Barbara Ellmerer, Caroline Schmoll / Origins

14th January - 12th February 2017

At first glance Barbara Ellmerer's paintings are aesthetically seductive but this impression slowly gives way to disquiet as, for instance, an inoffensive plant gradually metamorphoses into a poisonous one, and the mood becomes strange and troubled.  Materials are used generously; oil may collide with silky lacquer and silver nitrate which seems to create dark crevices in the oily paste.  The colour range is limited so the artist plays with nuance rather than contrast.  The paintings are often large and they flow and come alive through the juxtaposition of pastel tonalities, even monochrome, which punctuate patches of bright colour.  Barbara Ellmerer concentrates on the plants' oblivious but powerful vivacity by focusing on a few elements which appear to surge up from the magma echoing primeval flows, the energy which brings buds into blossom, the ferment of the cellular world.  In their palpable material presence, her paintings capture the invisible and reveal what cannot be seen by the eye.  To invoke the poetry of life, even though it is superficially present, would be too simple as the artist's discourse goes further.  Because she combines enigmatic beauty and scientific complexity without the distraction of too much detail, we are led directly into the essence of her vision made immediately perceptible through the senses and the intellect.

Caroline Schmoll puts flesh on her interior visions through fashioning strange objects which recall ritual, poetry and symbols.  Her series of works explore the extremes of formal and material variations of uniting leather, fur, clay and porcelain.  She uses a vocabulary which traces its roots to animal, vegetable and visceral objects.  These curious series, or "atribu" as the artist entitles them, seem to have emerged from a cabinet of curiosities or from an imagined anthropological museum.  But they are somehow familiar even if this is simply because of the presence of plants, or fish bones made fragile by being rendered in fine porcelain and accentuated by the juxtaposition of rabbit fur.  The pieces of the final series entitled "offrandes" combine animal parts, budding plants and the undersea world.  Stroked by light, their membranes seems to palpitate and the tufts emerging from cracks seem to shimmer.  The mysterious attraction of Caroline Schmoll's work arises from the subtle frontier between life and death which she has made tangible.  An example is the "somnia and chimaeram" installation inspired by a poem by Baudelaire and exhibited at the Ariana Museum in 2015.  Motionless in immobile rain, the plant forms in porcelain become a cluster in suspension evoking the "caress of a dream". ./NK