Think Art Today

Posted by SABINE ECKMANN, William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator May 20, 2020

Corinne Wasmuht, Llanganuco Falls, 2008 

In paintings such as Llanganuco Falls Corinne Wasmuht developed a complex tension between the fleeting, vibrating, and instable effects of the digital and the physicality of large-scale painting, frequently emphasized through the use of heavy wood as material support. Space simulations, perspectival distortions and displacements, and the effects of back-lit computer screens are some of the digital characteristics of her work. Yet in contrast to the fast pace and immediacy of the digital, Wasmuht’s paintings also demand a slowed-down viewing experience and much patience. The viewer gradually finds herself transported into a landscape of fragmented labyrinths with a multitude of unreal colors, illogical spaces, and countless mesmerizing painterly details that ultimately dissolve into abstract paintings, interfering with digital realities. 

Although some of her paintings, like Llanganuco Falls, depict inaccessible exotic landscapes, many others take ubiquitous global sites such as densely populated airport terminals and exchangeable urban pedestrian zones as their point of departure. Both are readily associated with the digital era, which provides instant access to the inaccessible and faraway and advances transitory experiences in which concrete places transform into anonymous spaces. 

It has only been three months since our experience of the virtual and the physical has entirely changed. While digital technologies have frequently provided access to seductive new worlds, they are now one of the few ways to forge social relations and participate in shared environments. Similarly, whereas in the past the tangible world provided the means to measure and comprehend the virtual, it is now populating our subjective and collective memories. I wonder, now that the virtual has to a large degree become the only world we have and in which we must learn to make ourselves comfortable, how our relation to the material world will change. Will the tension between the digital and physical that drives Wasmuht’s explorations take on a different meaning altogether? Will we yearn solely for the material world of human life? Or will digital and material realms become equal partners rather than competitors? Will the physical world be perceived as seductive as the digital realm once appeared? Or will it continue to scare us as toxic territory? Will our fascination with Wasmuht’s paintings shift to uncovering material realities that hide behind the digital? In short, how will these instable and scary times that deprive us of choice alter our hopes and visions in the future?