For the first time in Switzerland, Siegfried Contemporary is pleased to showcase the work of the German, London-based artist, Maria Thurn und Taxis.
The exhibition The Beast within contains a beautiful selection of watercolors and oil paintings of various sizes. The title of the show was taken from a horror novel written by Edward Levy as well as an Interactive movie game, where the storyline weaves together werewolf mythology and Bavarian history with sexual intrigue.
Maria Thurn und Taxis’ education and upbringing had a big impact in the result of her art practice. In her own words she says: “I think to believe in the ability to channel “the Beast within” is what defines our humanity with all it's positive and negative consequences.”
The works in this show examine the role of masks in regards to our very identity. Maria’s oeuvre is not simply a question of depicting the protagonists of her drawings and paintings wearing masks, which disguise, or exaggerate their personalities. The power within her art concerns itself with the act of transformation, and the effect this has on them and those who encounter them. Maria enjoys creating ambiguity. And, as a result, she uses her work to pose questions, which paradoxically engages and frustrates us, encouraging us to contemplate these thoughts, without offering an answer or a solution.
The artist creates a status quo that allows for confusion. The figures that populate her paintings and drawings are attractive in a Baroque sense: that is they exist on the borderline between sensuality and excess; between the carnivalesque and the grotesque.
The subjects are often brightly, even garishly, coloured. Sometimes they stand alone, defiant against stark grounds of white or sky blue, in other moments they morph into strange totem-like hybrids: part animal, robot and toy. A first glance at one of these 'hybrids' something invitingly tactile emerges. There is an inherent sweetness in a naive sense, that adheres to a well established exploration of sophisticated societies expressing their ideas in seemingly simple symbols. However, the artist quickly refutes this simplistic reading by leading us into the territory of Art Brut. She is reminding us of Dubuffet's search for an art form influenced not only by ethnography, but also one that reflected the simple life of the everyday human with all its inherent complexities, challenges and suffering.
Maria talks of how her delicately rendered drawings, watercolours and more robust, impastoed oil paintings are compiled through the collation of material that comprises anthropological journals, images sourced from current affairs' magazine and pulp pop culture. The hybrid creatures that are born from this melange reflect the currents that run through the artist's own psyche, and the culture she herself grew up in. She explains:'I ask myself, what is it that makes me tick as a human being? What are the influences, traditions and belief systems that come together to form us, and what role does the media have in this mix? How can I make sense of the world?
This is only one possible reading of Maria’s practice. The figures and Totems she creates form a bridge between ancient traditions, beliefs, and science fiction. She explores the personifications of artificial intelligence in imagined future forms. The mask and the totem have long been associated with shamanic practices, notably with portals between life and death, so we must also consider that there is also a spiritual angle to T and T’s figures.
The artist has not restricted her investigations of this theme to the mediums of oil and watercolour. She has recently returned to film making, producing compelling 'shorts' that splice together cuts from pre existing material, resulting in arresting and often entertaining, new narratives. As with her two dimensional work, it is Maria’s keen eye for creating maximum impact through strange and surprising juxtapositions, that engenders a strong and complex reaction in the viewer.