Margarete Hahner Explores Vision in “Smaller Than Life” at Zwinger Berlin
BY NATALIA MASEWICZ | MARCH 31, 2016
Margarete Hahner’s paintings at Zwinger Galerie in Berlin explore the concept of “vision,” as a synonym for both the physical ability to see, as well as the artistic sensibility. Titled “Smaller Than Life,” the exhibition examines the weight of its subjects, scrutinized by the artist’s penetrating gaze.
There is a degree of historicism in the way Hahner executes her works, which are stylistically reminiscent of German Expressionism and New Objectivity. The subjects are painted with broad, sketchy brushwork and muted, earthy colors.
The subjects’ and, by proxy, the creator’s vision is never completely objective, always obstructed by one object or another. Hahner examines the distortion produced on our vision of the world by hopes and despairs, symbolized in “Voll Leer” (2015, oil on wood panel) by two glasses, one full of water and the other one empty. The artist’s attitude is likewise poised between two extremes, self-mockery and earnestness. In another example Hahner draws the gaze inwards, as the subjects of her paintings examine themselves. The modern, fragmented self multiplies in front of the viewer, as in one of the untitled works (2014, oil on canvas, monoprint) which portrays a therapy session.
Hahner’s style is invariably linked to the subjects they represent, with the emphasis placed on heightened emotions, strong, subjective vision and the use of the grotesque.
Margarete Hahner: “Smaller Than Life” runs at ZWINGER Galerie, Mansteinstrasse 5, 10783 Berlin from March 18 through May 14, 2016. More information at www.zwinger-galerie.de
„…. man sollte langsam zur Sache kommen. Der Lebensfalz ist auf die linke Seite des Buches gerutscht….“
Immer wieder spielt die Kirche und der Glaube eine Rolle in ihrem Werk. Und auch Beziehungsthemen finden sich in zahlreichen Arbeiten. Metamorphosen und Zweckentfremdungen gehören zu ihrem Repertoire. Ein Märchenland mit giftigen Pilzen und Kobolden; verwandelten Wesen. Hölle und Verdammnis sind nicht weit entfernt.
Ich erinnere ihre Sammlung plattgefahrener Frösche und die schalkhaften Kindergartenstühlchen. Wer Margarete im Atelier besuchte, musste auf den bunten Zwergenstühlen Platz nehmen, denn eine andere Bestuhlung war nicht vorhanden.
Seen But Not Heard
In his book, Art and Illusion, E.H. Gombrich analyzed a drawing that looked like a duck when you looked at it one way, and then a rabbit if you looked at the same drawing, but focused on different details. Gombrich wrote:
“We can see the picture as either a rabbit or a duck. It is easy to discover both readings. It is less easy to describe what happens when we switch from one interpretation to the other. Clearly we do not have the illusion that we are confronted with a “real” duck or rabbit. The shape on the paper resembles neither animal very closely. And yet there is no doubt that the shape transforms itself in some subtle way when the duck’s beak becomes the rabbit’s ears and brings an otherwise neglected spot into prominence as the rabbit’s mouth. I say “neglected,” but does it enter our experience at all when we switch back to reading “duck”? To answer this question, we are compelled to look for what is “really there,” to see the shape apart from its interpretation, and this, we soon discover, is not really possible. “
Seen But Not Heard investigates the “changes” that go on between one image and another. These changes manifest themselves in different ways. For example, paint can evolve from dabs of color into recognizable images. Or, an image can transform itself into a different image, based entirely on the viewers’ focus.
In Hahner’s piece, “Barlach via Tulsa,” the 8 images take us from a representation of an Ernst Barlach sculpture (“Der Singende Mann,” 1928) to a rendering of a Larry Clark photo (“Dead, 1970”). The change is based on the shared postures of the raised knees in both works. But there’s another connection. Barlach was labeled a “degenerate artist” by the Nazis, while Clark’s work has been called pornographic and banned in this country.
Hahner paints on a wide variety of media (canvas, wood, metal, etc.), but for this show she works with oils on 12” vinyl records. Why records? “Because some years ago when I started using them, records were throw-away items I could pick up for next to nothing at the Berlin flea markets. I also liked the fact that each painting then had a ready-made slip cover for storage,”
Hahner’s record paintings also readily lend themselves to the “series works” she favors. Some ideas evolve over the course of 3 lp’s of hamster portraits (“Wings”), while other pieces, such as her ant extravaganza (“After the Picnic”) are composed of as many as 40 records. These series paintings explore how representational ideas change between one visual and another. And to further amplify the changes in the images, Hahner shoots single-frame super 8 movies of her record paintings.
Commenting on the visual shifts in her work, Hahner explains: “I often think I’m painting one image, when another one emerges. And I like that transformation and somehow want to capture it. I think this attention to metamorphosis also explains why I sometimes get dressed four or five times before leaving the house.”
Animated Scene Of Unfolding
by Larry Rickels
The artist prefers painting on recycled or found surfaces. At first she used pieces of wood. But then she discovered that records, which in the meantime were worthless and in large supply, were suitable for painting. On wood even the traces of earlier or lost attempts add up to one work. With the records a false start lets the artist reach for the next record, thereby initiating a series. Picasso wanted to be filmed while painting (and he was, several times) because the final painting tended to obscure, even destroy the earlier formulations that, even while rejected, belong to the work’s unconscious. Thus by recording the stages of a painting film serializes where otherwise one ends up with the new-and-improved image superimposed upon all the rest. Once her painting was on record, Hahner commenced filming her recurring reformulations of a certain scene as an animated scene of unfolding. Since the records were a standard size the paintings on these surfaces were particularly available for filming. No longer guiding the needle through the recording groove to follow the music, the defunct surface of a record shows markings of time, like the growth rings of a felled tree. The painted sisters, caught with the wooden table in the act of metamorphosis, allegorize Hahner’s painting film at the surface junction between a defunct function and its literalization: “turntable sisters.”