running back again
we’ll open a show of stefan kurten’s newest paintings tomorrow. here’s my read on it:
in stefan kürten’s aestheticized architectural images,there is nearly always a reflection: in a pool, a plate glass window, the structure of a building. or sometimes it’s somewhere uncanny, like symmetry in the foliage of a carefully-clipped landscape or an inkblot-patterned sky.
more often than not, the reflections are suspect: a glimpse of something counterintuitive. a miró (or is that a kandinsky?) in the living room is definitely a mondrian in the swimming pool. the windows of a house bathed in a midday glow reflect a starry nighttime sky. a verdant, overgrown tangle has, as its parallel, desert cacti. there’s an and-what-alice-found-there aspect to kürten’s work — a line walked between photorealism and surrealism – that makes us ask “what is going on here?
the imagery is too true to life, too subtly problematic for us to immediately know why it’s unsettling.
each of these paintings is divided into quadrants. or more precisely, each picture plane is composed of four sheets of paper, joined to make one. those material connections further fracture the pretense of realism, adding to kürten’s faceted world-view of potential alternate realities.
in the creation of imagery, as in haberdashery, while a seam is where pieces are put together to make a whole, it’s also where things are most likely to come apart.
kürten’s image-mirroring never corresponds to the material fissures of his paper, instead, seemingly random distortions based on reflections create forms akin to a psychologist’s inkblots.
art, i’d posit, is a type of rorschach test. what we answer when we’re confronted with ambiguity and asked “what do you see?” explains more about who we are and where we’ve been than it does about what we’re looking at.
remember too that beyond the optical, “to reflect” refers to looking back at something that was or might have been.
one last thought about mirrors and inkblots. while palindromes are mirror-words that read the same backward as they do forward, a semordnilap – is a word that has a different meaning when it’s reversed. It occurs to me that this is an exhibition of semordnilapic paintings.