essentials #15

Galerie Judith Andreae
May 5, 2020 1:10PM

Regine Schumann FEEL COLOR - Performative light exhibition at Galerie Judith Andreae, Bonn

SARA LIUZZI - You studied painting at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Braunschweig and then received a DAAD grant for a residency in Italy, more precisely, in Rome. In one of our last conversations you told me about your interest in frescos and your desire to better understand painting in relation to space. How did you subsequently approach working with light and how has your worked evolved since then?

REGINE SCHUMANN - As I’m from a miners’ family, light has a very special status in my biography. Perhaps it was like wanting to bring light into the darkness after all those years. At any rate, the path to my working with light was a longer process. After finishing my art studies in 1989, I searched for new forms of expression and composition in painting. I increasingly focused on the material quality of the picture or color support. Then I wanted to abandon the canvas as a painting support and decided to learn traditional wall painting. My intention was to paint and experience pure color in the space… But at first I found the results unsatisfactory. I then started with a new group of works: I applied beeswax to thin Japan paper and sewed together gaudy fluorescent bikini fabrics. I spanned these elastic, vividly colored fabrics over large areas around existing columns or pillars, thus countering the clarity and rigidity of the architectural environment with soft and flowing color bodies that dominated the space alone due to their textile dimensions. The bright colors of the elastic fabrics transformed the ambient light and also the room temperature. With these temporary pieces, I discovered a possibility to make the aesthetic effect derived from Goethe’s color theory experienceable and to address the senses and mood of the viewers with color alone.

Courtesy Judith Andreae Galerie, Bonn. Photo Ben Hermanni

In the early 1990s, I came upon colored acrylic glass as a medium for my work. Similar to the elastic bikini fabric, the transparency of this material takes up existing structures, absorbs and changes them. Until today, I have been using industrially manufactured plastic materials, almost exclusively fluorescent acrylic sheets, that turn into intensely glowing, luminous bodies in black light. The oscillating colors of the light expand and change the given space, thus altering the viewers’ spatial perception, as well.

SL - Which artists or movements have inspired you most during your artistic career?

RS - While studying, I was interested in the material color fields of Mark Rothko, the works of Barnett Newman and also the boundary expanding, colored light spaces of James Turrell. Rupprecht Geiger played a special role for me, because early on he had already conquered space — and me — with fluorescent paint on his “shaped canvases”. What all these artists have in common is consistent reduction. They all work with color and/or light as an autonomous value detached from the form with the aim of focusing energy.

Courtesy Judith Andreae Galerie, Bonn. Photo Ben Hermanni

SL - Is there a work of yours that that you found especially moving?

RS - My first series, doppelblende from 1998, triggered a number of things. I created layers of circular, perforated, fluorescent acrylic glass and realized that I could continue to apply and even intensify my experiences as a painter using prefabricated industrial products. That was an incredibly important insight. Painterly aspects determine the choice of colors and the results of my works until today.

SL - Your minimalistic pieces, simple and linear, can be perceived in entirely different ways, depending on whether the light is natural or artificial. The various types of light alter the colors, and the effects are manifold. Could you describe this surprising phenomenon in more detail?

RS - I experiment with fluorescence and elicit ever new manifestations from it. Industrially manufactured acrylic glass products allow for innumerable combinations. I create three-dimensional, multicolored, spatial bodies from the acrylic sheets. Depending on the location, I layer, mix and select the colors. The layering of the sheets results in colors that again vary when black light is involved. So the entire color spectrum of my works changes like a chameleon through different types of illumination: sunlight, natural or artificial light, black light. In the case of black light, the intensity of the color and light increases considerably in the ambient space and an astounding effect sets in: What is there remains materially tangible, but it is additionally surrounded by a shroud of immateriality.

Courtesy Judith Andreae Galerie, Bonn. Photo Ben Hermanni

SL - Your pieces and installations indeed add a very special, suggestive atmosphere to the space and the surroundings. The viewers are fascinated by the color that emerges in the darkness, spreads, and gives the impression of being in another dimension. What do others have to say about your work?

