In 1928 Pablo Picasso asked metalsmith and sculptor Julio Gonzáles to recreate the grid-like structures of his drawings in the form of wire models. Formal constellations are read completely differently on a flat surface than in three-dimensional space. This issue continued to preoccupy Picasso in his sculptural experiments and plays an equally central role in Rebecca Michaelis’ artistic practice.
Circular forms dominate her most recent large-scale paintings, appearing either as colorful planes or as outlines, whole or in sections. Physically speaking the circles are all located on the same plane—the painted canvas. Their frequent overlaps, however, suggest the presence of multiple spatial planes, permeating each other in manifold ways. The viewer cannot distinguish between them optically or intellectually, rather like the different layers of a Photoshop project.
Unlike Picasso, Rebecca Michaelis did not need the help of a sculptor in order to illustrate the complex interplay of forms that underlies the structure of her works. She created three-dimensional versions of her most recent paintings in the form of mobiles in 2013/2014. These consisted of aluminium rings of different sizes and colours that constantly created new constellations through their movement through space, resulting in an infinite variety of optical intersections.
One could see this as the sum of possible movements in a given space, but also as a correspondence of different spatial segments formed by single rings or circles, harking back to the cubist view of space that underpinned Picasso’s grid drawings. Rebecca Michaelis’ pictures, however, also address newer spatial concepts, such as the psychedelic circle, as found in 1960s and 1970s design such as Verner Panton, or the experience of three-dimensional digital simulations.
Rebbeca Michaelis’ paintings show that even in an age where the moving or constantly changing image is the norm, painting can find striking ways to react to an increasingly fast-moving environment. Her brushstrokes – deliberately visible – also express the moment of movement. Every image, as compositionally balanced as it may be, ultimately only shows one possible constellation amongst many others. This constellation, had it not been arrested by painterly means, would have already changed in the next moment.
Text by Ludwig Seyfarth / 2015