Swimming - Painting - Swimming

On the new paintings of Sigrid von Lintig

On the exhibition „Swimmers“
Gallery Freitag 18.30, 2012

Painting is an old craft, even academies were founded to teach it. The prevalent view on swimming however is, that it is enough to throw a child into water, for it to help itself like most other animals. But who is interested in what happens inside someone spreading drops of oil with a soft brush on an even surface, eyes and hand 'swimming' weightlessly in paints, must be fascinated by the swimmer, who loses 9/10 of his body weight, his vertical hold and his head control under water, suffers stress, fear, muscle tension before his inner ear produces a new equilibrium; to then find his bearings in the water space, breathing out against the hydrostatic pressure, surrendering to the gentle massage by the currents. Adrenalin will flood his blood, he will experience happiness. The painter likewise.

He knows he is sinking, but he has to move upwards - using all of swimming's techniques and styles. He secretly wishes he could walk on water - like the basilisk.

Drawn downwards on the other hand are not only the pearl divers, but also all those mermaids, spring nymphs and nereids, Amphitrite and Undine, who tempt loving men into the depth. (Undine lent her name to a disorder of the central nervous system in which autonomous breathing is suspended).

Man cannot live in water, he drowns; he who seeks death, drowns himself. In the underwater world a paradise is expecting him that is described in fairy tales. The painter who fails over his masterpiece, will burn it and will leave his studio forever (Honoré de Balzac, The Unknown Masterpiece).

Sigrid von Lintig, the painter, swims, she has been visiting an indoor pool in Aachen daily for months now, as they exist since Roman times, and her fellow swimmers there have become friends. A group of girls dives to her directions and hundreds of photos are created.

(The art historian remembers Dominique Ingres 'Turkish Bath', a sultry male fantasy over soft naked women's bodies tightly pressed together in a muggy oriental hall. Scenes in open air baths, lakes and on beaches have been painted frequently. The psychologist asks: Why does she bathe so regularly? and will be looking for the violations in her life, that she is cleansing away).

Sigrid von Lintig paints like she swims, or better: she thinks painting like she swims.
I imagine Mondrian thinks painting in terrestrial fashion, he would compose a painting with matches on a table top. To think it 'oceanically' would mean composing it with hair. Mondrian tackles a contradiction: he moves liquid oil with a soft brush, to outline solid, sharply limited angular shapes. To this day, innumerable painters have acted like him. Mondrian uses a two-dimensional geometry, he hasn't liberated himself from Euclid and Pythagoras, but from the rules of central perspective. 'Oceanic' thinking however, makes it possible to spread watery acrylic dispersions carrying pure color pigments with soft bristles on a canvas as if painting water. That is what Sigrid von Lintig paints: a water space beyond central perspective and without horizon, human beings in and under water.

But no mimesis develops as with that panel of a cherry tree that Zeuxis showed Apelles in a garden, against which sparrows threw themselves in order to pick the fruit. The paintings don't feed an illusion, because they are perceived differently from every distance. Close up they only display vortices and waves, energies that flit across the canvasses like electric currents.The movements of water, its inconceivable concreteness, its light reflexes, its refractions in the resistance of human bodies have fascinated countless photographers alongside Sigrid von Lintig. They all deployed technical inventions from Bokeh lenses and Gaussian blur to 3D effects and holography to utilise its expressivity. But they have not been able to avoid that the smooth surfaces of photographic paper, Cibachrome and Ilfachrome copies or screens filter the observer's gaze so that he seems to be looking through a window. Similarly the illustrations on Sigrid von Lintig's web site only give a superficial impression of her paintings. The temptation exists to file her work under 'photo-realism' or 'hyper-realism', a movement of representational painting which emerged 50 years ago when painters in Europe and the USA explored the young technologies of image resolution, compression and transmission through TV and the world wide web.

It seemed easy to them to exceed the photographic focus and detail of image representation in large format paintings (Chuck Close, Richard Estes), or to accomplish the 'poetry of the blur' through painting technique or paint effects (Gerhard Richter, Franz Gertsch, Malcolm Morley, Richard Artschwager). Water and humans in water did not become the focus of their interests.

Some of their images enjoy creating the illusion of being photographs. Jean Olivier Hucleux even desired to show his cemetery pictures in a dark room, like large-scale slide projections. This illusion occurs when painting denies itself. Nothing is further from Sigrid von Lintig's paintings. One is tempted to put the assertion into her mouth: 'Liquid colour on canvas, nothing else'. One time she allowed herself a concession to the romanticism of the motif: the girl in the white dress, 'drowned like Ophelia, Hamlet's bride'. Otherwise there is nothing there besides the pool and its tiled walls and the swimming bodies in the water. The illusions are so strongly dispelled, that in the whirlpools and currents of the paints, humans are moving or are moved, energetically reaching out or sinking lifelessly, rearing up or falling in a crouch, floating between conditions of disappearance and appearance, as if the paintings are Alice's mirror into another world - an 'oceanic' world, in which the star signs of Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio rule over the art of painting.

Wolfgang Becker, Aachen