Saturday, 31 October 2009

Spirits of Turpentine: Wiebke Dreyer and Sybille Gburek

This review was first published in the Hackney Citizen, 31 October 2009

This new exhibition in Stoke Newington showcases works by two artists: both female and originally from Germany, but the similarities end there.

Gburek is primarily a photographer, and most of her works here are digitally-manipulated self-portraits. In various guises (‘Aphrodite’, ‘Addict’, ‘Lover’), Gburek’s expressionless face regards the camera flatly from behind an assortment of wigs, make-up, and digitally-superimposed filigree patterns or text. These large, clean, lustrous photographs are visually appealing, with a distinctively Oriental aesthetic, although it’s difficult to draw out definite meanings from these (re)presentations of the self.

The gallery itself is an unusual space of hidden nooks and staircases; the heavy wooden beams and metal chains that hang from the ceiling evidence its former role as a sculptor’s studio. Gburek has exploited its potential; the charred fireplace in the gallery wall holds ‘Paradox of Intension’, a pair of shiny red Carvela shoes atop a pyramid of salt, and ‘I Love Your Brain’, a delicate Chinese fan, while an oryx skull draped with pearls is presented on the wall above.

Meanwhile, Dreyer’s paintings contrast sharply with this contemporary glossiness. Describing herself as a landscape painter, her works are vivid, near-abstract explosions of colour and texture. ‘Sand Circle, Large’ is a glorious spread of gold, silver, and dark chocolate trails of paint on a grainy background, with a cluster of grey pebbles in one corner, while ‘Energy Line’, a tall slim rectangle of oranges and yellows with a thick line of dark red paint curling its way up the length of the canvas, glows from one corner of the gallery. ‘Sleepthief, Large’, a stand-out work, is a lush burst of deep blues and purples, streaked with lumps of whites and paler blues and suggesting some kind of moonscape.

These are unusually direct and unpretentious paintings which communicate a powerful sense of the richness of the natural world.

'Spirits Of Turpentine' is at Madame Lillie’s Gallery, 10 Cazenove Rd, N16 6BD, until Sunday 8th November. Opening hours Friday - Sunday 12-6pm. To view by appointment: 07990695363.

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