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Claudia Kaak

Tradition, Heritage or Autonomy?

WHEN DESCRIBING HOW HER CREATIVE PROCESS STARTS, CLAUDIA KAAK SAYS THAT, ‘WHEN I SPEAK OR OBSERVE ANOTHER PERSON, I OBSERVE EVERY LITTLE MOVEMENT. AN INGRAINED PATTERN I AUTOMATICALLY FOLLOW. I END UP ASKING MYSELF IF OTHER PEOPLE PERCEIVE THE WORLD IN THE SAME WAY, TOO.’

The pro­cess reaches deep into the past of the artist, makes its way across memo­ries, is reflec­ted in the pre­sent and laun­ched into the future under­pin­ning trail­bla­zing thoughts on huma­ni­ty you can find in her pain­tings. She opens a chan­nel to self-awa­reness and dis­co­very for her view­ers, without jud­ging them, giving them a peace­ful place devoid of any pre­con­di­tio­ned values. The word ‘inde­pen­dence’ crops up for the first time in the essay of this edi­ti­on, yet it has been a fli­cke­ring light living insi­de her ever sin­ce her child­hood. She was left to deal on her own with emo­ti­ons ear­ly on, fee­lings adults were bare­ly capa­ble to cope with.

The deep emo­ti­ons that come to life in the pain­tings of the artist often result in depic­tions of child­ren, adults and elder­ly peop­le, alo­ne on the can­vas. Oil on can­vas pain­tings pain­ted with a sen­si­ti­ve and empa­thic touch. Peop­le recount their expe­ri­en­ces, their chao­tic and some­ti­mes sub­t­le sway­ing emo­ti­ons, they tell us how hard their life can be, and yet in all this soli­tu­de they’re still inde­pen­dent. Even if it’s dif­fi­cult to find ‘inde­pen­dence’ in her pain­tings, her work opens up a win­dow and offers us a space to be on our own, emo­tio­nal­ly deco­u­pled, and does so mercilessly.

Every pain­ting is independent. 

Her work also con­tains auto­bio­gra­phi­cal refe­ren­ces, fea­ture inner names and emo­ti­ons of the artist. Some remind her of situa­tions, fee­lings, over­he­ard state­ments, reflect litera­ry con­tent or film excerp­ts. Serie 12 is based on a poem known all over the world. Kaak says, ‘Serie 12 is sym­bo­li­cal­ly based on the Erl King bal­la­de by J. W. von Goe­the (1782). A father rides with his ill son at night. (…) We never find out what ‘kills’ the child. (…) Yet we find a sty­listic clue in the last ver­se, ‘In his arms he’s hol­ding the groa­ning­child’, ‘The child he held in his arms was dead.’ (…) The son sym­bo­li­ses a rape vic­tim, the Erl King is the per­pe­tra­tor, while the father repres­ents the peop­le who turn a blind eye and tri­via­li­se tho­se events.’

Kaak refers to inner values, socie­tal values, without poin­ting the fin­ger. She arche­ty­pi­cal­ly peels the figu­res away from their per­cep­ti­on and human expe­ri­ence. Peop­le stri­ve for free­dom and inde­pen­dence, and here we have the artis­tic mea­su­re of the artist which is con­fron­ted by the fact the crea­ti­ve pro­cess is con­stant­ly roo­ted to its social set­ting. Cul­tu­ral and tra­di­tio­nal refe­ren­ces impo­se them­sel­ves on the artis­tic process.

The con­cept of (por­trait) pain­ting is sadd­led with a long, hea­vy tra­di­ti­on and fea­tures count­less moments of com­pa­ri­son which are, see­min­gly, held up to cur­rent, young pain­tings which they have to mea­su­re up to. The­se moments give us a flash of the style used by the old mas­ters, seen only on a second or third level, and make us smirk when we think about our arche­ty­pi­cal per­cep­ti­ons of peop­le and being human and their por­tra­yal. Tho­se kinds of asso­cia­ti­ons are no qua­li­ta­ti­ve gau­ge of art.

In Clau­dia Kaak’s pain­tings, we see typo­lo­gies of huma­no­id faces that the view­er somehow reco­gnis­ed from older pain­tings or movie sce­ne of our not so distant past. Super­fi­cial know­ledge, a dilem­ma pla­guing con­su­mers. And not only them.

Who crea­tes this dilem­ma? After all, is it not just natu­re being natu­re and humans being humans to want to asso­cia­te new ide­as and values to our under­stan­ding and expe­ri­ence of the past? Our cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge lives on in us just like our gene­tic heri­ta­ge, yet the fight against cul­tu­ral tra­di­ti­on har­bours more suc­cess than the rebel­li­on against our gene­tic make­up. Bes­i­des the­se com­ple­te seri­es, the works can be com­bi­ned out­side of their over­ar­ching the­me as indi­vi­du­al works. Every pain­ting is inde­pen­dent. When exhi­bi­ted, this results in asso­cia­ti­ons, and vignet­te-like excerp­ts and moments that depict and chan­ge the por­tray­ed values every sin­gle time.

The com­bi­na­ti­on of the works and con­fron­ta­ti­on with other gen­res from other pain­ters, which are exci­ting and pos­si­ble, can be inter­pre­ted dif­fer­ent­ly depen­ding on the the­me as well as being ‘expan­ded’ thanks to the view­ers’ inter­pre­ta­ti­on. This is what it means to be an ‘open work of art’. Every work is inde­pen­dent and a com­ple­te work of art, regard­less of its belon­ging to a seri­es. Con­tent crea­ti­on is fil­te­red by tra­di­ti­ons known to the artist and cur­rent, con­tem­pora­ry per­cep­ti­ons influ­ence a given posi­ti­on, giving her inde­pen­dence during the crea­ti­ve pro­cess. The result is inde­pen­dent work and a new tre­a­su­re tro­ve for the arts and humanities.

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(geb.1975 in Jena) - lebt und arbeitet in Jena, ist Galeristin der Galerie pack of patches, die sie 2008 gründete. Sie vertritt weltweit zeitgenössische Künstler; Teilnahme an 23 internationalen Messen. www.packofpatches.com; Sie ist seit 2003 als freie Künstlerin tätig; 2003 - Dipl. Freie Kunst bei Prof. Elfi Fröhlich, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar; 1999-2013 – Studium Freie Kunst, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar; 1994-1999 – Studium Kunstgeschichte, Philosophie (Lehramt), Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena; Co-Author: Toralf Kandera (geb.1975 in Jena) lebt und arbeitet mit Grit Höhn gemeinsam in Jena, ist seit 2008 freier Künstler, unterstützt die Galerie pack of patches seit ihrer Gründung.

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