Galerie Les filles du calvaire announce Esther Teichmann’s exhibition On Sleeping and Drowning. The artist’s second solo show at the gallery combines painted backdrops, photographs and sculptures with filmic installations, offering us a fragmentary narrative of deep sensuality.
Esther Teichmann’s haunting photographs show the influence of German Romantism and cinema, on a practice that plays with conventions: “Rather than working directly from specific art historical references, I collect material from various sources, pinning them up in the studio. These bodies, their gestures and narrative potential, become loose references, which I then build upon.” Painting and photography merge into one. When ink and paint don’t drip directly on the print, they serve as its background. The tones and images are subtle, strange and impenetrable, opening up a dreamlike space of fantasy.
On Sleeping and Drowning transforms the gallery space into a surrealist montage, a layered assemblage. Large painted photographic backdrops of caves and openings are juxtaposed with photographs of sleeping women, skies and cyanotypes of seaweed creatures. The notion of the cave here refers to the pure interiority that the cave suggests. Beneath the artist’s paint, this mineral cradle, cold and blank, becomes a space for spiritual retreat and meditation for the sleeping, dreaming women depicted. Teichmann grew up in southern Germany, surrounded by lakes, rivers and forests. Memories of the Black Forest, wild swimming canoe trips and stormy nights in tents are drawn upon within her work, changed into interior landscapes, foreign and complex like the soul. Echoing C. D. Friedrich idea “to not only paint what the artist sees before her, but what she sees within herself,” Teichmann links together, through a subtle dialectic (and through the interplay of mediums), the inner and outer. The artist develops spatial enigmas which takes the audience into an alternate world, between the unfurling of beauty and the loss of visual bearings.
Curated into new poetic narratives by the artist for each exhibition, the ever-evolving body of Teichmann’s work is reassembled and reworked site specifically for each exhibition.
“Literature, film and my own practice of writing are fundamental to my creative process and my thoughts about images. I write images before they become visual objects. Through writing, the remembered and real become further fictionalized and transformed.”
In Fulmine, a three-screen film installation, figures move towards one another with a languid urgency, promising an arrival we never witness. Teichmann filmed canoeist Carlos Tapuy in the Amazon, travelling with him daily on his journeys in silent meditation. In a curtained boat-bed, dancer Sophia Wang moves in an auto–erotic continual motion as though underwater or in a dream. Another image shows a tiny tree standing alone in an overgrown rain forest, swaying to a different beat from the foliage surrounding it. An original string quartet score composed by Deirdre Gribbin accompanies their journey.
On Sleeping and Drowning evokes the state of altered subjectivity, the space between sleeping and drowning of total abandon, ecstatic release and homecoming.