Painting from Scratch: Nora Kapfer

Painting from Scratch: Nora Kapfer

Wanting from a distance at Untitled (2022), a smaller painting on wooden that does not seem to present something but scribbles in white paint blended with some traces of black, orange, and yellow, you may well envision Robert Ryman’s never ever-ending endgame of portray in all variations of white. But if you appear closer, this association proves to be inappropriate. In its place of Ryman’s allover coloration software in pure gestures, a person discovers in the arbitrary squiggles and scribbles a bouquet of bouquets, and, sprinkled over them like pollen, fantastic particles of aluminum glitter that also really don’t rather fit into a neo-avant-garde-like position. Upon even nearer inspection of the little image, the sizing of a sheet of paper, it is exposed that the traces of fluorescent orange and yellow are not applied to the surface but fairly emerging from the ground of the painting, in the locations in which the scribbles erode the white paint to these types of an extent that a coloured qualifications turns into obvious, uncovered in delicate lines vaguely defining the contours of petals and stems.

Nora Kapfer’s very little painting hung at the extremely starting of her latest solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Friart in Fribourg, Switzerland. Its adjacency to noticeably much larger (in comparison gigantic) paintings, every single of which makes completely distinct visible outcomes, nipped any affiliation of painting’s endgame in the bud. Black-brown, partly reflective, partly matte surfaces in which stenciled contours emerge (Küriss [2018], Untitled (Salami II) [2017]) alternated with coloration fields overgrown by stenciled flowers in a 50 %-normal, fifty percent-irregular method (Pythia I and Pythia II [2022]). In this article, motivic banality achieved painterly pathos (Dein Herz/Dein Garten [Your Heart/Your Garden, 2022]), the ornamental met the resistant, the mechanical achieved the gestural, figuration satisfied abstraction, and nonorganic sorts alternated with natural kinds. At the extremely stop of the sequence of paintings hung another smaller-structure wooden panel, this time in black, with comparable flower doodles, from which the colored history partly emerges in thin traces. By bracketing the sequence of large paintings with a lot smaller sized white and black panels—two performs that show a speedy, uncontrolled painterly production, similar to sketches—Kapfer advised that the works in amongst are likewise about generating and permitting the painting arise from its materials.

What is particular about this emergence is that Kapfer’s course of action of making is always defined by opposing methods of unmaking. The earliest functions introduced at Friart were being Untitled (Salami) (2017), Untitled (Salami II) (2017), and Küriss (2018), in which Kapfer designed a mechanical technique dependent on the software of bitumen, a tar-like liquid black substance, over the image floor to give it a reflective surface, into which the artist glued huge silhouettes of bouquets designed of Japanese paper that soaked up the oily things. The organic and natural composition of these papers in fact implies the surface of a sliced salami—hence the curious title. Or is Kapfer humorously alluding right here to her “salami practices,” a coverage of little ways to grasp the wonderful maneuver of painting, of which she after nearly despaired? In other paintings (not exhibited in Fribourg), bouquets and other banal and kitschy motifs (hearts, stars, stylized figures) had been utilized as paper shapes into the bitumen layer only to be taken out once more, leaving noticeable traces of the stenciled silhouettes.

Küriss bears no recognizable motif on its surface area, but the black bitumen was partially scraped off the wood with the aid of solvent to visually slash out checkerboard patterns and diligently stenciled circles as nicely as natural styles these stand out in opposition to the black fields and have been partly coated yet again with vinyl. The mechanical procedures of applying bitumen, chopping out stencils, gluing on paper cutouts, portray them around with oil or vinyl, and scratching the paint off once again overlap with an auto-generative chemical approach brought about by the bitumen’s response with diverse levels of the portray, supplying the floor an organic and natural-seeking texture in some places. Of program, perfectly-recognized processes of a quasi-photographic écriture automatique are recalled listed here, but they are recombined with even more modernist and postmodernist components of portray this sort of as the grid, the stencil, the pictorial gesture, the figurative cliché, et cetera. 

