Galerie im mMarstall Ahrensburg
Suse Bauer’s work is characterized by apparently contradictory themes and stylistic tendencies. It is rooted in abstraction and characterized by planar arrangements and artless ornament, containing references to Bauhaus modernism and literary quotations while reflecting Bauer’s pronounced penchant for bricolage and the handmade. Her exhibition “Der Abgrund unter mir heißt Zukunft” (The Abyss Beneath Me Is Called Future) included six paintings (oil or oil and oil pastel on paper), a floor sculpture in cast concrete (Untitled, 2018), four large-format black-and-white scans and—as the show’s epicenter, as it were—a complex installation on the floor encompassing blue yoga mats with countless penny-size punched holes and scattered ceramic objects (also Untitled, 2018). At its far end, a screen rose to the ceiling, a lattice of wood strips stained a reddish brown (Untitled, 2018); mounted on it were the ceramic reliefs In den Künstlerkolonien (In the Artist Colonies), 2017, Meine Frauengruppe (My Women’s Group), 2016, and Ausgeschlossen, Wiedereintritt (Excluded, Reentry), 2018. Loosely distributed across an airy eighteen-by-twelve grid of square fields, the arrangement read as a formal echo of the compositional principles underlying the artist’s paintings, translating them into three dimensions.
Deliberately integrating the formal idioms of visionary modernism into paintings such as Neue Pläne (New Plans), 2018; Sie gehorcht der Materie um sie beugen zu können (She Obeys Matter so as to Bend It), 2011; and the titular Der Abgrund unter mir heißt Zukunft, 2018, the artist homes in on instants of ambivalence: She pinpoints formerly utopian elements that are now perhaps no more than vacuous ornamental shells and reinterprets their emptiness as containing at least a projective power—the seeds of a kind of para-modernist visual language in which abstract forms become what she calls “semantic vessels” for the adumbration of new meaning.
Titling her show after a quotation from the Traumtexte (dream texts) of the dramatist and poet Heiner Müller, Bauer translated its simile of a free-floating bird’s-eye view of the future—a gaze that is quite literally abstract—into a play with vertical visual axes: The flatness of her paintings and ceramics, of the installation on the floor and the concrete sculpture, offered itself to the kind of top-down contemplation that is still a fairly novel perceptual mode and yet one we have all learned and internalized thanks to Google Maps, drone footage, and the like. This aspect was most salient in the four large scans in the series “Landschaft unter Aufsicht” (Landscape Under Surveillance), 2018. The imagery is reminiscent of satellite photographs or aerial shots of archaeological excavation sites, but at the same time it is abstract.
These works in fact originate in reliefs Bauer modeled in wet clay. Rather than photographing them, she reproduced them by turning a flatbed scanner on its head and mounting it above the object. This process produces various distortions and makes areas close to the scanner’s platen glass pin-sharp while others are slightly blurred—creating a specific pictorial space that manifests itself to great effect in the drastically enlarged prints. Hand-kneaded, punched, or knife-cut fragmentary shapes form archaic ensembles or, as in Landschaft unter Aufsicht (Reservat) (Landscape Under Surveillance [Reservation]), 2018, plateaus with inundated areas that, depending on the imagined scale, might be puddles or lakes. The gaze from above harbors the utopian idea of an archaeology of the future and engenders abstractions of a profound beauty, at once alien and familiar.
Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson.