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03.03.2014 STATEMENT

Ruth Campau Foto: Lukas Flygare.

The human presence in a brushstroke

Ruth Campau (b. 1955) recently returned from a four month long residency in New York and the show Vertical at Marianne Friis Gallery exhibits works working with new materials that she experimented with in New York for the first time. The basis of Ruth Campau’s work evolves around the brushstroke as a way of communicating a presence. This is often expressed through the small coincidences arising from doing something handheld, but the stroke is also examined in different types of media, varying from enlarged photographs of ‘the stroke’ to decorative works on buildings

Visit the artist's website: campau.dk

AF Lukas Flygare

Bredgade 22, 1260 København K, W: mariannefriisgallery.com
Ruth Campau
01.03.2014 - 15.04.2014

“I experience myself as a painter, at least that is how I feel. But the way I paint often express itself in an installation, sculpture or even in architecture. I have developed my own painting-technique where I put a plate on the floor and paint some long strokes, trying to do it as accurate as I can. A few mistakes are always visible and you can always see that it is a handheld stroke, and that is actually what I feel is so exciting about it. It is a human presence I try to convey to the surface. My question is: how can I communicate a human presence to a surface or a picture? You could say that every painting I produce becomes a piece of human presence. I consider it to be part of an ‘infinite painting’ since I can always keep doing it. When I paint it becomes more of an ‘act’, a kind of performance. It has to happen in the moment. It takes some time to prepare everything - to lay the surface flat on the floor, cut the brushes etc. But then finally I do it and it is done. Right in that moment I evaluate if the strokes are right, I take ten minutes to correct the painting before it begins to dry, then the plate has to be done or else I do not get the right flow in it. Some strokes are better than others and that is what I find interesting about the process - what is it that determines that one little stroke contains more presence than another?

Recently I started working with new materials. I usually work on an acrylic plate that I am sawing into pieces. But then I thought to myself “No...” - I was really tired of the sawing, the dust and the smell. I wanted to leave that behind when I got to New York and when I arrived I was completely lost. That whole experience was amazing - I had to get out, what could I do? Then I found a new material, mylar. The works at the exhibition are all made with this new material. I have also played around with plastic, polyester and vinyl, which is hanging loose behind the glass on top of each other. I wanted to see if the paintings could carry the framing, and an exhibition at a gallery is a good place to try that out. The decision about framing the works have really been a hard one since I have not done it a lot before. One work will be exhibited that is not in a frame, so the spectator can experience the difference.

By transforming a liquid substance into a solid substance, I can immortalize the body's movement through a brushstroke, but at times it undergoes another process e.g. when printing or working in other fields. I guess that is the limits that I am trying out - how long can I stretch it? I have done decorative projects where I have been screen-printing on glass. To me the glass becomes this fragility that is very visible in the architecture. It is vibrating in relation to everything that is so machine-like on a house. Using the technique with screen-print on glass you contribute with something very human to the building. The fact that you can see that there has been a person who created it.

The work’s interaction with the surrounding environment is essential. If it is a new building, I relate to the people who has to live there or what kind of school or company, hospital or nursing home it is. My work meets itself halfway - I work partly with the space and partly with my own relationship to the stroke and the personal presence. When I visit a space I get visions on what I feel like producing. I like to make big installations for the body to walk around in, but coming to New York, feeling new materials, having a tiny studio, it was like I had to shrink down. Over there it felt like these prints I am exhibiting were perfect for New York with the silver-grey colours. When I came home I felt as when you buy clothes on a vacation - you never wear it at home, you tend to think the colours are hideous. So now it must sink or swim. I guess a grey works alright in Denmark.”

Thank you

Ruth Campau: Vertical (Installation view), 2014.

Ruth Campau: Vertical (Installation view), 2014.

Ruth Campau: Vertical (Installation view), 2014.

Ruth Campau: Vertical (Installation view), 2014.

Ruth Campau: Vertical (Installation view), 2014.

Ruth Campau: Vertical (Installation view), 2014.

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