A fantastic walk between painting and sculpture

Luciano Caprile


Artists tend to pour their unique creative language into their work by transformation, occasionally taking on the creative process itself as a subject. This may particularly apply to those painters who have let their creations evolve in such a way, that they could no longer be contained within the confines of a painting – regardless what size. At this point, the need for a third dimension becomes apparent: another space is essential in which the new has room to unfold. During the past century, important artists such as Pablo Picasso or Joan Miró underwent this experience when they followed this need for breaking the boundaries by creating installations with found objects or casting them into bronze. Even today, Fernando Botero presents his work altering between sculpture and the two-dimensional space of a canvas or paper. The same could be said on the works of Mimmo Paladino, Bruno Ceccobelli, Tommaso Cascella and many others who engage in a variety of different ways to express an idea, interpreting it as the visualisation of movement.

Carin Grudda is one of these artists who followed this creative process for some years, transcribing it into a world of authentic stories and fables.

On Carin’s approach to her work and her way of placing it into a strange environment, it is as if she generates something like the hope for an insight into the object itself, e. g. inherent in a simple piece of wood, taken from a completely different context and background. The objects which used to be a door, the lower part of a chest bench or the scraped surface structure of a table evoke memories and associations on forms and figures with an archaic, primitive character; at the same time these shapes are imbued with an original light of enchantment. They conjure up parallels to those untamed ways of expression of “Art Brut”, created and vindicated by Jean Dubuffet, but are simultaneously reminiscent of earliest childhood’s intense experiences, where every single sign evokes a story and in joining them together they imply a world, in which wonder is still inherent and can be deciphered step by step: a world which in its entirety is only experienced by children of a magical age. By continuing in the same direction as Dubuffet, Miró and certain works influenced by expressionism and native art elements by artists affiliated to the Cobra Group, Carin conjures up the magic of a visual language sustained by artistry and compositional power, combining movement with a subsequent (or anticipated) sense of wonder. Conveyed by her work, each delving into primeval times and primitive ecstasies yields a world in which we can recover these sensations.

This also explains the stations for contemplation, awaiting the viewer in the form of posts alongside the path from Lingueglietta to Carin’s studio and residence on the outer foothills of the Ponente Ligure, looking out towards France. And it should not be surprising to find these totemic elements gathered from the flow of intuition (which is how an idea springs into being, directly transformed into an image) and assembling themselves within the landscape of the narrow, green and dry olive grove terraces claimed from the rock face. Echoes of this very world shine through the gigantic sculpture BLAU MIAU (BLUE MEOW) the blue of its elegant narrow body reflecting the desire to conquer the sky with juvenile bravado – even if you don’t want to turn your back too easily on all those made-up coloured fairy tales on bits of wood, where the immediate imprint of a dream or a poetic whim strives to be screamed into space and foils any rational plans to continue with your tour.

This is precisely how Carin Grudda works: She is capable of inserting the core of invention into a composition of various different re-cycled elements in order to create Spartan works reminiscent of the Arte povera movement (such as the TWELVE WOODEN POLES adorned with objects and the elementary HOMMAGE AN BEUYS). It seems as if she adapts to a naïve state of wonder to nurture the outpouring of playful combination in the process, feeding on passionate creativity, over and over again inspired by a kindled imagination and composed with great skill in such a way that the material result of this experience is joined – and stays – together. This is how KATERLIESCHEN was created from an old table in 2005, a painting with an archaic quality though executed in a very modern technique. This painting is reminiscent of a primeval longing from the depths of the soul to be found in the works of an early Appel or Corneille. Carin invokes and transcribes this longing into a modern world, which needs to be presented once more with the joys of enchantment – a world from which Bildlichkeit has vanished or been exhausted. Similar can be said about ÜBER DIE LIEBE UND ANDERE DÄMONEN (ON LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS), a piece of work created during the same period of time: there are many stories equally alive within the body of a crowned matron, making her into a simultaneously embracing and conflicting entity, whose tales have the colours of a reality only to be told through images. However the same is true for everything created under the impression of love.

This can also be observed on the GEBURT DES PEGASUS (THE BIRTH OF PEGASUS) which is a softly touching conjuring up of the painted image dissolving into fine lines and towards abstraction – as if the idea guided the image beyond the confines of the canvas. Parallel to this, the sculptures elevate beyond the subject of the paintings and transform it permanently into an airborne narrative, whose content appears clad in reality, albeit within its own parameters: this becomes particularly apparent on the impressive multi-layered fountain well, which was created in 2007 for the city of Gudensberg, Carin’s birthplace. Bronze pigs are spouting water and frogs climb through rivulets.

A few steps away from this, in a water installation designed at an earlier date, two large royally crowned birds are facing each other on two steps spurting water jets through their beaks in rhythmical intervals. A ship on wheels steered by a laughing goblet king navigates in the city of Ingelheim on Friedrich-Ebert Square. The king proffers his heart to the passers-by within a to-and-thro of bright beams and sprays, which reflect this image of enchantment from above and all around making it obtainable like a dream, which becomes tangible in its moment of contemplation.

Under these circumstances, the viewer may take on his/her favourite role within the art: it is possible – or even necessary with Carin’s work to recover the forgotten joys of enchantment and relive them – even for just a moment. This magic can be easily discovered in last year’s GROSSEN KÖNIG (GREAT KING) and all the other little and bigger kings in Carin’s work, which in any surroundings rouse a sense of wonder in the viewers.

Carin’s work always guides through a predestined imaginary way through a labyrinth, leading back to the root: to the very source of inspiration from which we all more or less consciously scooped up the very ability of wonderment we experienced in the first years of our life, this early state of perception, when the world around was still a fantastic discovery to us to be conquered step by step. We have lost this sense precisely at the moment we presumed to know the world and assumed to model it to our own needs and exploits.

Carin’s work gives us the gift of wonder back, unspoiled, with an unrivalled freshness of expression and a mirror-like purity, which should not be blemished by a contemplation which only scratches the surface and be perceived as a mere pleasant appearance. Inside the magic core of things, within the interaction of form and narrative itself, lies the key to our existential “recovery”. It may be reduced to just a moment of enlightenment, but it suffices to invite spirit and senses to a feast, opening a way to ones own roots. Due to the works of Carin Grudda all this becomes possible – with a totally natural and simultaneous completely unexpected directness.

The magic persists for Carin Grudda – and through her work for us.

Luciano Caprile