To Katharina Gun Oehlert
Ideally, the artist is a mirror of contemporary life in his
time. He (or she) takes advantage of the achievements of the culture in
which he (or she) lives, takes part in social events and focusses them
in his (or her) person. This poetisation leads to a kind of naivety towards
This is the artist’s sensibility.
The creative side of this artist is her vitality, the preoccupation
with content, the personal involvement of being. If we succeed in describing
this aspect of her artistic activity we learn something about the character
and intention of her products. This personal aspect of creativity shows
the affective quality of the products exhibited, the “soul material”,
so to speak, which they contain.
This evaluates the expressiveness of the artist.
Katharina Gun Oehlert is a dancer among artists. Her pictures show that rhythmic determination and desire for rounded form, her willingness radically to lay bare her soul largely determine the design of her paintings and objects. They are dramatic mises en scène, poems
The subtle choreography of Oehlert’s artistic products
corresponds to the dramaturgy of dance transposed into the silent object.
Her work represents the movement of silence – exhalts seriality as
rhythm and breath – and ritualises sense to become autonomous meaning.
The material worked quietly becomes blurred and is transformed into the
uniqueness of never recurring experience, is captured and cultivated.
Her mises-en-scène of objects radiate a profound respect.
K.G.Oehlert has dramatic access to the psychology of her fellow human beings, whereby her development towards the artist’s approach has led her to respect rather than dissect the struggling psyche. Her works reveal a highly concentrated receptiveness for the silent cry.
K.G Oehlert has an unsually profound understanding of the ritual dimension of art. At the same time she points to a shaman-like dimension of current art - to a psychotic representation of the individual steeped in culture. Experience of theatre as the integration of the cultural object in ritual acts. Realisation of the subject as the core element of cultural expression.
This artist is not primarily someone who knows exactly where she is going but someone who improvises like the long-distance runner who constantly asks himself new questions, the quest for meaning, primary work almost like a prayer.
The highly personal exchange between her own creative outburst and craftsmanship and academic discipline leads in the final analysis to what is called personal style, the cultural identity of the artist. This leads to the almost monstrous craftsmanship of her weaving and the fact that she confines herself to the autonomous work of art which stands alone as though it were the last of its kind.
Robert Bosshard, 1996
. . .
Plaster casts of human bodies appear naturalistic, they are individual, even personal. Only the fact that they are restricted to parts of the body, a colourful frame and the arrangement of the parts themselves differentiate the objects created in this way from an accurate reproductive imitation of nature. The works thus created develop a personality of their own, a highly personal statement. This gives them an autonomous existence as works of art. The fragmentary character of the individual cast elements leaves the finished overall work open to interpretation. In addition, the artistic device of the fragmentary running through the whole work creates a constant sense of vulnerability, wounding or loss. The installations are therefore able to evoke emotions relating to the recognition of emotional states on an associative rather than pictorial level.
The floating arrangement of the installations “Fermate” (1995-1999) and “Gleichgewicht” (equilibrium) (2000) suggest not only suspension and weight but also ascendance and floating. This impression is continued without interruption into the large-format paintings and paper lengths painted with acrylic paint. The coating of paint is very delicate; the lacquer-like application suggestive of shading which creates an impression of plasticity is not disturbed by internal detailing. The form is not given concrete expression by internal detail so that any interpretation must remain incomplete. These figures also appear to float in space. They seem fragile, the shapes suggesting bodies. They are, like the sculptures of Hans (Jean) Arps, an “invention” of natural forms. As a result of this similarity of their nature to the real world the observer feels directly addressed. For this reason these beings can seemingly be recognised.
The shaded contours are in reality highly reduced outlines. They generalise and abstract in the manner of a straightforward drawn outline. Like these they require the observer to complete the picture in his mind analogous for example to the pictures of Norbert Frensch where a trace of light shining from black dammar resin lacquer creates a suggestion of a rounded form which the observer imagines as a metal dish in a black space. Here the relationship to the plaster casts is clear. The artist arrives at her central theme again and again using different techniques.
Katharina Oehlert produced these forms in advance in woven pictures and subsequently cut them up and re-created them between black silk warp threads in the woven fabric on the loom. The delicately adumbrated form becomes an element in the overall continuum of the weave. It loses its autonomy by being integrated in the picture as a whole and becomes a detail in the narrative landscape of the picture.
Katharina Oehlert’s “1000 Years in Hilden – “ Paths through Time” (1999-2003) is an example and at the same time the climax of this idea of artistic design. An abundance of imagery more or less inspired by historic relics is united by freely invented and in part naturalist, in part surrealist figures to form a historical picture of a new type.
Katharina Oehlert invents bodies, invents symbols. She creates a whole repertoire of images which she rearranges over and over again and uses in a narrative as in a language of images.
A development, which in the pictures “Sonnengöttin” (sun goddess), “Zwiegespräch”(dialogue) and “Cherubine” goes back to its origins and reinterprets them, spans the earlier works “Cello der Jacqueline du Pre” (1984) and “Gefrorene Kindheit” (frozen childhood) (1994) and includes the already mentioned representation of the history of Hilden.
All the themes mentioned make it clear that man and his emotional states, his fears and dreams are always at the centre of Katharina Oehlert’s imagery. This is the nucleus of her artistic ideas. In this approach she follows Oskar Kokoschka. For him it was not a question of drawing the hired model in a given pose but a human being, a female being, whose beauty was to be felt, seen and recorded. In this he followed Edvard Munch who in 1889 wrote in his diary : “one should no longer paint interiors and people reading and women knitting. They should be living people who breathe, feel, suffer and love. I shall paint a series of such pictures. People will understand what is sacred in them and take off their hats as if in church.”
Rolf Jessewitsch, 2005