Anne von Freyburg
Goldsmiths, University of London
The recent works by Anne von Freyburg explore the operation and inscrutability of aesthetics. The life-size mixed media tableaux show human-like figures in various states of transformation. Following in the footsteps of Western Romanticism, Von Freyburg takes subjective experiences as a starting point for her work. At the same time, she deliberately chooses to apply cliché and symbolic imagery to fit within the context of the human body. The canvases distinguish themselves by certain rawness where organic textures of embroidery, textiles and crystals are combined with painting and drawing techniques. Playing upon the ambivalence between introspection and outward appearance intrusive images arise, reminding of common kitsch and raising questions about beauty as a kind of decoration.
The premise of the tableaux consists of photographic portraits of her own making. From a need to get behind and watch through the matter of the surface, Von Freyburg seeks to break en reinterpret the value of the traditional limited canvas. This fascination with the invisible and infinite human spirit manifests itself in the layered process of de- and reconstruction. The demeanours of the figures are derived from devoted religious and mythological sculptures and paintings from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Physical traits are literally sanded in which parts of the fabric are completely lapsed. The resulting fragile and faded portraits are the starting point of an intrinsic reconstruction of the canvas.
Traditional aesthetics take shape in physical layers of manually applied needlework, Goblin tapestry fragments, crystals and academic painting methods. Several sections of sanded canvas and skin are adapted further, re-coated and frequently modified. In addition, forgotten but recognizable symbolic values of natural components; the growing twig, the bleeding rose and flowing waterfall, provide a multitude of interpretations. Besides a truly protective layer, the figures also seem to discharge and even perish. Once again one recalls the Romantic period where the sublime of moving nature was frequently chosen as a topic by artists. In the context of Von Freyburg, nature applies as an identifying fulcrum and irreversible fate. The stark figures can be seen as contemporary fossils where a multitude of ambivalent data call for contemplation on modern society and the power of aesthetics.