For her second solo exhibition at the Galerie Zürcher, Katharina Ziemke is expressing – with formidable effectiveness and an extreme degree of simplicity in the means she employs – certain realities of our age, right up to the latest developments. She is also revisiting those aspects of the Cold War to which we were introduced by her recent exhibition Haut-Karabakh ("Nagorno-Karabakh"), which looked at that distant region of Caucasus (1). She does not, however, share the world’s obsession with "events" – what interest her, rather, are the circumstances in which they take place. The faces are immobile, like chilled, mummified witnesses, reduced to silence. Ziemke’s universe is riddled with impacts and strewn with corpses. There are soldiers killed in combat, burials, and animal carcases rotting in the desert or floating in a canal. Her paintings are framed like stills from a silent film(2). But the tragic, or macabre, dimension of some scenes is interpreted in a disturbing way: damaged buildings and decomposing bodies can take on the hues of decorated pastries; the soldiers are in lead or wax, and the dolls’ or figurines’ faces recall the kitsch porcelain statuettes from Saxony that Ziemke particularly likes. This type of pictorial treatment, which gives things an "enamelled" appearance, is the result of a precise intention. As Erik Verhagen put it: "These glazes paradoxically endow objects with an additional, vital value that is inversely proportional to the petrifaction of human flesh." (3)
Katharina Ziemke carries out a double displacement of reality as it is depicted in documentary images (the press, photographs, the Internet, etc.). They are broken up – sampled – then placed in a world that is without antecedents, though in certain respects it does recall the strange, slightly cruel atmosphere of the Grimm brothers’ tales. What interests Ziemke is not so much humans as their attitudes, not so much stories as their contexts – and above all the indices, however derisory, of the successive steps that take a civilisation from a given historical era through to our own. Bernard Zürcher
1. At the Musée des Sables d’Olonne, July-September 2008.
2. Cf. Steve McQueen’s most recent films, for example Running Thunder (2007), with flies crawling over the body of a dead horse.
3. «Le Silence de la peinture», in catalogue Haut-Karabakh, for the exhibition.
Born in 1979, Kiel. She lives in Berlin.
Solo exhibitions :
Haut-Karabakh, Musée de l’Abbaye Sainte-Croix, Les Sables d’Olonne
Solferino, Galerie Zürcher, Paris
Printemps de Septembre, Toulouse
Group exhibitions :
New Company, Nosbaum & Reding, Luxembourg
Étranges fictions, Schloß Agathenburg, D
Voir en peinture two, La Générale, Paris
Die Statistenloge / la loge des figurants, Kunstraum B, Kiel
Société Psychanalytique, Paris