RS - I would like to refer to two catalogue texts that, in my view, describe my works quite aptly. The first excerpt is from Sabine Maria Schmidt (art historian, curator and writer), the other from Alberto Zanchetta (director of MAC-Museum of Contemporary Art, Lissone). “Regine Schumann’s works seek to redefine color. Her interventions are formally clear and pointed and develop a very own aesthetic. She transforms space by adding a color-space concept, which is always the starting point of her ideas, to the spatial concepts of the architecture. Maybe that explains the successful synthesis of many of her works with predetermined spatial situations and the ‘peaceful- cooperative’ collaboration with different architects and builders who, as is known, are rather mistrustful of visual art. Even when she integrates sculptural and architectural strategies in her work, as a composer of chroma and color spaces she is and remains quintessentially a painter.” (Sabine Maria Schmidt, text excerpt from the catalogue Candela, 2006, edited by Angelika Thill.) “She is capable of ‘painting’ the environment based on the incidence of light and the transparency of the acrylic glass. The viewers find themselves in a double visual experience — day/natural and night/artificial light — that obliges them to inquire about the enormous possibilities of the color spectrum in relation to the physiological limits of the human eye. Nevertheless, we cannot resist the temptation of believing that Schumann’s works are actually illuminated by the gaze of the beholder. Of course, that’s just an illusion, but there is no doubt that something like that is the objective of art.” (Alberto Zanchetta, text excerpt from the catalogue colormirror, Dep Art Gallery Milano, 2018.)

SL - One can “enter into” some of your installations, for example, your work jump! connect back to back from 2011. In my latest book, La luce nell’arte del nuovo (Gangemi Editore, 2018), I describe how the visitors freely enter into the work, roam about inside it, and can “connect” with it through a unique experience of perception. What role does this aspect play in your work?

RS - I presented the installation you are talking about the last time at the Lichtkunstzentrum Unna in 2016. The colorful-transparent, curved sheets of the installation jump! connect back to back place special emphasis on the edges that appear to hover in space like glowing lines. Toward the sides and the top, the color shimmers in blue, cyan, pink, and red. The color light effects that are hard to describe reflect, glow, permeate the space, and enter into a relationship with the stringent geometries of the spatial body. The visitors themselves appear without color in the installation, dark to black, the spatial bodies become projection screens. In this way, each person can individually experience the surrounding space. But that isn’t all. Many visitors now communicate their enthusiasm about the new spatial experience directly to the world. In the social networks, there are numerous selfies and other pictures by and with the viewers themselves standing in the color spaces and experiencing the magic of light.

SL - When we met, you talked about your newest projects in which you intended to add a new element to the works. Color and light were to flicker as if they were heartbeats. Where can we see these new projects?

RS - The new projects will be on view in Bonn in May of this year. In a solo show titled feel color at Galerie Judith Andreae, I expand my spatial installation by a new way of staging light. Alternating daylight and black light is to be set in vibration and rhythmically pulsate in this site-specific installation. Palpable color makes the space vibrate and can thus be experienced in its luminosity and vibrancy even more intensely. In parallel to this mise-en-scène, my contribution to the show Goethe. Transformation of the World at the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn will also deal with the intensive perception of color: Two large-format, satin-finished pieces in the basic colors red and blue from the series farbrausch seek to let the viewers experience sensuality and harmony in the sense of Goethe.

SL - You have exhibited in various countries outside of Germany, such as Japan, Spain, the United States, Canada, Italy, and so forth. Did you notice any cultural differences as regards the reception of your works?

RS - The interest in new experiences of seeing is evidently great everywhere, so I didn’t see any cultural differences as far as that is concerned. However, the immediate reactions to the works on display are very different. While the visitors’ response in Germany is more calm, reserved and contemplative, the reactions in Japan and Italy last year were very emotional and temperamental. I was especially happy that in the exhibition colormirror in Milano, experimental dancers felt inspired to dance and perform directly in the installation. Many visitors linger in the room in front of the objects or inspect them from all sides, as if they wanted them to reveal their secret. It is interesting that people in my installations often move in groups in front of or between the works, and even strangers point out to each other how they themselves change. The emotionality triggered in these moments boosts my faith in the power of pure color. Not only the space but also the people’s mood is brightened by the luminosity. And that is exactly what I want to achieve with my art. I would like to throw the conventions of painting out of balance and enable an immersion in and a boundless engagement with color, light and space.

Courtesy Judith Andreae Galerie, Bonn. Photo Ben Hermanni

Galerie Judith Andreae