Verena Landau: in_sight
18 November 2017—6 January 2018
»in_sight« — A plea for the random moment and its deeper insights.
Verena Landau’s paintings capture the spirit of casual observations effortlessly and precisely. They imitate snapshots, including their random nature—they record things only noticed on closer subsequent examination; something strange, perhaps indiscreet, yet fundamental. As locations for her Ein-Sichten [in-sights], Landau selects representative spaces in the broadest sense of the words: public places as intentionally staged offerings for perception, and therefore charged with meaning and function: from museums to scenic architecture, even botanic gardens.
The object’s message to the figure becomes the starting point for a complex observation situation in the paintings. Landau shows how the focused observation is broken down and expands to become an invisible network of visual axes and trains of thought. The figures either offensively or instinctively observe themselves, their environment, those nearby and what they are looking at etc., as well as the object. That builds tensions within the image, which Landau develops as the underlying condition and theme for the »in_sight« series of works.
For example »petrolio«. A classic observational pose: a woman at a semi-circular window with a view of a body of water bounded by urban architecture on the horizon. The figure is pulled out into world it is observing, through the window and into the scenery it is focusing on. The scenery is enlarged as though under a magnifying glass and begins to shine. The female figure breaks through the structure of the wall in the painting, and then ceases to be an individual subject and fades into the milky pastel blue-green of the Venetian lagoon. Atmospherically, it is a romantic moment of desire, which fills and colours the entire image space.
In contrast, »Besuch« [Visit] portrays two women in a museum. They barely encounter one another, but their attitudes collide. At a cultivated, coquettish distance to the objects on display, one of the women is competing with the exhibits through her own presence – obviously self-centred, almost hermetic in her behaviour. On the other hand, the second woman is lost in reverent thoughts. Her focus on the exhibit is established in the painting in her intertwining with the object. The affinity in colour to the room, her contemplative posture and her averted face make her an anonymous opposite to the first figure. A cool distance resonates around the image. The tensions are expressed and take effect through the combination to a single narrative voice. As an invisible presence, the artist is consistently at a realistic eye level in the scenarios and shares her »in_sights« with the observer as an accomplice, psychologist, voyeur or amused onlooker.
Landau condenses the complex network of ambivalent attentions to a suspenseful composition with artistic means, primarily perspective, colours, stylistic additions and the expressive eloquence of body language. This gives the image a specific mood established through the unique atmosphere. The merely ostensible transience of the glance corresponds to the equally ostensible, sketch-like effortlessness of the painting style. Without elaborate emphases or mannerism, she brings the transparent look of glazed priming to medium to large-format oil paintings, with a precise and deliberate choice of media.
Landau’s paintings are based on photographs, composite photos and combined motives from which she formulates the image content by finishing them or painting over them. The implementation on canvas condenses the arbitrary connections between observer and object. Here, the effortlessness yields to artistic earnestness: the irritations, dissolutions and reformations, which occur as the image elements are transferred, retain their justification as intrinsically valuable and persist. Landau trusts them and their potential for giving meaning—whether it is clear or not.
This reveals Landau’s latent mistrust of art for art’s sake and her ambition to progress from the particular in the art to a general global meaning and to react to the contemporary human condition.
—By Tina Simon /Translated by Brendan Bleheen
Dr. phil. Tina Simon
Author and publicist, Leipzig