereas Warhol’s Flowers expose the arbitrariness of coloration and its industrial use, and his paint-by-numbers sequence insist on boring mechanical codes, Kapfer’s “paint-by-flowers” works apply a considerably gestural type by filling the stenciled fields with seen brushstrokes in expressive purple or fleshy rosy colours, thereby undoing the mechanical impact of the serialized types, particularly when irregularities break the serial sample.

Lastly, to make works such us Untitled (Oleander III) (2021),Kapfer recycled paper cuts torn off of different work, gluing and juxtaposing them of their partly fragmented types. The overlapping shapes of paper flowers are nonetheless marked by the construction of the canvas on which they had been beforehand pasted, and thus produce an organic-like texture, though they only convey the fabric traces of their mechanical switch. With an analogous impact, Dein Herz, Dein Garten (Your Coronary heart/Your Backyard, 2022)recycles flowers reduce out of one other painted canvas and stuck with acrylic glue on the floor of the brand new canvas, thereby creating an overpainted, relief-like construction.

Portray, in Kapfer’s number of works for Friart, presents itself as a fancy layering of supplies and current archetypes (grids, figure-ground relations, monochromes, stencils), which both maintain “working” independently by chemically and materially infiltrating one another, or are “counteracted” by the artist manually undoing the layering by means of partial removing, scraping, scratching, tearing off. Within the acrylic and oil work on canvas, it’s somewhat the gestural utility of paint that runs counter to the mechanical composition of the image and the serial stenciling of banal flowers.

Additionally within the painterly doodles of the small wooden panels, the uncontrolled scribbling of the artist’s instrument lays naked coloured paper grounds, thereby demonstrating the fabric company within the creation of figuration. The motif right here seems to be only a facet impact of the artist’s dealing with. Kapfer explicitly hyperlinks these little work to reverse engineering, as invoked by the cultural theorist and thinker Sadie Plant in her 1997 guide Zeros + Ones: Digital Girls and the New Technoculture.1 Plantrelates reverse engineering, a “technique of analyzing a topic system to establish the system’s parts and their interrelationships and create representations of the system in one other kind or at the next stage of abstraction,” to processes and discoveries by Ada Lovelace and Anna Freud.2 She describes Freud’s potential to speed up her work—the writing of letters and lectures—by producing scribbles on clean pages at excessive pace, which induced her to understand her duties as already accomplished. She then extra simply turned to the actual writing, having simplified it to a system of anticipatory rules and strategies. This method of “starting in the long run of any operation, working backwards from that time to the start,” Plant claims, accommodates inside it an “invention of invention itself,” thus contradicting the basic stereotype of femininity that pervades psychoanalysis, during which feminine creativity is all the time primarily based on the imitation of the pure.3

In precisely this sense, Kapfer’s white and black wood panels, tellingly every the scale of a sheet of paper, may be learn as innovations of the invention. Like catalysts during which the artist works her method again to the bottom from the a number of layering of coloured papers and white or black oil paint in speedy actions which are as uncontrolled as potential, they launch the rules of a method of working that may then be additional developed within the massive work. In the identical method hackers use reverse engineering “and pirates conspire to lure the longer term to their facet,” as Plant places it, Kapfer pirates each expressionist and mechanical fashions of portray by “participating in a course of which concurrently assembles and dismantles the route again to the beginning, the top, the longer term, the previous.”4 Sabeth Buchmann, in her catalogue textual content for Friart, analyzes Kapfer’s adaption of reverse engineering as an illustration of a correlation of natural, inorganic, and cultural types, past the essentialist equation of organic development with aesthetic development: “Kapfer’s work engender that which engenders them” in the identical method as “nature does what’s pure to it.”5

However how can a portray engender that which engenders it? Can it truly carry out a form of “hysteresis, the lagging of results behind their causes,” as Plant describes reverse engineering?6 How can portray return to its “supply codes”? Hysteresis is the dependence of the state of a system on its historical past. Chip reverse engineering makes use of methods of delayering by etching and scratching off the {hardware} layer by layer to be able to discover and separate its components. If Kapfer is etching, scratching off, and tearing out layers of her work, this, after all, doesn’t lead to protocols or diagrams. The fixed doing and undoing of layers appears to be a method of separating portray’s components from each other to be able to recombine, redesign, and certainly reactivate them. 

