Sep 14, 2011

PROFILE | Stefanie Gutheil | Rainbows, Cats, Puke

Stefanie Gutheil, Lazerpussy, Oil, acrylic, fabric, foil, and decoration on canvas, 2011

After searching for an artist I wanted to learn more about, I came across work by Stefanie Gutheil. As I researched further, I came across an entire series titled Dreckige Katze (which in English translates to Dirty Cat). The cats, lasers, and rainbow puke immediately caught my eye. These fun and grotesque images seem to pop off the canvas. I find myself thinking I am at a weird circus on a bad acid trip, sort of like that scene from Knocked Up where they go see Cirque De Soleil on shrooms. It’s as if Gutheil is giving the viewer a glimpse into her own messed up view of the world with depictions of masked figures, imaginative creatures, and cats. 

Gutheil was brought up in an environment bounded by tradition in a small town in Germany. As a gay teen struggling to compete with the normality that was forced upon her, she decided to flee to a nearby University town. After high school, she traveled and eventually ended up in Berlin’s Universität der Künste. This is where Gutheil achieved her MFA, and learned about different techniques and art history.

She is clearly influenced by fauvism. In her biography, she states that she likes to play with history. "I take it and use it. It's a never-ending story, like cooking. And for cooking, you need passion." There is also a mix between the comic book and expressionism seen in her art. Gutheil uses a number of different mediums, such as oil, fabric, foil, hair, and polymer clay in her paintings. She paints the figures in oil or acrylic, and then uses clay on the canvas to add a 3D effect that makes some of the figures in her painting actually pop out.  There is also real hair, foil, and fabric used to mock texture. She says that she realizes it would be easier to paint the effects, but she simply just likes the texture. She refers to using different mediums such as fabric as part of her palette, such as Matisse used cutouts.

Stefanie Gutheil, Katzen-Kotzen-Schwänze (Cats-Barf-Dong), Oil, fabric, and hair on canvas in gold frame with varnish, cast oil, and polymer clay, 2011

To get the full effect, I am sure you would have to view one of these in person, because they are about 94 X 94 inches. This fully immerses the viewer in the painting, forcing the viewer to step back and focus on one thing at a time. It would be impossible to notice everything in one glance.  From the bright colors, to the disfigured creepy things, the cats that seem to be staring you down, and the puke everywhere, Gutheil's paintings leave everyone wondering what is going on. This is the most intriguing part of Gutheil's art; at first glance, nobody really knows what the meaning is, but it immediately gives off a creepy vibe. Why would there be weird things puking rainbows with a bunch of cats around them?

Well, after reading more into Gutheil's biography, I discovered that these paintings are stories of her life. The masks you see worn by these figures in her paintings represent the false faces of people she see's at parties. The creatures represent the monsters we all have inside of us. Gutheil uses an analogy of the Swiss Alps, where she used to live. She states, in her biography: "The mountain is ugly, but its funny too." She is basically saying that her art is not very pleasant to look at, but it has a comedic quality to it as well. Ugly can be entertaining, and I was definitely entertained.

Stefanie Gutheil's exhibit can currently be seen at the Mike Weiss Gallery in New York from September 8th- October 11th. 

-Ashley Green


1 comment:

  1. (Just an FYI: the "fauvism" link is broken, which is unfortunate because I was hoping you had linked to some Andre Derain art)

    I enjoyed reading about this artist I have never heard of before. I am interested in this type of work, which you describe as being influenced by Fauvism, but wouldn't it be more accurate to say it's influenced by Surrealism and Expressionism (the latter which you credit as influencing her)? I'm not sure I see Fauvism here...and I am curious where you see it. Does Gutheil state she is influenced by this particular movement?
    This seems like a small thing to focus on, and maybe it is, but I am hugely influenced by Derain and early Matisse work in my own painting (and German Expressionism) and I like to find contemporary artist working within the same vein.
    Having said that, it is interesting that Gutheil admits to "sometimes being slow at deciphering the symbols in her own work." I believe it's important that artist not pretend to understand every part of their work, mainly because it is impossible. The expressionist and surrealist were working with this idea of the Freudian artist...
    I like the analogy to the Swiss Alps and her painting of a pile of shit(which is shown on her interview link you linked to). Certainly this artist had(s) an interesting relationship with her parents...I'm not quite sure what to make of it.
    Her repeated use of humor in her work, and in her statements about her work, that she doesn't take her art too seriously or finds her art funny and yet at the same time acknowledges that her work is "ugly" gives me pause to wonder if she is hesitant to show "ugly" without funny, i.e. that the truth of her life that she alludes to in interviews wasn't actually funny at all and that she has a difficult time emotionally dropping down into the seriousness of her past.
    From my perspective, I see nothing emotionally funny in her work...just emotionally ugly.
    Interesting artist, interesting work.
    --Jonathan Peters