MARK GISBOURNE THE DEVIL MADE...Mark Gisbourne
The devil made me do it.........!
(The Paintings of Maureen Jeram)
The languor of Berlin summers stands in stark contrast to the present melancholy passage of the season's transitional gloom. But the paintings of Maureen Jeram are those of personal discovery, a surprised awareness, perhaps, of the immediate haste in which Berliners shed their clothes with the onset of the sunny season. Based on drawings, photographs, and visually engaged experiences of the summer, Jeram has created a painted collaged of visual juxtaposition. Each element within her paintings is derived from a real motif. The artifice, however, is the manner in which she re-configures the source elements to give them a new life as a painting. Taken from experiences of the past two summers at the Teufelssee (Devil's Lake) she has remade the genre, a newly forged Déjeuner sur L'herbe (Lunch on the Grass) without the picnic. The canny way in which she has taken the gender complexity of Manet's clothed men and undressed female – a fundamental exposure of the male gaze – and turned it into a commonplace negation of disrobed exposure is not the least of her achievements. Operating through an 'outrageously' traditional convention, the paintings of the Teufelssee dare the viewer to disassociate the affects of time and place. The place is named but it could just as easily be a series of paintings possessed of measured timelessness – an oxymoron in itself. But then what is the evocation of the naked abandon that these ordinary Berliners undertake every summer. Is it not just that sense of longing for timelessness, the undefined contents of a warm sunny day. The gaze, such as remains, is not therefore one of predatory and/or gender determined voyeurism of the figures represented. In fact we might imagine Jeram's paintings to reflect the wider yearnings of identity association, an outsider's curiosity and easy slippage as to how the Teufelssee devotees shed their apparel and bask in the sun in their all too human yet animal nature. We are all embraced by the psycho-physiological conditions of climate. As Hippocrates observed, "you will find, as a general rule, that the constitutions and the habits of a people follow the nature of the land where they live," which is to say within a modern parlance that the social history of habits only take on a sense of strangeness in the eye of viewer possessed of a feeling of alterity – someone from a place of other social conventions. The use of a verdant and narrow chronometry in Jeram's paintings, only goes to reiterate the effects of colour on our mental moods and temporal persuasions. The depiction of the figures, their lack of any overt athletic forms of expression, perhaps, echoing the wistful desire for withdrawal that the transitory summer season often brings; a contradictory sense of compounded opposites, of simultaneous communality and dreamy sensory isolation. Light is the permeating chemistry, something common to Southern European climes throughout the year, but which returns like a sudden explosion in the North of Europe. Light as warmth, nature as nurture, as sun presses itself upon the body invading it to the very bone. A standing naked woman looks out at us in blazing sunlight, whereas a pot-bellied man with his sun hat has been drawn to the shade and conversation. A clothed older man pushing his bicycle makes acknowledgement to the young naked male who is about to pass by. There is no sense of astonishment expressed. The paintings are emptied of all sexual desire, the figures clothed or naked are no more than the commonplace events of a summer's day at the Teufelssee. Such are the facts of life, it is the poignant status of the ordinary and everyday that has always had the power to persuade.