>> No Title /// Thomas Amonn /// 2003
The terms “abstraction” and “schematisation” can have various meanings. On the one hand, these two terms refer to processes of selecting and omitting representational elements without defining these processes according to specific results in the finished work. In this case, “abstract” and “schematic” are gradational expressions, and they are relative: a representation is more or less abstract or schematic depending on what we define as a standard of completeness.
On the other hand, the word “abstract” can also be used in an absolute sense, synonymous with “non-figurative” or “non-representational”. Classifying paintings and sculptures as figurative or non-figurative is not always easy, for there are countless works that are neither figurative nor non-figurative or are a mixture of both. The point is, however, that it is not the creative process which is decisive for the categorisation: if we classify a work of art as non-representational, this does not imply that it has emerged from an abstractive process. Similarly, this also holds for the terms “schema” and “schematisation”. In addition, we have the term reduction, which belongs to the same family as abstraction and schematisation, but which is only used in the first, process-oriented sense.
Representationalism is always connected with symbols for individual things, which are recognised as such when we look at them – completely independent of whether the identification of the symbols is based on convention or on the natural recognition of patterns. Thus, non-figurative paintings are not visual, recognisable symbols for things, and they do not consist of them. On the other hand, when we speak of abstracting, schematising in the first sense, individual things do not have a defining role: individual things – or the representation of them – can, but do not necessarily have to represent the beginning of the process; they only provide a point of departure.
Suse Krawagna’s paintings are reductive; they are based on individual things; at the end of the process we see painted individual things which are only genetically connected with the original things. Usually these original things are more or less easy for the observer to identify, as is the case with the colourful climbing and gymnastics equipment on children’s playgrounds; however, in some cases one has to ask the artist in order to be absolutely certain. But the differentiation is irrelevant: the artist’s object is not to give a representation of individual things – whether as specific real objects or as types – but rather to transport individual objects into the realm of a painting. The important thing is that in the end, individual painted things are what we see; the fact that I can easily identify some of them as playground slides and have difficulty in recognising others as tennis nets is completely irrelevant.
The represented things are spatially related to each other, but this happens in a different space and not in the three-dimensional space of our daily-life perception, where the original objects are normally found. The represented things also have a history. We can perceive this history in the many preliminary stages that have been painted over, wiped out, blurred or left next to each other. The same also holds for the space that contains these things: here, too, a great number of temporal painting stages are present, and the more closely we look, the more we see.
Thus, Suse Krawagna’s painted world is a world of spatial and temporal individual things. Never are things abstracted into a pattern, and the space which contains them is not simply background.
There is something else as well, which is not easy to describe, but which is one of the distinctive qualities that characterises this world: The paintings go beyond the purely visual. It is not mere coincidence that in her paintings the artist represents things with which we interact very intensively and elementarily: railings, windows, tennis nets, playground slides, playground climbing equipment are objects with a strong haptic quality, and they are objects which make human beings experience themselves in motion – not only as children but also as adults.
Thus, the characteristics of the things which survive the reduction process are not only visual ones: the painted things also convey how the original things are physically felt and perceived.
(Catalog text for the exhibition "Suse Krawagna, Esther Stocker – Faistauer-Preisträgerinnen 1999 und 2002", Galerie im Traklhaus, Salzburg, 2003)
Translation: Michaela Meth