Tuesday 26 May 2020

Time Present and Time Past: the uniting of temporal planes in the work of Susanne Kamps

Time Present and Time Past: the uniting of temporal planes in the work of Susanne Kamps

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
[TS Eliot, Four Quartets]

‘Who would not, while looking at the painting of Susanne Kamps, think of Matisse, Dufy, Derain and the Fauves…?’ asks Christiane Dressler in her 2010 essay. Certainly this is the case with the four works submitted to the tenth anniversary of Cynthia Corbett’s Young Masters Art Prize last year, in particular the diptych Behind the Screen (2019), which specifically pays homage to Henri Matisse’s Interior with Aubergines (1911). The vivid colour palette, the fronds of palms, the shuttered windows and tilted perspective all nod indisputably in the direction of the artist whom Kamps admits to having taken as her greatest inspiration since the year 2000. However, it would be far too facile to look only to him, as Kamps’ knowledge of and sampling from art history goes much further, taking in not only specific artists, but also movements, motifs and devices – all of which she subjects to her own interpretation, rendering the finished works, as she terms them, ‘homages’, very much imbued with her own added flavour. Kamps neither copies nor steals (to reference the widely-attributed Picasso quote that ‘good artists copy, but great artists steal’): she absorbs, amalgamates and reinterprets, using the art of past masters much as she uses her collection of photographs, bric-à-brac from her beloved flea markets, and domestic objects – as, in the words of Matisse, a ‘working library’. For me, the artists who come to mind most when looking at her paintings are Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, known for their style of ‘intimism’, or use of the domestic interior, along with the juxtaposition of pattern, planes of flat colour, and, again, the window motif. But there is also Kamps’ use of the diptych, which compositionally opens up the concept of past and present, as much as the looking back to art history for inspiration does on an academic level. 

Read the full essay here

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