FROM LITTLE GIRLS AND FLOWERS
by Juan Bufill
Text for the catalogue FROM LITTLE GIRLS AND FLOWERS, Esther Montoriol gallery, Barcelona, June 2002
Sabine Finkenauer has no shame or fear. She is bold and joyful when she paints and draws enormous flowers or empty girls. How times have changed! Less than a century ago the boldest artist was Duchamp, who dared to exhibit a urinary as a work of art. Now, in the context of contemporary art, many presumed artists are satisfied with promulgating sociological discourse (which neither develops nor expresses) in order to legitimize their useless works. The false transgression is at anyone's reach and is celebrated by the museum-market. The most courageous and reckless act then, is instead to dare to paint in oil and draw with pencils pictures of flowers and girls, without any protective intellectual alibi, and without resorting to kitsch and without renouncing- but rather aiming at- lyricism and even tenderness. With a certain irony, of course.
Decades of kitsch involuntarily associated with paintings of flowers (and even worse little girls), in search of an obvious, and as such, trite beauty in the style of naïf, late-impressionist, or commonplace realism, predispose the contemporary public against these motifs. It is a subject matter which has been devalued due to misuse and abuse just as great words such as love and freedom sound hackneyed when they are used by a merchant, a publicist or a politician rather than a good poet or a true philosopher. And this is the key to the artistic success of this German painter who resides in Barcelona. If Sabine Finkenauer manages to rescue these motifs for contemporary art, it is precisely because she is a genuine artist and an excellent painter.
The paintings that Sabine Finkenauer has done in the last two years are also extraordinary for their tone and subject matter. However, this artist is not completely alone. In 20th century art, there exists a certain poetic line of tender intelligence, associated with a sense of humor, self-irony, or simple light heartedness. Perhaps the clearest example would be the work of Paul Klee, but there are others such as Calder, Miró, and Arp. It is a reference to the tonal and lyrical quality of their work. As for the formal quality, the references could be again to Klee in his paramusical compositions, his paranatural forms, and his synthesis of representation and abstraction. A reference could also be made to the painterly-painting of Joaquim Chancho or to Richter's more abstract work, as well as the color fields of Rothko and of another german artist residing in Barcelona, Silvia Hornig, who has enriched with new content and meaning the language of color in space.
All of the oils and drawings of this show have in common a rare combination of minimalism in the composition; of abstraction in the representation; of boldness and skill in the play between relations; chromatic densities and firmness in the forms and colors; and sensitivity in the shades and textures. They are moving paintings above all for their extraordinary luminosity, for the vitality and cheerfulness that they communicate through color.
Color is emotion and nature, and the attention to nature brings one to contemplation, which is a form of reunion. For this reason, in these works, unions or fusions are found even in the titles. A composition in the form of a plant can be a "Heart with Satellites" of various mixed colors, or a "Flower heart" or even a "Flower cup" with leaves of red shadows and a cup of light, over a background modulated in light greens. A "Flower" can seem to be a feminine body, and the head of a "Girl Flower" can represent the face of a childhood erased, an empty face, without features, but full of a joyful color-light somewhere between fruity and solar.
In "Girl with flower" the drawing is at the edges of the picture, and the face of the girl is a luminous space, an empty clarity framed only by the hair, which looks like a curtain, and arms of various colors. All together it appears as a minimalist theatre of light and color, where the separation between the interior and exterior disappears, and where a plant, minimal as well with three flowers like musical notes, intervenes in the form of a character.
With the same tenderness and sense of humor, this painter can draw a rare composition of a girl "Sleeping"- lying like a human horizon. Some "vases" form feminine figures where the handles suggest arms and ears. A "Miniskirt" of convex stripes is separated by empty spaces that give it the look of a minimalist sculpture with legs. A red or blue "Dress" is invaded by an ambiguous clarity that suggests both volume and at the same time an immaterial zone. A "Forrest" of distinct rhythmic lines; a "Block" of housing like silly little squares; or some "Little hairs" or "Curls" that frame empty faces of girls with color and light as the only facial expressions.
Sabine Finkenauer told me that in order to make these pictures she had to "unlearn everything I had been taught that contemporary art should be." It's another way of saying that, in order to express herself truthfully, in order that her paintings and drawings be an expression of her person, she had to radically forget the unwritten occupational rules of the "artistically correct" which are in operation. By working naturally, she came up with work that is joyous and free, vital and luminous. I would say that the light in her paintings is of a certain kind of lucidity, innocent and not guilty. It isn't the lucidity of knowing how to see the worst, which is profound and incomplete, but rather the contrary and complementary: the lucidity which allows seeing and living the best. There is truth in the lugubrious lead of Bueys, but there is also truth in the light and color of these paintings.