Darkness is never absolute; there is always a beam of light that illuminates the depths. Stefanie Gutheil fills her murky vision with distorted imaginative images of creatures culled from her unconscious that in time constitute the genesis of fresh ideas, turbulent progenitors of creative evolution. The artist establishes baroque tableaux of dream-like hybrids that linger in the collective, unconscious mind.
“The artist establishes baroque tableaux of dream-like hybrids that linger in the collective, unconscious mind.”
Stefanie Gutheil, Party Downstairs, 2010, Oil, fabric, and foil on canvas, 110.3 x 157.5 in. Courtesy of the artist.
The Monsters of Stefanie Gutheil
Darkness is never absolute; there is always a beam of light that illuminates the depths. Stefanie Gutheil fills her murky vision with distorted imaginative images of creatures culled from her unconscious that in time constitute the genesis of fresh ideas, turbulent progenitors of creative evolution. The artist establishes baroque tableaux of dream-like hybrids that linger in the collective, unconscious mind. She revels in bizarre beings that elicit our fears, yet infuses our perception of reality with the wonder that we have all but buried in our daily routines. The phantasmagoric organisms re-awaken our imaginations, infusing our sense perceptions with freshness. Humor permeates the images that merge diverse dimensions into a single entity, challenging our everyday expectations with a sense of morbid fun. Scenes unfold in waves of swirling, flowing action that morphs unceasingly, in a crescendo of movement. This is no black void of emptiness, but a narrative awash with remnants culled from the depths where the mind foments emerging impressions and impulses.
Gutheil brings the anxiety-provoking monsters of traditional German Expressionism into a lighter, more playful realm. Exotic shapes and patterns mingle with undefined, chromatic impastos that surge in charged pyrotechnics toward the forefront of the picture plane. She mixes flat, outlined graphic configurations with modeled animal and human figures, a process that results in an eerie pastiche of the comic book and the naturalistic, a panoramic range of expression. Scale is another boundary that Gutheil crosses; the gigantic and the miniscule are mixed in a merry interchange that tweaks viewer expectations of dimensional uniformity. Gutheil depicts herself in her paintings as a re-designed humanoid with long toes and a long nose, a witness to the boisterous events that unfold. Her wit spares no one of her acquaintance, from family and friends to acquaintances, as she expresses her piercing Goya-like intuitions on the human frailties that she perceives and transforms.
The artist is a powerhouse whose bold inventions include pink rats, deformed pigs, outsized cats, and Bosch on acid hybrids; they all play their parts in the nightmare drama. Staged with maximum trappings, unexpected actions and diversions are inserted into these grand scale, frontal formats. In Party Downstairs, spilled buckets of colorful paint cascade like a waterfall in what seems a salute to the art of painting itself, highlighting maximum energy, imagination, lack of inhibition, and bravura in the creative process. There is a price to these heroic exploits; the piece expresses the exhaustion of the aftermath. Gutheil transports the shadows of horror into dim light as she articulates the bizarre phantoms that invade her dreams. By enunciating these manifestations she subdues their dusky undercurrents.
Gutheil makes sculptures that are equally convincing and fantastic. Fascinating hybrids with bared teeth are restrained, hanging or sitting on tilted tabletops, within gold and silver cages. These bizarre entities, inspired by the visual language of her paintings, are severely deformed but benignly sympathetic. Gutheil takes German Expressionism into the twenty-first century, borrowing freely from Bosch, as she impacts the genre with energetic phenomena infused with fear and fun, in a rich and complex personal narrative.
“Dreckige Katze” was on view this Fall at Mike Weiss Gallery, New York.
*** This article was published by NY Arts Magazine, 2011. NY Arts Magazine is published by Abraham Lubelski. Sponsored by Broadway Gallery, NYC and World Art Media.