Elizabeth Houston Gallery presents a new series of works by Netherlands-based artist Katinka Lampe at Untitled Art Fair in San Francisco from January 16 – January 19, 2020. This is the gallery’s first exhibition with the Untitled Art Fair, and was sponsored in part by a grant from the Mondriaan Fund.
About Katinka Lampe’s work
Even from a glance, one can see that Katinka Lampe’s paintings all share a common subject: they are depictions of young women. But within this single theme, there is a vast continuum of diversity; and it is the appreciation of difference to which Lampe’s paintings give elegant expression. Her paintings of young women are less about individuals and more about the significance of femininity generally—especially as this relates to sex and ethnicity.
Youth features so saliently in Lampe’s works because it encapsulates a time when a person’s fixed sense of social identity is still to emerge. Lampe encourages her models to dress up in lavish costumes, to playact, to embody a role. The paintings that emerge from this process are not portraits, but two-dimensional objects where a model’s preferences and personal history has been distilled into a representative image.
Anonymity is essential to this process. Lampe’s paintings do not have names but are numerically titled. Unburdened by the limitations of a name the images can shine out all the more brilliantly. What Lampe captures in her work is nothing less than gendered consciousness: a feminine universality that tailors its appearance to suit particular individuals, but which retains its identity across each painted visage.
For the work titled 1318192, the model for the painting was Chinese. She not only makes her own clothes but is given to fantasize about the occasions where her designs might be worn. Preserving the essence of this girl’s story, her self-awareness, and style, Lampe sublimated her individuality into the image of the girl depicted on canvas. The features of the original model—her style, ethnicity, character—have become a vehicle for the creation of an almost timeless image: a sempiternal feminine imago. In another painting, titled 5065195, the way a white fur-like collar contrasts with the deep brown of the model’s skin creates an exquisite atmosphere that only exists within the confines of art.
Lampe’s pictorial maneuvers are predicted on the fluidity of identity. Her use of abstraction allows momentary feelings and facial expressions to become representative of the world as a whole. What’s ultimately communicated in these paintings is the freedom to add to or subtract from the world as one sees fits. Against Lampe’s elegant backdrops, a young woman’s gaze can dissect or enhance her surroundings with exacting directness.