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.