Christian Deckert

About Uta Schotten's Paintings

It has always been the artist's privilege to re-define and name objects and relationships. 
Their approach is not that of a scientist. A biologist, for example, names something in order to classify that thing. Artists do the opposite, they strip away and liberate their object of interest from its  previous associations. The artist's way of naming is no simple nomenclature. It is a kind of re-adjustment. When the painter, Uta Schotten, pursues this path she does it in a way which perhaps goes farther than other artists. She removes the layers of coerced usefulness and exposes her subject to such an extent that the subject names itself. 

On closer inspection of her pictures you cannot help noticing that many of her works appear to backward-looking in terms of time and thematically. Old buildings, cartwheels, people, who seem to come forth from faded photographs. The observer must first come to terms with this. Another momentum comes into play after the first impression – the momentum of timelessness.
Asked whether she could imagine the girl in the picture 'Jumping girl' from 2014 wearing a trekking jacket instead of old-fashioned clothing, the artist replies firmly in the negative.

Things past become bearers of meaning in Uta Schotten's visual world. She does not paint motorboats, she paints arks. She does not paint bungalows, she paints timbered houses. They are, however, close to us and of relevance to us. This is what accounts for the secret of her paintings. This and that her paintings correspond to a way of painting which is very now.

It is not easy to be confronted with this double-edged experience but it is what accounts for the allure of  Schotten's works. On top of all that you will even find the odd playing field there. A playing field?
The moment of timelessness, which comes about with many of Schotten's works is worthy of special attention. Timelessness! What a word! And how often used in the context of works of art. But still.
The painting technique is, often after diverse repainting, sure and swift and the accuracy of the actual lines of a roof edge is encountered by the artist with her very own exactness. An exactness which does not require any graphic aids. I find Schotten's paintings exceedingly exact.

One may assume that this kind of swift painting suggests something more like change or perhaps the stopping of time, comparable to a photographic snapshot, and not so much timelessness. 
The previously mentioned picture, 'Jumping girl', is inspired by such of a snapshot. Photographers speaking of 'freezing movements' when a shutter speed is selected which is so brief, that the objects are without motion blur. Schotten's painting is anything but frozen motion, although it is a painted 're-production' of a photo. A seam of her works becomes visible here and it becomes obvious why a photograph which is not of now is necessary. 

As for the painting technique, the playing field corresponds to the timbered house. The artist could, in fact, turn her attention to our contemporary surroundings and our contemporary objects.
She has created an elaborate style which at times comes off as one of Old Master virtuosity when looked at in terms of her approach to the subject. This style and its special approach to oil colours seem at the same time to break with these aesthetics. The medium to strongly absorbent chalk base used by the artist robs the colours of the oil and allows them to stay drily on the canvas. The in oil painting much desired gloss effect, an effect which can go all the way to greasiness, is avoided in this way. 

The addition of wax to the painting substance, the seldom used method of enkaustik gives a fine and tender fragility to the surface of the painting. It acts as a contrast to the indestructibility of the oil colours and gives it a warm, dull – waxy – gloss. The 'soft dryness' of the paintings is often reminiscent of the colour surface of a fresco, which speaks to us in its directness.
In an earlier phase of creativity the artist dealt specially with plastered painting surfaces. Uta Schotten's paintings are unimaginable without her intensive examination of working materials. 
She states, 'I do not like reflective surfaces, anyway. Basically, also not glass.'

This elaborate approach to the painting surface and to colour provides us with a hint about her choice of topic. The transportable picture, made possible and perfected in particular by the invention of oil painting, is not, I believe Uta Schotten's thing. One senses that she would most like to mould her concept of timelessness in her paintings by allowing them to remain in one place.  Something almost unthinkable given how exhibitions currently operate and very much contrary to our exceedingly mobile lives. 

A hypersensitive attention to the painting surface is her reaction to the heartlessness of quickly changing pictures which cannot establish themselves anywhere. In the case of painting, works are sent all over the world and otherwise streamed ad nauseam. Part of the tragedy which comes about through the modern homelessness of art is experienced through the actual artistic craftsmanship. How wonderful it would be if pictures again had a place to rest!

Just as Schotten does without any superficial gloss, any Trompe-l'oeil, to prove that her subject does actually exist in the real world, she also does without any temporal fixation of things, people and surroundings in the now. What would be the purpose? She is not interested in the current state of appearance of things but rather the layer beneath. A layer in which the paintings find roots and which is not a counterpart  of  visible daily occurrences but rather also a counterpart of a dreams, the night and the slumbering primal pictures. She states, 'matte creates an opening for the observer, in particular, on dark surfaces.'

When a man drives a motorboat, he is also on aak. A very current and specific aak. Even if the rattling motor does not lend itself to dreaming. The form makes it possible for him perhaps to forget that he is moving in deep water. Perhaps he is afraid to see this aspect of reality. Perhaps he is afraid to grasp that the depths of the ocean are communicating with the depths of his unconsciousness and a boat always represents crossing over and the soul's journey. 
In an ideal world boots would look like those in Uta Schotten's painting. 

Not only does the artist use a special concept of the colour substance and its application, she also uses her own colour concept in order to reach the line between reality and dreams and to create paintings from this area. She paints a gray which dominates the paintings and from this gray which she then scratches from the canvas and collects in a jar for later use the rest of her colours come about. 
It is a kind of birth colour which enables the other colours to come into existence. 

By doing so she makes a piece of reality more accessible. A piece of reality confirmed by colour printing, though not allowed for by the colour theory. 
In the world of printing colours, mixing the primary colour cyan, magenta and yellow results in a dirty gray and not black, as required by the colour theory. For this reason the colour space for printers familiar to us from Photoshop is called, CMYK. The K stands for Key, a black colour, that must be added to the mix in order to create a real black. That all colours come from gray is actually true and not just in an intellectual/academic sense. All colours flow together to become gray in printing.

Schotten's colour concept is a secret, which very much demonstrates to what extent the terms colourful and in colour differ. Actually, we are only familiar with colourful paintings. Like an alchemist the artist returns to us what has been stolen by advertising posters and the glare of monitors. She takes on the the widespread concept of gray as a synonym for dull with such a verve that when bright colours do make an appearance in her paintings – in the painting 'House with a blue roof' 2013 – we feel like we have seen a blue for the first time that can satiate us. In this way her colours touch us more in our emotional depths than visually. A depth which the artist herself mentions repeatedly. 

Should one endeavour to combine the different aspects of her painting in terms of what we think and feel, it becomes obvious why her paintings touch us. Her paintings touch us because they appear to be backward-looking but all the while this backward glance is actually a screen for introspection, for looking inward. The painter looks inward so openly that her experience touches the border where the worlds of day and night meet. Her paintings are painted with such expressiveness that they sometimes seen like apparitions. 

This painter performs alchemy. She goes back to a time when gold was something more than a material to by synthesised to make a profit. She wants to mine gold from our depths. She want to find the spiritual stone which is valuable and indestructible. She transports architecture which we cannot assign to any time to an spiritual space and makes them into shells for the soul. 
In her pictures, the artist states, 'I would like to feel who has lived there and how many'. And, 'Painting is about committing oneself to a spiritual world.'

What 'house' means beyond any aspects of practicality, one's own mythical shell, becomes very evident in Schotten's paintings.  


Christian Deckert, Artist
January 2014