Sam Fisher on the Paintings of Maibritt Rangstrup

Maibritt Rangstrup comes from a history of making that is familiar 
with the way in which technology both gives and takes away certain 
things. Images made by artists who were once video and filmmakers, 
seem very different from those who were not, because of where they 
have been and what they know and what they have done to get to here.

Many of her paintings come across almost as film stills, tipped out 
onto a flat surface and picked through to find the right mark for the 
right image within each frozen frame. Tents in woods, an isolated 
figure, trees that curtain the view, buildings set above that loom up 
on a hill. Images shown together on the wall cannot help but build a 
narrative. What is intrigueing is what is the story that comes with 
each group of pictures? Who is the girl? Is she being watched? If so, 
does she know? Where and what is the building? Is it a house, is it a 
hospital, is it a hotel?

All these ambiguious ideas make the colour very important. The dark 
tones shut out the light and increase the tension of the atmosphere. 
Is the light fading, should I be outside this late, or should I be on 
my way home? This twighlight tonality brings a different quality to 
the possible stories that drift through and around the painted 
images. The viewer can feel this. But only after “forgetting” the 
image sequence as a literal representation, and allowing the 
experience of the sometimes dark thoughts of being alone in a 
landscape to create a dialogue between our isolated body and the 
indifferent world of nature.

In these works, you cannot get away from the way the surface crumbles 
into looking like something and yet just as easily could, when you 
look away, turn again into something else. The subjects of the work 
are not fixed. Their brushy surfaces stop the viewer from simply 
ignoring how each image is made. It pushes the making into the same 
place as the representation, and brings together the “time” of the 
work and the “time of it’s facture.” All of this coaxes the viewer 
into the paint surface as much as pushing them away, and makes us 
look in from the outside. Because the images come through to being 
via the internet, they are alien, and given the enticing sodium 
brilliance of the computer’s screen light, seductive and illusive. 
When they are turned into paint, they are still in flux and just hold 
together within the open rhythms of the brushstrokes. Other artists 
do this too, and Maibritt Rangstrup’s work sits easily in the family 
of interests shared by these artists.

Alex Katz also uses images fed through from the screen world. His 
pictures of both the night and day focus the attention on a painted 
reality that is fleeting, and yet real enough to be considered a 
contemporary of our lived time. Images of people laughing and playing 
on the beach with the scream of seagulls overhead in a azure blue 
sky, are unforgettable reminders of vacation time, a time out of 
time. The lights of New York offices seen from across the street, 
hide mysteries that are both public and personal, sites we have all 
experienced and wondered about.

In Seurat, the figures, the dancers, the lovers are wrapped in their 
own time, and we are peering in without any hope of more clarity or a 
better idea of what they are saying. His mysterious drawings, clearly 
made without the aid of computers but near enough to be enthralled by 
the emerging world of photography, capture lamplight, fog, smokey 
rooms, people sitting or standing in the street without communicating 
with each other. They are lost in webs of marks that have cut off the 
sound world and replaced it with mime. We make up the rest in our 
heads because the silence is almost unbearable, because it is the 
silence of our ophaned individuality. They are speaking somewhere 
beyond what we can now hear. They are in another time, the time of 
the image.

Maibritt Rangstrup’s paintings do this too. They are simple images of 
complicated things. Images that come to us from time spent gazing 
into a world made accessible across the ether by the internet and 
turned into the here and now.

© Sam Fisher

London, August 2009.

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