Grids, stencils, and flower clichés also underlie Pythia I and II, painted in gouache, acrylic, and oil on canvas. Here, the mainly mechanical, grid-like arrangement of colour fields into which flower stencils are serially inserted was supplemented by a relatively painterly system. The flowers specifically cite Andy Warhol’s Bouquets and refer to his Do It Oneself sequence from 1962, which involved the mechanical filling in of fields according to a numerical code. But though Warhol’s Flowers expose the arbitrariness of colour and its professional use, and his paint-by-figures sequence insist on uninteresting mechanical codes, Kapfer’s “paint-by-flowers” operates implement a to some degree gestural fashion by filling the stenciled fields with visible brushstrokes in expressive purple or fleshy rosy colors, therefore undoing the mechanical impact of the serialized forms, primarily when irregularities break the serial pattern.

Ultimately, to make operates such us Untitled (Oleander III) (2021),Kapfer recycled paper cuts torn off of other paintings, gluing and juxtaposing them in their partly fragmented kinds. The overlapping designs of paper flowers are nonetheless marked by the structure of the canvas on which they were being previously pasted, and consequently make an organic and natural-like texture, whilst they just convey the substance traces of their mechanical transfer. With a very similar effect, Dein Herz, Dein Garten (Your Coronary heart/Your Garden, 2022)recycles flowers cut out of yet another painted canvas and fastened with acrylic glue on the area of the new canvas, therefore making an overpainted, aid-like construction.

Portray, in Kapfer’s range of operates for Friart, presents by itself as a sophisticated layering of components and current archetypes (grids, figure-ground relations, monochromes, stencils), which either hold “working” independently by chemically and materially infiltrating every other, or are “counteracted” by the artist manually undoing the layering via partial elimination, scraping, scratching, tearing off. In the acrylic and oil paintings on canvas, it is alternatively the gestural application of paint that operates counter to the mechanical composition of the photograph and the serial stenciling of banal bouquets.

Also in the painterly doodles of the tiny wood panels, the uncontrolled scribbling of the artist’s instrument lays bare coloured paper grounds, thus demonstrating the product agency in the development of figuration. The motif listed here appears to be just a facet impact of the artist’s dealing with. Kapfer explicitly hyperlinks all those little paintings to reverse engineering, as invoked by the cultural theorist and philosopher Sadie Plant in her 1997 guide Zeros + Ones: Electronic Ladies and the New Technoculture.1 Plantrelates reverse engineering, a “process of analyzing a topic procedure to discover the system’s components and their interrelationships and make representations of the system in a further sort or at a bigger amount of abstraction,” to processes and discoveries by Ada Lovelace and Anna Freud.2 She describes Freud’s skill to accelerate her work—the creating of letters and lectures—by generating scribbles on blank webpages at higher speed, which induced her to perceive her duties as previously finished. She then additional simply turned to the actual creating, having simplified it to a method of anticipatory rules and strategies. This strategy of “beginning in the stop of any operation, doing work backwards from that place to the commencing,” Plant statements, has in it an “invention of invention alone,” hence contradicting the typical stereotype of femininity that pervades psychoanalysis, in which female creativity is always centered on the imitation of the natural.3

In particularly this sense, Kapfer’s white and black picket panels, tellingly every the dimension of a sheet of paper, can be study as innovations of the invention. Like catalysts in which the artist will work her way again to the ground from the various layering of colored papers and white or black oil paint in fast actions that are as uncontrolled as probable, they release the principles of a way of operating that can then be further more formulated in the significant paintings. In the very same way hackers use reverse engineering “and pirates conspire to lure the potential to their side,” as Plant puts it, Kapfer pirates both expressionist and mechanical designs of painting by “engaging in a procedure which simultaneously assembles and dismantles the route back to the begin, the end, the future, the previous.”4 Sabeth Buchmann, in her catalogue text for Friart, analyzes Kapfer’s adaption of reverse engineering as a demonstration of a correlation of organic, inorganic, and cultural forms, outside of the essentialist equation of biological development with aesthetic progression: “Kapfer’s paintings engender that which engenders them” in the similar way as “nature does what is pure to it.”5

But how can a painting engender that which engenders it? Can it actually execute a type of “hysteresis, the lagging of results guiding their leads to,” as Plant describes reverse engineering?6 How can portray go again to its “source codes”? Hysteresis is the dependence of the condition of a method on its history. Chip reverse engineering uses tactics of delayering by etching and scratching off the hardware layer by layer in buy to obtain and independent its elements. If Kapfer is etching, scratching off, and tearing out levels of her paintings, this, of program, does not consequence in protocols or diagrams. The frequent undertaking and undoing of layers seems to be a way of separating painting’s features from one particular yet another in buy to recombine, redesign, and certainly reactivate them. 

