Ruth Barker

Max Ernst, Andrew Kerr, Katherina Wolff

2003

 

The recent exhibition of work by Max Ernst, Andrew Kerr and Katherina Wulff shown at Transmission Gallery, King Street appears to focus on a space of images not quite tangible.

 

Restricted to wall-based work – one of Ernst’s lithographs (Elecktra 1939), three new works by Kerr, and a collection of drawings and paintings from 1997 to 2003 by Wulff – the gallery seems at first to house a group whose work is quite distinct, even suggesting a dissonance. Wulff’s clumsily languorous drawings and her less crude but oversized Das Experiment seem in discord with the crafted lines of Kerr’s A.W.K.’s Larchant which hangs next to it. Elektra seems an oddity, displaced and slightly disquieting, although perhaps both Wulff and Kerr echo something of both its form and its tension respectively. At first it seems an effort to draw the works in the exhibition together. To see each work in turn, however, provokes the viewer into finding some line of similarity, and so a suggestion by each artist on the impossibility of precise articulation may be found. There is certainly a space in the grouping’s gestalt if not of fantasy, then of a perceivable distance between the painted image and its ‘locus’.

 

There is a sensitivity to Kerr’s A.W.K.’s Larchant for example, which comes as much from its unusual cropping as from its construction within the frame, lending the work its unplaceable air. Similarly with the enigmatic but materially seductive front of his A’s Gallileo, the sense of not-quite-absence is emphasised by apparently inexplicable titling. Wulff’s work relies heavily on a vocabulary of imagery stemming from her own past as a dancer and hair-dresser, and this repetitive allusion to artifice, pattern, and staging also may allude to these systems of the unseen. By focussing so rigidly on hair and costume, she exaggerates the empty faces and unfinished forms in her Untitled 2000 coloured pencil drawings. Again, in viewing Ernst’s Elektra, it is difficult to discount the artist’s own past as a POW, and the disparity between this lucid, flexible image and the wartime situation in which it was made.

 

Wulff’s body of work does not take up the engagement of the gallery space, and at times does not seem to fill it, despite her numerous collection. In contrast, this singular work by Ernst, loaned with thanks to the Huntarian Museum, Glasgow, has a presence which buoys the younger works, and which remains succinct.