Pacific Pearl: Conversation 2: Maria Cruz and Stephan Sehler
Pacific Pearl Conversations: Ross Gibson & Jelle Van Den Berg and Maria Cruz & Stefan Sehler
Biennale of Sydney 2004, Parallel Program, On Reason and Emotion, Biennale of Sydney 2004.
Curated by Isabel Carlos Parallel Program
Pearl, a collaboration by painters Maria Cruz and Stefan Sehler, is the second conversation. For two decades since they met at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf, Sydney-based Cruz and Berlin-based Sehler have shared ideas and projects. While they have shared studios and organised solo exhibitions for each other at First Draft (West) in Sydney (where Cruz was a director) and group shows in Australia and Europe, this is their first collaboration.
Their installation will present an internal logic based on their experiences of viewing paintings in museums. ‘Our thing’, says Cruz, ‘is to look at paintings together’. The works will be arranged to claim the exhibition space as their own domestic environment. In this way, and by these limits, the artwork is politicised.
Cruz and Sehler use genre themes like landscapes, mountains, flowers, portraits and texts to explore the borders and relations of decoration, photography, the painting process, bourgeois interiors, design and related topics. These painted images work as mirrors for the expectations and emotions of the spectator.
|Maria Cruz and Stefan Sehler, Pearl. Exhibited: Pacific Pearl Conversations, Biennale of Sydney 2004, Parallel Program Showing (l-r) Stefan Sehler, Mountain I, II, III, 2004; Maria Cruz, 36 Parramatta Road, Studio, 2004; Ynez, 2004; State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, 2004.
|| Maria Cruz, 36 Parramatta Road, Studio, 2004. Oil on canvas, 65 x 50 cm. Maria Cruz, Ynez, 2004. Oil on canvas, 35 x 28 cm. Maria Cruz, State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, 2004. Oil on canvas, 55 x 70 cm.
|| Stefan Sehler, installation view Pearl showing Mountain I, II, III, 2004. Each work, oil on plexiglass, 63 x 83 cm
The modus operandi of both artists is to take references from very different worlds: nineteenth century German Romantic painters (like Adolph Menzel and Anslem Feuerbach) who celebrate sublime metaphoric beauty and spirituality, and twentieth century pulp spirituality, propaganda, consumerism and mass spectatorship. Their paintings lure us with the promise of spiritual fulfillment and sublime beauty. Whether they achieve this or not, they definitely inject ambiguity.
Both artists position themselves on the edge between opposing and complementary territories of painting, between representation and abstraction. They share a nostalgic awareness of the history of painting. Painting’s irrelevance, they argue, paradoxically is what makes it relevant today.
Maria Cruz exhibits at Kaliman Gallery, Sydney and is senior lecturer in painting at University of Western Sydney. Her recent video installation project, Shangri-La Collective, included 30 women artists (Artspace, Sydney, 2003).
Stefan Sehler shows regularly in Berlin, Cologne and New York.