Brigitte Kowanz

Brigitte Kowanz’s latest installation comprises drawings, paintings, and other objects. While the gallery has reserved a separate room for each of these media, the overall exhibition is infused with a highly consistent spirit. Kowanz demonstrates an impulse toward investigation, and an analytic way of tackling her material, though her goal is never analysis per se. Basically, her work deals with ancient philosophical questions about the essences of things and their phenomenal manifestations; to put it in more contemporary terms, the work probes the relationship between product and promotion, scene and space. All these issues are transmitted by a common factor: light, which reveals itself as the great agent of transformation, circulation, exchange, and transubstantiation.

In two corners of a room stand triangular slabs of mat acrylic glass, through which one sees the silhouette of a glass bottle and the refractions of beams from a light source beyond the bottle. Yet they are not so much physical objects as simply light sources that transmit the objects (glass bottles) as projections through the flat glass pane into free space, blending here with the illumination provided by concealed neon lighting. An iridescent kinetic drawing appears on the glass bottles, offering itself as their spiritual contents.

Another series of works could be called “object images.” Here, various rows of three, four, or five bottles are mounted on a flat wooden box with each neck pointing toward the center, where variegated fluorescent lamps form a geometric structure. The bottles contain phosphorescent substances, in which the corks have been dipped, to produce, in the darkness, luminous effects. The materiality of the objects is undermined by the transformative potential of light and color. Despite the frontality and obvious draftsmanship of the basic form, this brings in an element of alchemic instability.

The surfaces of the canvas paintings expose the stretchers, to create almost geometric grids that emphasize the opaque character of the paintings. In one piece, a compartment is removed, and the eye focuses directly on the wall, which thereby becomes part of the painting. The imaginary lines between structure (stretcher or window frame) and content (color surface or window pane) is blurred, so that the image/window does not so much permit us to see through it as it lures the eye into a trap of its own construction: the transparency of the painting is exposed as an illusion.

Helmut Draxler

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.