Hauser & Wirth

Caro Niederer

30 Aug - 11 Oct 2008

© Installation View

Uncontrived, everyday images are wrought large and luxurious in CARO NIEDERER’s new works. Family scenes — an outing at a lake, a tennis lesson, the artist’s daughter bright-eyed and standing before a painting — have been captured as photographs, then hand knotted into three-metre-long silk carpets in China. These are cultural returns upon ordinary moments, untroubled images whose details have been painstakingly knotted into lustre. Niederer is interested in how value comes into being: in how images allow us to hold onto and celebrate isolated fragments of our lives, and the ways in which they are shaped by their context. ''We are happily woven into the fabric of life with stories that spin out and tie in memories.''

In the title work of the exhibition, a swimmer has created a series of ripples that spread across the serene surface of a lake. These concentric ellipses have been stopped, cast as shapes within a picture, their return coming not in the motion of the moment, but in the re-visitation of the image, as an aesthetic commemoration. Markt (Market) (2007) sees the rhythms of a cobbled street and the severe geometries of ’60s architecture in delicate tension with the softness of the silk they have been fashioned in, with its quivering surface and ordered meter. Much of this image is given over to the flat patterns offered by the building, a Mondrian-esque grid that recalls painterly abstraction and lends itself easily to the graphic potential of textile; whilst in the lower half of the carpet an array of fruits, flowers and people presents an unstructured juxtaposition. Niederer explores the dynamic between design and disorder encountered in ordinary living, choosing subjects that reveal this in different extremes, and paralleling this relationship by submitting her carefully controlled images to the devolution involved in the carpets' making. Sommerwiese (Summer Meadow) (2007) presents a scene of untampered nature, whilst Hochzeitsvorbereitung (Wedding Preparation) (2007) is a self-reflexive celebration of artifice, the mass of the picture depicting an oriental painting, its vibrant colours in part dimmed by the reflected flash of the artist’s camera.

Whilst it’s the particulars of Niederer’s immediate environment that form the subjects of the carpets, the works are meditations on distance. Photographic images of personal experiences are manufactured in another continent, a process in which literal distance abets a radical translation of imagery. Through the many displacements engendered by these works — the transitions in size, sumptuousness and intensity of labour in their production, and the differences in colour and delineation of form that these give rise to — they test our attraction to what we perceive as exotic and reveal a concomitant blindness to the extent that what we consume is made abroad.
Earlier pieces by Niederer also explored the transition from one medium to another. In the nineties she made paintings from postcards bought on her travels, souvenir images of well-known artworks and tourist spots. These were tiny images in jewel-bright colours that extracted all extraneous detail from their sources so as to better communicate the essence of their familiar motifs. Niederer then photographed the paintings in the homes of their owners, documenting their existing as elements within household interiors; repetitions that witness the ways in which people use images and arrange beauty in their lives, and which test art’s relationship to other commodities.

A series of new paintings, all made this year and depicting interior and landscapes scenes, are also on display at Hauser & With Zürich. Expressionistic in their style, they describe the emotion rather than the fact of their scenes through lyrical brush-marks and a luminous palette of ochre, cerulean blue and alizarin crimson. These paintings are laconic and poetic, suggesting nostalgia's distillation of the stuff of existence. Waiting for returns entails expectation, but with it also an acceptance of unknown outcomes. Niederer sets in motion processes that she surrenders ultimate control of, allowing memory to cohere with anticipation.

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