The inspiration for Franziska Güttler’s recent solo exhibition “2092“ at Galerie Potemka in Leipzig came from a dream she once had:
“I once dreamed of a message in a bottle that had travelled across the sea through the decades into the future. It was washed up in 2092 on a coast, which is where it was found. I saw indistinct figures, walking, standing and opening the bottle on a misty beach. Instead of a written message, the bottle contained noises and images. Suddenly the figures looked very distinct and one was wearing a shiny green jacket. It started raining, and that is when I woke up.” (Franziska Güttler)
Franziska Güttler does not see the message in a bottle as a concrete utopia or ideal; she is not at all concerned with such ideas.
Rather, she wants her work to express what she is aiming for: the membrane between life and death.
For her, death is an invisible but impenetrable membrane, something that she feels her way along in her paintings.
As she says,
You cannot see the membrane but at the same time you are in search for something you can see.
In other words, we live, but the dead are here too.
Death takes the most important, dearest people from us and while we and our memories are still there afterwards, all sensual attributes of the deceased person have disappeared.
Sensual experience alone proves we are still alive.
Sometimes we pinch ourselves in our dreams to find out whether we are dreaming or not.
This ties in with the current exhibition situation caused by the coronavirus, resulting in art restricted to digital space and making artists aware that showing art without the element of physical presence is a castration of what art is about or seeks to trigger.
Franziska Güttler, ichwarteschonsolangeaufdich, 150x120cm, Öl auf Leinwand, 2018
Your current solo show at Gallery Potemka in Leipzig titled “2092” arose from a dream you once had about a message in a bottle that travelled into the future. What is your take on dreams in general?
The good thing about dreams is that they are often interesting and fresh. They provide us with an endless variety of unseen aesthetics and untold stories. It’s really cool. Dreams are new, unique, radical and weird.
In my view, interpreting them or taking them too seriously is pointless; for me they work beyond decoding and meaning.
They are like drafts… they can change their storyline and setting all the time, rather like the old quote by Karl Valentin that everything has three sides: a positive one, a negative one, and a funny, strange one.
Can you describe what it’s like to work along the membrane between life and death?
You know that sensation when you see something in the dusk or at night but the moment you focus on it, it disappears or gets blurred?
That’s because the eyes’ receptors for contrasts and light are no longer centred, meaning you can’t look straight onto things but have to look away or focus on something next to whatever it is you actually want to see. It’s like that.
After a recent exchange with you, a Jane Austen quote, an all-time favourite, came to mind: “It is not what we think or feel that makes us who we are, but what we do.”
In this slow and heavy time, I personally sometimes miss the sheer speed of doing many things, of action, momentum and being fast.
On the other hand, painting is always action.
Is there a particular situation, place or person that played a role in your decision to become an artist?
I grew up on the outskirts of Dresden near a deciduous forest with a creek and an old mill, roaming the abandoned orchards and tiny vineyards, soft hills and the misty valley of the river Elbe as a child.
Then, as a teenager, I witnessed and took part in the peaceful revolution and transformation years of the ‘90s in the fading German Democratic Republic.
Without any of this, I don’t think I would have developed the aim or wish to become a painter.
The first piece of art that I might have recognised as something enigmatic and different from other visuals was probably a Chagall reproduction of the painting »Champs de Mars« on one of the walls in our house. I found everything about it so weird.
Now when I look at it, I suddenly feel like a child and can almost smell the memories.
I was also in awe of the Christian stories my grandparents told us and the stained glass windows in the cathedrals they took us to.
Those stories and the paintings on glass gave me a gloomy homely feeling of depth, light and enigma.
Does literature play a role in your inspirational process or work?
Although I love to read and my thinking is very much inspired by books and articles, reading doesn’t influence my work directly. I go more for nonverbal sensations such as music, movement, emotions and relations.
But comic books – yes!
What are you currently working on and what are you looking forward to this year in this context?
After opening a solo show and a group show, both of them virtual, in Leipzig in February, and having had another group exhibition postponed, I am now looking forward to two upcoming shows in Germany in late spring and hope they will be somehow accessible.
Shows that cannot be visited change ways of visual representation in a specific space because of the lack of physical confrontation and exposure, both regarding the works concerned and the recipient.
You set the frame that defines the experience of the viewer.
On the other hand, virtual shows allow me to determine the space within which reception takes place in a more adequate way.
Aesthetics and process aside, which emotion do you seek to trigger in your work?
In my work I want to open a space for thoughts and immediate sensations rather than emotions.
In painting I focus on contrasts and physical experience, and I want my works to be physical. For the most part I explore and play with textures, surfaces and colours.
Ultimately my work is about the presence of death in life and what this does to us.
FRANZISKA GÜTTLER: 2092
at Gallery Potemka on display until February 27th, 2020
Upcoming: Works on paper at Kornhausgalerie Weingarten, 29th of April – May 30th, 2020
Header Image: Franziska Güttler, Franziska Güttler, Gute Nacht o Wesen, 2016, 54×75cm, Lithographie, handkoloriert
Author: Esther Harrison