Karin Preller Stills 2009 | Art.co.za | Art in South Africa
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Stills 2009 | ArtSpace Johannesburg

2009: Stills, Artspace

The imagery of Preller’s paintings originates from 8mm home movies filmed in the 1960s. Autobiography becomes emblematic of suburban life in Montgomery Park, Brixton and Langlaagte, Johannesburg.

A poignant record of family life and its spaces, film captures the existence of specific moments perhaps more evocatively than photographs do. Yet the outdated quality of film and faded colours accentuate the fleeting nature of memory and the transience of the moment. By selecting, rendering and enlarging stills in oil on canvas, memory is ‘made visible’, while its fragmentary nature is enhanced.

Time consuming labour invested in the almost clinical and obsessive process of reproducing these stills in oil paint is an integral part of the work’s meaning. Painstaking manipulation of paint on canvas is the very antithesis of fragmentation and elusiveness. Viewed from up close there is nothing but paint - an erasure of detail, an emphasis on stark tonal contrasts and slightly blurred colours. From a distance, the photographic quality asserts itself. The ambiguous surface (at once painterly and photographic), allows the banal to become visible, while simultaneously rendering it strange and slightly sinister.

Writing about Preller’s Family Album exhibition, Kathryn Smith (March 2001 in Artthrob) suggested that: “These paintings reveal more about what photography ‘leaves out’ than if one were to employ photography itself to this same end…[T]here is something uncomfortable about the space that you sense lies beneath the original photograph and Preller’s resurrection of its image in a monochromatic painting”. The same holds true for Preller’s work with film stills.

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