Klodin Erb, Der Hüter, 2012,
Oil on canvas
160 x 180 cm (63 x 70 7/8 inch)
To be a painter today means positioning oneself within the spectrum ranging from the figurative to the abstract and consistently probing and reassessing the essence of the painted image. Klodin Erb is a painter whose approach is both spontaneous and systematic, driven by the dynamic of painting itself. Working with classical themes, she explores their contemporary relevance. At the same time, she carries forward the legacy of abstract painting by fusing painterly elements into rhizomes and testing the expressive qualities of pure color and sweeping gesture. As a consistent research she explores how recognizable a motif must be in order for specific references in content to emerge and for a narrative to form. Through her ongoing investigation of these questions she produces gorgeous canvases, which are as much painterly events as dense narratives, for they are usually based on compacted allegorical compositions that Erb reinterprets before the backdrop of the challenges facing today's society. Following her work with the moralizing anecdotes of Struwwelpeter, the legend of Narcissus is told in modern form in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). A longing for beauty and youth, fear of aging, self-destruction through inner vacuity, and vanity are the basic elements of this story, and in Erb's painting they are linked with traditional motifs of the fountain of youth, Venus, and chimeras. For example, the painting Zu Tisch (At the Table) shows a figure in an elegant white interior, who is bending over a flat surface in the manner of Narcissus, whereas Fliegende Würste, Grosse Hand (Flying Sausages, Big Hand) represents an oblique and playful reference to the famous double image of Narcissus by Salvador Dalí. Associations with the history of paintings and painterly reminiscences come together in Erb's current work, which also reflects a desire for sensual and meaning-laden painting. In the process the artist plays her own game with ambiguous connotations, and through the myth of Narcissus she reflects on the dangers that confront not only beautiful people but also beautiful paintings.
Text Kathleen Bühler