Galerie Thomas Zander is pleased to announce Happy Hour, Christiane Baumgartner’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The show features new and recent handmade woodcuts, often monumental in scale, that expand the conceptual boundaries of the medium.
Christiane Baumgartner was born in Leipzig, East Germany in 1967. She studied at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig and received her MFA in Printmaking from the Royal College of Art in London. Baumgartner sources her own photographs and video stills for her woodcuts. Using both traditional and digital modes of representation, her practice reflects on the materiality and immateriality of images and explores the experience of speed and standstill. Her subjects have gradually moved from an initial focus on motorways, helicopters, airplanes, and warfare towards the perception of natural environments such as the forest, the sea, and eventually the sunlight.
Happy Hour (2018), a suite of unique large-scale colour woodcuts, incorporates elements of painting through the irregular application of paint to the paper, intentionally embracing imperfections. An image of the sunset over the sea, a symbol of longing since the romantics, is converted into horizontal lines in gradient colour palettes of red, orange, and green: Kir Royal, Sex on the Beach, London Fog. The woodcuts are based on a photograph Baumgartner took on the Baltic island of Hiddensee, where she used to vacation with her family growing up in the former German Democratic Republic and where she still returns today. Due to the travel restrictions of the GDR, visitors were not allowed on the beach after sunset to prevent attempts to escape to Denmark whose shore was visible from the island, yet out of reach. The promise of freedom that the sublime view offers during a “happy hour” – a carefree, but brief period of time – remains transient and elusive. The black and white woodcuts made in 2022, In der Region vonEis (In the Region of Ice), can be read as a counterpart to Happy Hour, much cooler and darker in tone. They are named after a story by Joyce Carol Oates negotiating the crisis and ultimate failure of human connection. The vision of the setting sun in these images is clouded and blurred, pushing it to the verge of abstraction. Along with further woodcuts and aquatints on view in the exhibition, Baumgartner’s oeuvre continues to interrogate the human perception of time in a laborious and contemplative process that essentially becomes lifetime encapsulated in her works.
Baumgartner's internationally recognized work has been shown in numerous exhibitions and is in the collections of institutions and museums including the Albertina, Vienna; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; The Federal Collection of Contemporary Art, Bonn; the Städel Museum, Frankfurt/Main; the Sprengel Museum, Hanover; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This year, Baumgartner’s work is featured in group exhibitions at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, Bloomington; and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.