Patched and pieced together like a fool’s jacket 


For a considerable time now I have been fascinated by the idea that art might, as Aby Warburg, a Jewish-German art historian and cultural theorist, suggested, be a sort of apotropaic magic formula, intended not only to turn away evil, but to reduce the gap between the dichotomy of frenetic emotional chaos and distanced, rational deliberations through the help of icons and artistic work.


I have fostered an interest in latency and dreams, these disturbing, but remote realms at the periphery of our lucid and radiant consciousness. I deal with our optimistic self-image that is so assured to stay on solid moral grounds, enlightened and beyond baser instincts, only to watch itself dash against the moral imperative it fabricated and shaped.


The material I use – felt-tip pen on large scale acrylic glass sheets that are mounted together – I choose because it is one of the most extreme artificiality. Felt-tip pens allow for controlled, precise lines: this is why they are primarily used for technical drawing. My lines, drawn with the help of rulers, try to reveal no irregularities that can be read as an affective sensation about my ambivalent world of motifs. I try to present whatever may appear fantastic as matter-of-factly, as soberly as possible. And upon closer inspection, the beholder discovers that the images are largely assembled from preexisting motifs from all realms of visual production, whether it is the world of high art, illustrations from anatomy textbooks or advertising logos. I mirror works that mirror other works. I often start with a historic literary model. Then I develop the subject further by sampling throughout the centuries, using multiple motifs from the history of visual arts – patched and pieced together like a fool’s jacket.


My method of painting on numerous acrylic glass plates, which are then positioned on top of each other to form the entire painting, alludes to this collage principle. The narrative comes to life through the use of multiple characters floating on the acrylic glass like transparency cells of animated movies that remain still in time. Sensual, sexual, alluring and foreboding, these characters inhabit my pictorial space; some recognizable and familiar, others, grotesque transfigurations that emerge from the depth of our subconscious.


The Russian philosopher and literary critic Mikhail Bakthin locates the grotesque within the spirit of carnival, which distorts and defuses all that is terrible by the peoples’ triumphant laughter. He calls it a “game with the absurd”.


The grotesque realism, the artistic expression of the carnival spirit, wants to achieve new outlook on the world, to realize the relative nature of all that exists. The function of the grotesque realism is to transform our image of the world from the ‘ideal’ to the ‘ambiguity’ in order to distil a qualitative truth out of it. At the core of my work I deal with this relative nature of truth that is not clear-cut, radiant and heroic, but grotesque, ambiguous and down-to-earth.


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© Cornelia Renz