Sabine Dehnel is crafty. Her practice is born in paint and then shifts into installation, sculpture, and photography. It oscillates between so many mediums that it feels more cinematic than artistic. A single painting is realized and then used as the basis for an installation which is then hand preened, cut and formed from textiles, paper, industrial supplies, and a complete tailor’s kit of materials. The work is then carefully documented and the final result is usually a large-scale photographic work.
Dehnel is often in control of whole environments. Paper is made to look like pleated tennis skirts, or carefully built flowers, or a hand-painted “set” of a sun dappled mountaintop. In terms of sweetness and tone I am reminded almost of The Sound of Music.
The most recognizable aspect of her work is when she transitions painting into photography. She creates a hybrid technique by layering paint directly onto her figures and then photographing them in such a way that the viewer is led to believe that they are looking at a painting. While she succeeds here in technique, she perhaps relies too heavily on this single tool. Dehnel is the kind of maker who belongs more in the directors chair where her full capacity and reach–I see it more in her tableau works–is greater.
Where she flies highest and brightest is in her total domination of an idea. She builds a world, a life-size dollhouse for her tenderest fantasies of family and kindness. They are wholesome, and while they refer to the here and now, they are also otherworldly. The clouds are made of cotton and the seagulls of papier mache. Small and delicate feathers are made from heavy, sinking wires and well worn stockings–all part of an homage to a beloved friend she has lost. Every detail has been thoughtfully tended and still the work remains open and gestural. Dehnel bridges her dream life with her lived experience.
Sabine Dehnel currently has a solo exhibition at LSD Galerie Berlin. It will run until June 21.
See more of Sabine Dehnel’s work: