German painter Corinne Wasmuht’s dizzying oil paintings on wood capture the overwhelming sensation of life in our hypermodern world. Wasmuht melds abstract gestures and recognizable representational forms in a glitchy manner that presents multiple images overlapping, each competing for the viewer’s attention, yet none of them ever really completely there. To create these complex paintings, which often take the form of large panoramas that overwhelm the viewer with visual information, she begins by using a mix of found Internet imagery and her own photographs to cull loose references to everyday urban life, art, science and nature. But unlike other artists who work with found imagery, it’s not the source material that makes Wasmuht’s statement, it’s the way she uses it. “In a film, one image is followed by another, whereas I pile the images up on top of one another,” she has said of her process.
Part the allure of her paintings is their luminous surfaces, which are activated by the way Wasmuht deliberately and delicately layers thin washes of translucent paint on polished, whitewashed wooden boards. As she builds up the surface of the work, it takes on a glow, as if lit from within or shimmering with subtle motion like a mirage.
In her latest exhibition at Berlin’s Johan König, Wasmuht focuses on shared spaces of transition: highways, public squares, airports, supermarkets. With the work of Parisian anthropologist Marc Augé in mind, she evokes the loneliness of our ever-plugged-in society, which manages to make our lives more public, yet in some ways even more distant from each other.
In Wasmuht’s visual world, as in the internet age itself, we are bombarded with images whose significance we may never have enough time or clarity to understand. We are presented with too much to take in at one time, yet it all remains somehow incomplete. That uncertain space is the new territory that Wasmuht explores so well.