1. 12. – 17. 01. 2024
at Galería Pelaires Cabinet, ESP
curated by Cristina Anglada
This Shows A Likeness
Any time there is a surface there is a surface and every time there is a suggestion there is a suggestion and every time there is silence there is silence and every time that is languid there is that there then and not oftener, not always, not particular, tender and changing and external and central and surrounded and singular and simple and the same and the surface and the circle and the shine and the succor and the white and the same and the better and the red and the same and the center and the yellow and the tender and the better, and altogether. (…)
Tender Buttons, Gertrude Stein, 1914
Sarah Bechter (Vienna, 1989) is the latest artist to be featured in the series of exhibitions curated by Cristina Anglada and held in the Cabinet Space throughout 2023. This is the second time that the Viennese artist exhibits her work at Galería Pelaires, this time solo with a selection of small and medium-sized oil and pigment paintings. This November, Bechter has been a guest artist at CCA Andratx (Mallorca), where she has been working on new projects surrounded by a mountain landscape.
This exhibition by Bechter is entitled This shows a likeness, a quote from Roast Beef, one of the poems in Gertrude Stein’s book Tender Buttons, published in 1914. Structured in three sections Objects, Food, Rooms, Stein transforms the mundane and everyday aspects of life into a kaleidoscopic and strange experience through the experimental use of language.
Using pictorial tools, Sarah conducts a similar exercise. Her creative process is presented to us as a kind of puzzle that the artist—immersed in concentration and pleasure—completes little by little and intuitively, without preconceived ideas or preparatory drawings.
When Sarah decides to start a canvas, she first chooses the brushes, pigments and oils, and then she usually devotes herself to it exclusively. As she needs maximum concentration, she paints at most two paintings at a time… She likes to surrender to phenomena, to be guided by intuition, and to practice a kind of automatic writing in the style of the surrealists, whereby the canvas acquires a subjectivity and an autonomy that enables her to start a dialogue or develop a choreography: the work sends out hints, complaints and demands that the artist handles throughout the process, resulting in a surface with multiple layers, but also with scratches and torn-offs. She rubs the paint to blend the different layers, and yet manages to maintain the effect of superimposition.
The background and the figure are interwoven in a hesitant manner. The atmosphere, the temperature, the rhythm or the mood of each canvas prevail beyond the literal narrative itself which, in Sarah’s opinion, is a mere system of references. To paint is to show and, therefore, also implies concealing, as if it was a curtain, a balustrade, a watery surface or a pattern.
Bechter is also related to Surrealism because of her passion for the imaginary, magical and suggestive world, always delving into the tension between what is seen and what remains unseen. In the selection of pieces that we have now put together, the domestic, strange and sinister side of things predominates through the union of background and figure, and where colour plays a leading role. Her works frequently challenge the viewer with narrative and fictional elements that are fuelled by a certain level of disturbance, while also creating a constant semantic ambivalence that brings the scene to life. Ornament and fantasy, the unconscious, the “other side”, scattering under the carpet or behind the curtain with a mischievous gaze. Forms intertwine, overflow, drip, spill, float and sway in the current of interiors that seem to recreate the atmospheres of Angela Carter’s stories.
This selection of works suggests stories in which the imagination resorts to disorder to sketch a kind of alternative world—a different world—in which instability and the proliferation of figures question the idea of veracity or univocal story. The disorder is explored as if it were a secretion of hybrid, fluid and mixed forms in continuous metamorphosis. The space is populated by a compilation of narrative fragments that explore the desire to confront the limitations of meaning in a world that demands clarity, order and efficiency. These are images that exalt the senses and seem to exist in an expanded present, without regression or progress.
Sarah Bechter understands the pictorial space as a board on which to play hide-and-seek through a continuous process in which she veils, erases and adds layers of paint, constructing floating scenes that subvert the traditional antagonism between what is visible and what is not. As in Stein’s writing, Bechter’s paintings expose the ontological density of the ductile and tender worlds of our everyday life.