I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...
The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...
The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...
Sadie Coles HQ is delighted to present the gallery's first exhibition with Katja Seib–also the artist's first solo presentation in London. Seib's new paintings (all 2018) form an interconnected group throughout which lucid figuration blurs into dreamlike symbolism. Alternately time-intensive and rapid, her works share a quality of psychological depth and atmospheric nuance.
In a group of large canvases, closely related in theme and iconography, Seib depicts individuals ranging from real-life models to imaginary personae. The paintings are made variously on rough burlap and found textiles–materials which permeate both their texture and imagery. Girl with Teapot shows a girl seated at a table, cast in the glow of her iPhone. The underlying textile is used to represent both the tablecloth in the foreground and–tinted a darker shade–the wallpaper behind. Seib found the material in Los Angeles's fabric district; the real-life object intrudes upon–and becomes identical with–the painted image, in such a way as to parallel the larger interplay of the real and the fictive in her paintings.
Seib's paintings are marked by recurring symbols and subjects. Eve's Curse depicts a woman reclining on a bed beneath a picture: female sexuality and subjectivity are examined through the prism of Eve and the serpent. The related motif of an apple appears in the installation hello there: a painted piece of fruit hangs between two inscribed canvases, doubling and inverting the imagery of another painting, Real life is stranger than my dreams. Snakes appear in multiple guises, embodying the paintings' various strands of meaning–ornamental, symbolic, formalist. The formula of a figure in bed, viewed from an elevated cinematic perspective, together with that of a 'picture within a picture', appears in Dreams and Forgetting and You made your bed, now sleep in it.
In the latter, a girl lies back, her outspread hair rising into a filmy veil that covers the top half of the picture to create a split scene–a structure that appears in many of Seib's paintings. Reality shades ambiguously into fantasy: cradled like a statuette in the girl's hand is the motif of Europa and the Bull (borrowed from a Jugendstilillustration by German artist Adolf Munzer)–an ancient mythic 'inset' that variously implies transgressive desire, the line between sexual coercion and complicity, and the condition of Europe. Reflecting this plurality of meaning, two giant hands intrude on the top of the image, clutching a massive rolling pin–either a figment of the girl's imagination, or a real and impending threat.
Throughout her new paintings, Seib plays with light and colour, using fluctuations in shadow and tone to convey–or render ambiguous–spatial depth. Her figures are often shrouded in darkness or literally veiled, in an extension of the delicate layering (of paint and fabric) that gives rise to each picture. Installed upstairs are multiple smaller works, made on identically-sized square canvases, each produced within the space of a day. These are based primarily on photographs that Seib has taken of people she has encountered in Los Angeles. Painted more quickly and lightly than her larger canvases, she likens these works to drawings–each is an open-ended experiment. Yet the canvases also mirror and magnify the charged symbolism of her more 'finished' pieces, repeating their interplay of illusionistic content and surface patterning, and suggesting a cast of characters coming into being. Throughout her new paintings Seib evokes a world that is alternately luminous and nocturnal, mundane and surreal. Repeatedly, the viewer is inveigled into this world. The pictorial space seems to extend into, or recede from, the real space of the viewer, so that we are invited to be participants and subjects as much as detached observers.
Katja Seib (b. 1989, Düsseldorf, Germany) studied at the Fine Art Academy of Düsseldorf. She has been featured in exhibitions including Salon des Amateurs, a presentation of works by the pupils of Peter Doig and Tomma Abts, at Tramps London (2017), and Figure of Speech, Cassina Projects, New York (2016). Seib lives in Los Angeles.
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