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Reading Rämistrasse #92: Jason Rohr on Ida Ekblad at Karma International - Akademie - Kunsthalle Zürich

Reading Rämistrasse #92: Jason Rohr on Ida Ekblad at Karma International

Nectar oozes from the thick swathes and swirls. Dried oil covers the viscous paint in crumpled puddles, as though it leaked from the colour’s skin that spans and folds over rectangular canvases. This is carnal expressionism with a potent physical presence in its texture and arrangement of contrasts. The orange glows inextinguishably against the blue. Indifferent to where you stand, smouldering without heat, while the red haemorrhages besides the green without losing its pulse. Transience is frozen, locked into patterns without regularity, except for the restraint of the canvas.

Ida Ekblad, Flyable, Rideable, Karma International, 2022

Bild: Annik Wetter, Courtesy Karma International 

Ida Ekblad’s latest work seems to be deeply engaged with painting’s history and its representation of bodies and the flesh seen in the works of Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville or Bouguereau and the late Rembrandt. Touch, sight and smell are all important in creating the feeling of reality for us and connect us with what we take for granted: the world at perception’s resolution. We intuitively associate our bodies with what is natural, like devices for differentiating corporeality from the immaterial, the imaginary. It is no wonder then that for quite a few centuries its depictions have been dominated by naturalisms and realisms, not in a strict sense of the genres but in a common ambition to render the body quite lifelike, quite real. Here the medium historically used to represent the bodily through meticulous rendering of form and colour becomes the flesh itself. In these works, the paint does not serve as an illustration of bodies anymore, but is the painting’s meat. Whereas old masters glaze leanly painted surfaces to mimic humans, she applies the glaze directly onto the paint serving as the body. Skipping a step in representation, she takes a Duchampian shortcut, and beautifully so. In painting, the Duchampian method appears in various forms, like Klein’s monochromes or Hirst’s fly paintings. Instead of depiction, the traditionally depicting or depicted shows itself, without needing to be represented through another.

Ida Ekblad, Flyable, Rideable​, Karma International, 2022

Bild: Annik Wetter, Courtesy Karma International

Although I perceive her works conceptually, they are not deflationary on a visual level, as the conceptual gesture isn’t the only form. Turning the painting into a body makes it vulnerable like one too. It’s a courageous undertaking in a society where ‘the sweet scent of decomposition’ is incessantly masked by corporate aromas and cleaning routines, institutional and private.(1) She proposes the body of painting, diffusing the pheromones of linseed oil turning rancid, revealing the painting’s age to the viewer. Someone once told me it would take 80 years for a canvas by Kiefer to dry completely. I suspect that is part of why acrylics and thin layers of oil have become standards, to make painting smell odourless forever. Not like a room suffused in the scent of oil in various stages of drying, inevitably putting its contemporariness in doubt through its odour. Its rewards belong to us, the viewers.

(1) Zygmunt Baumann, Forget Baudrillard?, 1993

Ida Ekblad, Flyable, Rideable, Karma International, Weststrasse 75, Zürich, 10. Juni–16. Juli 2022

Reading Rämistrasse

Geht der Raum für Kunstkritik verloren, müssen wir handeln. Deswegen schaffen wir diesen Ort für Kritik – Reading Rämistrasse – auf der Webseite der Kunsthalle Zürich und veröffentlichen Rezensionen zu aktuellen Ausstellungen in Zürich. Diese geben nicht die Meinung der Kunsthalle Zürich wieder, denn Kritik muss unabhängig sein.

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