The weather in Kapfer’s work don’t lead to unified surfaces. Moderately, they expose the ruptures within the technique of their making and doc the backwards and forwards of labor steps. Within the oil and acrylic work, these ruptures take the type of clear-cut strains between completely different zones during which decrease layers outline the “response” of components within the layers on high. The stenciled flowers, for instance, are by no means simply crammed mechanically with one coloration however are painted in correspondence to the underlying grid. They “react” to edges, strains, types, and supplies beneath them and are due to this fact typically divided into a number of fields by way of coloration—fields which are derived not from the flower motif itself however from the mode of its making. Within the bitumen photos, the motif is in every case solely a results of the working steps (reducing out, pasting, tearing out, transferring, scratching off, and portray over), which overlap and produce results.

However what Kapfer’s works lastly mirror is that portray, as a lot as it could be a system, shouldn’t be solely primarily based on code. As Georges Didi-Huberman famously put it, portray is in the end outlined by the “sovereign accident” that he identifies as “tough to investigate, notably in semantic or iconic phrases; for it’s a work or an impact of portray as coloured materials, not as descriptive signal.” The “sovereign accident” seems as a “symptom” that has misplaced its code, its message, and “opposes its materials opacity—which is dizzying—to all mimesis.”7 The “symptom” is a painterly impact that doesn’t “lag” behind its “causes.” It can not merely be reversed; the sovereign accident can solely occur. Reverse engineering in Kapfer’s portray due to this fact doesn’t lead to pure evaluation of its supply codes.

The bitumen work, but in addition the work on canvas, depart room for all types of sovereign accidents by treating materials opacity as the basic code of portray, to place it figuratively. In Kapfer’s most up-to-date work,resembling Pensées perdues (Misplaced Ideas, 2022), her procedures of layering, etching, scratching off, and including ever new layers of paint or figurative components, even free-handedly painted stems and petals, which appear to proliferate over the floor, savor and even revel within the results that the ever-new superimpositions and erasures of fabric traces produce. The motifs, the flowers and crops of their completely different shapes and colours, are simply an impact “lagging of results behind their [material] causes.” The piecemeal stays seen. The portray is structured by means of ruptures of clear-cut strains between completely different zones, every exposing completely different relations of their components and their mechanical or handbook remedy. The portray doesn’t current an natural complete however somewhat a synthesis of painterly occasions, of labor steps and reversals.

Nora Kapfer’s portray is from scratch: she actually goes again to floor zero of portray, bringing it even materially “all the way down to earth” within the petroleum substance of the bitumen work. From there, the flowers develop within the asphalt. In this sort of portray, being in at present’s world doesn’t imply integrating its floods of photographs, however revitalizing its codes and eliciting a substance from even essentially the most banal cliché by exposing the fabric itself as a producing drive.

Nora Kapfer (b. 1984, Munich) lives and works in Berlin. Latest exhibitions embody Les beaux jours, C L E A R I N G, Brussels (2022); Identität nicht nachgewiesen, Bundeskunsthalle Bonn, Germany (2022); Latest Work, Édouard Montassut, Paris (2021); PARTS, The Wig, Berlin (2021); Come a Time, Galerie Lars Friedrich, Berlin (2020); A Residence shouldn't be a Home and A Home shouldn't be a Residence, Kunsthalle Friart, Fribourg, Switzerland (2019); Celluloid Brush, Etablissement d’en face, Brussels (2018); Half a zipper. Half a pow, Nousmoules, Vienna (2018); and New Tar, WIELS, Brussels (2017).

1    Sadie Plant, Zeros + Ones: Digital Girls and the New Technoculture (London: Fourth Property, 1998).
2    Elliot J. Chikofsky and James H. Cross II, “Reverse Engineering and Design Restoration: A Taxonomy,” IEEE Software program 7, no. 1 (1990): 13–17.
3    Plant, Zeros + Ones, 26.
4    Plant, Zeros + Ones, 26.
5    Sabeth Buchmann, “Programs in Bloom,” in Nora Kapfer (Fribourg, Switzerland: Kunsthalle Friart, 2022), 76.
6    Plant, Zeros + Ones, 26
7    Georges Didi-Huberman, “Appendix: The Element and the Pan,” in Confronting Pictures, trans. John Goodman (College Park: Penn State College Press, 2005), 248–52.


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