Stefanie Ullmann

peaches N cream

26.05 – 13.07.2018

four1peaches N cream, 2018, installation view

 

installation1peaches N cream, 2018, installation view

 

diagonalback11peaches N cream, 2018, installation view

 

betteryellow1o.T. 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, 160 x 160 cm

 

betterorange1o.T. 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, 160 x 160 cm

 

bettergreen1o.T. 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, 160 x 160 cm

 

betterpurple1o.T. 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, 160 x 160 cm

 

watercolor1o.T. (series of watercolours on paper) 2017-8, watercolour on paper 32 x 24 cm

 

peach1o.T. 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, 35 x 35 cm

 

Stefanie Ullmann’s paintings have always been minimal. Even at their most overworked, there was never much to see in or on her small to medium sized canvases. A rather distressed looking surface perhaps, a few meandering brushstrokes, some lines or a couple of smudges. Muted colours. For this exhibition, she has made four larger canvases, brighter and larger than her previous work perhaps, but equally paired down, consisting of a few random marks on pastel coloured ground. A quiet ‘no’ cries out from each individual frame, which is a distant echo of Minimalism’s earlier, much more stark and vehement ‘no’ to values associated with Abstract Expressionism: transcendence, heroism, anguish, ego and preciousness. If Robert Morris used a chainsaw to slice out his rejection of anything that might distract the viewer from the here and now, Ullmann uses the slightest of gestures to question what is the ‘just enough’ for a painting.  A canvas for instance, would seem about right, but brushes are something that could easily be dispensed with. Much of the painting at the exhibition is made directly by squeezing a tube of paint onto unprimed canvas. One squeeze is sufficient for one mark.

Similarly to other minimalist artists, Ullmann directs her ‘no’ against artistic intentionality, the external motivation of a rational type, an idea existing prior to the making of the work which nevertheless dictates its final form and meaning from within. This is why there are no vestiges of illusion in her paintings and no gestures towards representation, and why, unlike many of her contemporaries she does not work between abstraction and figuration. Instead she utilises strategies that do away with intentionality altogether: by reducing the number of elements in her paintings, by rejecting the hierarchies between the component parts, sometimes by painting with her eyes closed and leaving things unfinished. And yet she never quite resorts to the complete impersonalisation of many anti-authorial practices. The personal remains important, her way of navigating what is deliberate and what is not.

The deliberate and the accidental – as with minimalism what we see is what we get.  Here it is a number of marks on a peach and cream background. But this does not cause us to turn away from the canvas to investigate the work’s surroundings and their function within a larger space. The work does not depend on the moving spectator’s visual trajectory in that way. It is not, in Michael Fried’s sense of the term, theatrical, analogous to an actor producing effects on us the audience in real time. The here and now of Ullmann’s paintings always draws us closer. There may be little present in the work, but what is there draws us in, before saying stop, it is enough, now you can go no further. What is there keeps us hovering at the surface of painting, neither allowing us, as a beholder to forget ourselves by entering a state of transcendence nor to move away to engage with the work’s surroundings. With her work, we are always caught between one pole and the other. Between presentness and presence lies their state of grace.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s