EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE: THE PLASTIC OPTIMISM OF SABINE FINKENAUER
by Àlex Mitrani
text for the catalogue Drawing Objects, MasArt gallery, May 2008
Sabine Finkenauer has forsaken the imaginary of children, the fable, i.e., the romanticism that had characterised her iconography so far and made her oeuvre so instantly appealing. In view of her recent works, this universe represents the fertile ground that has favoured the development of a task in which formal investigations are filled with a new evolving and symbolic meaning. The ambiguous charm, for it was only superficially agreeable, of the flower girls has evolved to the point of reversing its operation.
Where we previously encountered something sinister behind the apparent innocence of a world inhabited by silent dolls, we now discover a certain discourse of hedonistic well-being behind much more rigorous forms and minimalist compositions based on geometry and its variations. While her pieces of furniture used to evoke dolls' houses, we now come across graphic features resembling mock-ups of the utopian constructions first designed by le Corbusier and the Bauhaus and which would eventually lead to the International Style. This architectural model often had an actual counterpart in buildings associated with holidays and leisure, giving way to what has been described as an architecture of happiness. Hence what is revealed is a peculiar relationship between avant-garde utopia and everyday banality.
The mock-up stands between the project, the building and the object. Sabine Finkenauer's structures are not centred on white space as if they were abstractions, but are supported by bases in the lower area of her images. They have a specific weight, a volume, as a result of which there is tension between the plane (that corresponds to the conception) and the thing, the presence (that corresponds to the physical reality). In her engrossed inclination to draw things geometrically and in their incipient material realisation, Finkenauer seems to evoke the enigmatic dimensions of the primary sciences, like the polyhedron in Dürer's famous engraving Melancholy.
Its no wonder that Sabine should wish to transform her drawings into objects given that she began her artistic career in the field of sculpture. In her metal flower sculptures Sabine shapes the spontaneity of plant life into regular symmetrical forms, insisting upon the repetition derived from all growth processes that acquire the appearance of mathematical sequences. In this respect and in comparison with her previous series devoted to flowers, she now focuses primarily on stems and leaves, in other words, on the growth of the body, of that which supports, structures and develops following a sort of internal logic. These three-dimensional transparent drawings, halfway between sculpture and the fittings for Eric Satie's furniture music, pose other interesting issues such as the mutual definition of drawing and space, or limits as formalising tools.
This attitude however, which is almost epistemological in the field of investigation, is enhanced here by the introduction of a new element thatfavours the hedonistic experience: the play with ornament. Decorative units and patterns are prominent features in many of these works that partake of experimental objects, children's games and ornamental catalogues. But while decoration is generally combined on the plane, in these works it adopts other dimensions and connotations. A sort of bow that could also be a spool appears on different sides of her wooden jigsaw puzzles, a shape she has explored a great deal and which seems to point to perspective, an unusual feature in her oeuvre by means of which Sabine overcomes the primary rhetoric of flatness and hints at a dimensional opening towards more complex forms.
These latest works by Finkenauer evoke some of the playful joy of Alexander Calder, but also the analytical spirit of Aurélie de Nemours, and yet at the same time they stand apart, in a context we can for now only describe as that of post-postmodern art, if you excuse the repetition. These pieces obey a disciplined and impertinent effort to make independent plastic creation once again feasible, assuming the historical and figurative associations that crop up along the way.
"Alles wird gut", states Finkenauer's tapestry, bringing together craftsmanship, abstract art and architecture, utopia and friendly advice. For art, she may be striving to say that it is important to assume the genealogy of history and at the same time aspire to new experiences. Like the reconstructed image of the mythic Minoan labyrinth in Cretan culture, Sabine Finkenauer's combinatorial structures would refer at once to a certain melancholy and to a promise of classical happiness born out of a cognitive need and expressed purely by paradox and simplicity.