Artist: Helen Feifel
Venue: Remise, Kunstverein Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany
Date: June 13 – August 23, 2015
Photography: Stefan Stark, images courtesy of the artist and Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf
Helen Feifel (born 1983 in Schwäbisch Gmünd) describes her working method as a way of arriving through detours at her motif and its form, for which the selected techniques serve as a mediator. In accord with the increasing turn in contemporary art towards handicraft techniques, Feifel produces works in which the question of functionality recedes quickly into the background, to make way for their perception as autonomous art works. At first glance, her artistic approaches appear to be those that have been forgotten or fallen out of fashion: adapting a South Asian batik technique, working with ceramics, or tinting photographs. But by taking such methods as her starting point, in the end the artist arrives, via a variety of further references, at new formal solutions.
In the Remise of the Kunstverein Braunschweig, Feifel is showing works from three series, all of which were completed in 2015 and provide a glimpse into her multifaceted work. The shimmer between the genres is apparent – here objects, painting, textile design, and photography enter into a dialogue.
Refined connections between references from art and cultural history that might initially seem unlikely, representative of Feifel’s artistic strategy, are clear in the tapestry Neubrandenburg. A painting by Casper David Friedrich serves Feifel as the basis for a complex grid upon which wool thread will be hand-dyed and woven. Here she relies on the ancient Ikat technique, a South Asian method of batik in which the thread is dyed with a particular pattern before being woven. If the template for Feifel’s motif comes from a completely remote context, the characteristically strongly organized pictorial order of Friedrich’s painting forms a parallel to the Asian weaving technique. The effect of the transfer of the pattern onto a detailed motif and the tension of the threads in the loom leads, inter alia, to an abstract depiction of Neubrandenburg.
Thoughts about making the representational abstract inevitably accompany the transfer of a landscape motif to a tapestry, the taking up in a modified way of the forms of found ceramics, or the repurposing of a photograph that at times finds echoes in fashion photography as the background of an abstract painting.
The artist does not shy away from allowing chance to enter her work. This results partly from the fact that the techniques that she applies with such perfectionism and attention to detail were developed, for the most part, autodidactically. Furthermore, Feifel not only allows for the obstinacy of the material but even, in part, depends upon it.
Helen Feifel lives and works in Berlin. She studied with Meuser and Daniel Roth at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Karlsruhe, during which time she had a solo exhibition at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt am Main. In 2014 she received the Goslar-based Kaserring Fellowship for young artists.