The aspects in Kapfer’s paintings do not consequence in unified surfaces. Relatively, they expose the ruptures in the process of their creating and document the back and forth of function techniques. In the oil and acrylic paintings, these ruptures get the type of crystal clear-slash strains concerning different zones in which decreased layers outline the “reaction” of components in the layers on top. The stenciled flowers, for example, are hardly ever just crammed mechanically with just one colour but are painted in correspondence to the underlying grid. They “react” to edges, traces, types, and products beneath them and are consequently generally divided into numerous fields in phrases of color—fields that are derived not from the flower motif itself but from the mode of its earning. In the bitumen photos, the motif is in each individual circumstance only a outcome of the doing the job methods (chopping out, pasting, tearing out, transferring, scratching off, and painting over), which overlap and generate results.

But what Kapfer’s will work lastly mirror is that painting, as a lot as it may perhaps be a program, is not only dependent on code. As Georges Didi-Huberman famously put it, painting is ultimately outlined by the “sovereign accident” that he identifies as “difficult to review, notably in semantic or iconic conditions for it is a do the job or an effect of painting as coloured content, not as descriptive indication.” The “sovereign accident” appears as a “symptom” that has dropped its code, its information, and “opposes its content opacity—which is dizzying—to all mimesis.”7 The “symptom” is a painterly outcome that does not “lag” powering its “causes.” It can not just be reversed the sovereign incident can only take place. Reverse engineering in Kapfer’s painting therefore does not final result in pure evaluation of its source codes.

The bitumen paintings, but also the paintings on canvas, go away area for all sorts of sovereign mishaps by managing substance opacity as the fundamental code of painting, to set it figuratively. In Kapfer’s most latest paintings,this sort of as Pensées perdues (Misplaced Thoughts, 2022), her strategies of layering, etching, scratching off, and adding at any time new levels of paint or figurative factors, even free of charge-handedly painted stems and petals, which seem to proliferate in excess of the floor, savor and even revel in the results that the ever-new superimpositions and erasures of product traces deliver. The motifs, the flowers and vegetation in their various styles and colours, are just an outcome “lagging of consequences driving their [material] will cause.” The piecemeal remains obvious. The painting is structured through ruptures of clear-slice lines between unique zones, every exposing different relations of their components and their mechanical or manual treatment. The painting does not current an natural whole but alternatively a synthesis of painterly functions, of work ways and reversals.

Nora Kapfer’s portray is from scratch: she practically goes back to floor zero of portray, bringing it even materially “down to earth” in the petroleum substance of the bitumen paintings. From there, the flowers develop in the asphalt. In this form of portray, staying in today’s entire world does not signify integrating its floods of images, but revitalizing its codes and eliciting a compound from even the most banal cliché by exposing the content by itself as a producing power.

Nora Kapfer (b. 1984, Munich) lives and functions in Berlin. New exhibitions involve Les beaux jours, C L E A R I N G, Brussels (2022) Identität nicht nachgewiesen, Bundeskunsthalle Bonn, Germany (2022) The latest Paintings, Édouard Montassut, Paris (2021) Parts, The Wig, Berlin (2021) Come a Time, Galerie Lars Friedrich, Berlin (2020) A Dwelling is not a Home and A Household is not a Home, Kunsthalle Friart, Fribourg, Switzerland (2019) Celluloid Brush, Etablissement d’en confront, Brussels (2018) Half a zip. Half a pow, Nousmoules, Vienna (2018) and New Tar, WIELS, Brussels (2017).

1    Sadie Plant, Zeros + Types: Digital Females and the New Technoculture (London: Fourth Estate, 1998).
2    Elliot J. Chikofsky and James H. Cross II, “Reverse Engineering and Structure Restoration: A Taxonomy,” IEEE Software program 7, no. 1 (1990): 13–17.
3    Plant, Zeros + Kinds, 26.
4    Plant, Zeros + Types, 26.
5    Sabeth Buchmann, “Systems in Bloom,” in Nora Kapfer (Fribourg, Switzerland: Kunsthalle Friart, 2022), 76.
6    Plant, Zeros + Types, 26
7    Georges Didi-Huberman, “Appendix: The Element and the Pan,” in Confronting Pictures, trans. John Goodman (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2005), 248–52.