Sophie von Hellermann, Viking Sword (2018). Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York.
Go ahead, try to picture artist Sophie von Hellermann at the studio: moving in with speed, loosely, quickly, meeting the canvas, brushes swirling, thoughts soaring, zapping, painting with tempo. Since her earliest work, she has incessantly built a catalogue of paintings, watercolors and murals, committed to the liquefaction of the very medium that is painting. Back in 2001, her career first took off, over the moon, and she had already marked a position: her focus—as a painter—was set on the workings of the mind and 'how dream images come together from things you've seen, read, and experienced.' The understanding of how a picture manifests in the mind and how that manifestation can be continued onto the canvas, realized as a material image, is a working process to which the artist is still committed today. Her technique is intimately prompt, almost abrupt—like the forming of thoughts into words, except she forms thoughts into painted imagery—and so she uses the act of painting as a form of communication like writing or speech. Although more calmative at times, many of her paintings are wild like a blabbering or ranting mouth—remember the velocity with which the medium is applied. Countering the momentum that is as much part of the making of painting as it is of its experience, considering how certain painted images decelerate the process of seeing, von Hellermann insists on immediacy and connects the moment that holds a thought to the one that reveals her idea on canvas. She weaves the threads between mental and physical images. Hers isn't really an automated but rather an eloquent procedure of applied thinking. Twofold, through their speediness and also their fragmentary nature, her paintings manage to inhabit the gap between what is present and what lies in the past. This is precisely how they tap into Marcel Duchamp's famed 'instantaneous state of the Rest' and the 'extra rapid exposure' that is the 'allegorical appearance': in essence, this outlines von Hellermann's practice.