Ana Cristina Cachola:
Proximity and atmosphere or when affection does away with the paradoxical
Susanne S. D. Themlitz’s work suggests a kind of inverted ekphrasis, or, at least, one that has been displaced. In its modern meaning, ekphrasis is a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art. However, in pre-modern times it meant the capacity to transmit or project images using words, enabling the listener or reader to “see” — this is the meaning we will be referring to in this text. The power of the ekphrasis resided in the capacity of a (literary) work to emotionally impact the spectators and provoke visual and sensory experiences. Despite its visual character, Themlitz’s work possesses the inverted ekphrastic power of poetic and narrative projection, but also the power of visual multiplication.
Três linhas, um canto vezes quatro. E uma paisagem. (Three lines, a corner times four.And a landscape.), the title of her most recent exhibition at Galeria Vera Cortês, reveals her images’ capacity to generate other images and stories, while referring to the ever-visual thought processes of the artist, who — once again — offers us an ambiance/exhibition that invites the spectator to establish a close relationship with her works, like a book that has to be read up close.
As the title suggests, landscape is a ubiquitous element in the exhibition. What distinguishes landscape from nature is the action of the human gaze, selecting, cutting out, and (re)presenting motifs of a humanized nature. Themlitz’s chromatic choices, typical of her dreamlike universe, reveal the invention of a landscape that, even if implausible, is real — being that images are performative and produce reality, even if this reality is always personal and subjective.
The creative capacity to multiply images and histories is connate to the oneiric, both originate from visual or narrative inevitabilities triggered by varied impulses. Spanning across the centuries, one of the great debates about art is, undoubtedly, the one that focuses on the status of the expression: the real and the unreal, the truthful and the false, the representational and the performative, among many others. In this sense, non-material or non-referential images play a divisive role in this debate; they are effectively and affectively produced in the creation of images and narratives from other images or narratives; their figurative (or abstract) potential is always inventive and personal.
The sculptures presented in the show — A mão passa pela aresta, a madeira com fenda, três linhas e uma paisagem (The hand on the edge, wood with slit, three lines and a landscape), and Memória suspensa (Geografia deslocada) [Suspended Memory (Displaced Geography)] — also bring into the gallery that inventive (con)figuration of the natural. The forms presented by the artist have no obvious referent, but are part of an imagery we can recognize and relate to. The difficulty is in recognizing this haptic and visual familiarity, perhaps because it has its origins in cultural and visual references that are themselves metamorphic, and often sensorial and precognitive.
Even if all the works by Themlitz are endowed with a singular individuality, together they create an intimate atmosphere that envelops the spectator and is condensed in the title of one of the series in the show — Pensar no silêncio (Thinking about Silence). At the origin of Susanne S. D. Themlitz’s paintings, we find the words, the images and ideas registered by Peter Zumthor in his book Atmospheres. An architect known for the building of the Kolumba, a museum in Cologne, Germany, Zumthor describes atmosphere as a key element of architecture. To the architect, with whom Themlitz has been developing a (fictitious) dialogue, the atmosphere of any given place is built from the emotions and sensibilities that contribute to a harmonious and comfortable human life. The synchronicity between nature, landscape and architecture we always find in Themlitz’s work also help in furthering this harmony.
In the sense intended by Zumthor, Três linhas, um canto vezes quatro. E uma paisagem. (Three lines, a corner times four.And a landscape.) is also an atmosphere, one that drinks from the choreography the works of art invite the spectators to participate in. The spaces and the silences between the works are intentional, they aim to guarantee a territory for the sensible, for a speculative imagination. Because of their detail, dimension, chromatic strangeness or distrustful and curious character, the pieces demand from the spectator a silent but intimate proximity, a private and observant gaze, a state of being there that gives continuity to Themlitz’s work: a work that extends affections and intimacy into the gaze of the spectator.