For me, art is a performative process of cognition. Images show phenomena of our imaginations, ideas, norms, fears and feelings regardless of whether they are exposed consciously or show themselves unconsciously.


Two completely different illustrated books became important for my artistic development early on. The one, a simple photo album of my family, showing myself as a child, made me look into how those illustrated stories turned into a founding tale and guideline for our family. As a student of painting I was as a young, single mother in a similar situation as my own mother 20 years ago. The photographs in the albums primarily showed joyous or sublime moments of life and eliminated grief and pain. I struggled with the gap between my ephemeral fragments of memories of painful moments, which I relived with my own daughter and the official happy family testimonies that took over my fleeting memories and set the rules for an ideal family life.


The other was a 1936 textbook of war surgery intended to prepare the aspiring Aryan physician for the emergency care of German soldiers on the battlefield. The discrepancy between its scientifically precise graphic illustrations of the wounds presented and the reality of a human body that, wounded like this, turns into a bloody mass, is radical. Pain, fear and death that accompany these grotesque wounds are hidden, cannot and shall not be shown. This Hereafter of a physical reality reminded me of the images of the saints' legends in the churches of my Bavarian homeland. In these pictures too, the torture and suffering of the saints are shown as vividly as drastically. However, the saints endure the torments depicted in detail, with a strangely expressionless face, as if they were already in an idealistic realm of spiritual life, untouched by their physical being.


Both illustrated books confronted me with the question of the relationship between role model, image, reality and the origins of our cultural standards, which over time evolved into a seemingly 'natural' image of what is real. This is reflected in my work, in which I sample images from already existing motifs from all areas of visual production, be it from the world of art, anatomical illustrations, logos or advertisement. My method of painting on a pair of acrylic glass plates, which are then positioned on top of each other to form the entire painting, emphasises this collage principle. I draw with pens that allow for controlled, precise lines and present whatever may appear absurd or offensive as matter-of-factly as possible. The idea of the 'grotesque realism' by Michail Bachtin, a Russian literary scholar, inspires me. He introduced his concept in opposition to the classical realism, which represents reality as it should be according to the norms of a cultural order. Grotesque Realism shows how reality exists despite these norms. It includes pain, deformation and death, but also birth, growth and transformation. It embraces irony, carnival and laughter as means of overturning repressive norms. Grotesque realism does not regard our body or our self as established and complete, but accepts transformation and the disturbing ambivalence of life.


Having lived in Israel for many years I exposed myself to the situation of living as a stranger abroad and looking at my origins from a distance. This stimulated me to examine my relationship to my own native region with all its facets. As in earlier phases of my work, biographical material serves as impulse and material. I expanded the originally two-dimensional process of my work to combine not only found footage, wall works and my own pictorial inventions, but also to include the works of fellow artists in my exhibitions. These exhibitions within the exhibition complicate the question of authorship as the newspaper fragment once did in cubist paintings. As I interweave various understandings of politics, culture and religion, my expanded collages became a reaction to the great collage of world cultures created by globalization.

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© Cornelia Renz