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Sent directly by the artist
Acrylic on canvas, 2023
Before the head, the face or basically the figure in the picture are perceptible, we get into the color. This does not mean the hue, the specific blue or red, but the sheer materiality of the paint. It shifts over one another, it steps back and forth: the brushstroke is easy to follow, but there is a wealth of layers that appear to be opposite or even technically different. In her "Structure" paintings (2021), for example, the painter Claudia Mächler takes a particularly dynamic approach to showing her portraits in stretched and stretched, tumbling and stippled colors at the same time. The portrait, often a face with direct contact to the viewer via the eyes, is realistic down to the photographic details, such as the eyes. This is in keeping with the older and newer masters of portraiture, although Mächler refers to only a few of them. What her portraits have in common with those of Jenny Saville, Marlene Dumas or Lucian Freud is that they convey personality and a tangible quality. So the question here is: how much invisible spirit, how much expression and how much fiction is there in the portrayal of the individual? The face is the field on which everything happens. Before the picture even begins, there is movement, even before the first line attempts to describe it. It is the surface itself that is covered with gestural swirls of color, it is the ground on which the action moves. The painter Claudia Mächler always prepares the basis for her portrait painting with the greatest possible freedom - it is the movement and the application of paint, alternating between glazing and impasto, that determines the expression of her pictures. The dynamic is in turn an expression and trace of her physical commitment as a painter, the way she applies the paint to the canvas, the pouring and spreading in all directions. It is energy in an abstract all-over that provides the pictorial space for the image of the human being. It is the energy that is needed here to create emotion in the first place. Because the face is not static, not still, a portrait must take this into account. What is similarity? When is an image identical to the person? Hardly ever, one might answer. Because the face is never fixed. It cannot be reproduced with the correct angle of the nose to the mouth or the position of the eyes in relation to each other. For two millennia, the self-similarity of the portrait with the human being has all too often been an unfulfilled goal of painting. It is certain that the depiction of the human face historically took place primarily via the mask. Originally invented as a burial gift, it replaced the proxy mask, which, like the mask, had the function of guiding the deceased through the shadowy realm of death. Claudia Mächler is familiar with the theory and history of the face, including the attempts to draw conclusions about a person's self through physiognomic examinations. And she knows that it is precisely the portrait that strives for the utmost resemblance that freezes in the mask - it can always resemble a face, but never be it. Thus, the pictorial space is a foil for her to underpaint and penetrate the motif as a further layer. Colors shimmer out under a duff overpainting, also created by the alternating use of oil and acrylic paints. The surfaces remain in motion and initially signify themselves. Others are as if cut out and combine with the painterly formulation of the head. The elaboration of the abstract surfaces and the streaks of color thus meet a graphically precise way of reproducing the face. Claudia Mächler thus gives the portrait something that it otherwise lacks - the dimension of time.
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