by Intissare Aamri // Nov. 13, 2020
Kristina Schuldt is fundamentally a modernist artist. Her work embodies influences from Post-Impressionism, Cubism and late Futurism. In her desire to break away from conventional methods of painting and the amenities of representational art, Schuldt discards classical rules of perspective, color and composition to encompass her own visions, while realizing a unique aesthetic with geometric shapes and new forms of abstraction. Schuldt was born in Moscow and studied at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig, Germany, where she is currently based. Her latest exhibition at Galerie Eigen+Art is titled ‘Sans Souci’, meaning “carefree” in French and deeply evocative of the painting series on display, as well as the artist’s method.
Entering ‘Sans Souci’, the visitor is faced with a large painting by Schuldt and then, walking down the concrete steps, a hand clasping dying flowers, self-portraits of the artist in contemplation, books, paper, bulging bodies and striking colors. The wide room makes us feel as if encircled by the artist’s vision. Left alone with our interpretations, we read in an interview accompanying the exhibition that Schuldt is indifferent to the viewer’s reaction to her work, that her goal is purely selfish: she compares painting to a game that she ends and then restarts. Schuldt’s aesthetic is unapologetic. The women she depicts are raw, but seem almost frozen in time.
The paintings on view, produced in a year of global crisis and pandemic, do show hints of an inner struggle. Painting affects Schuldt deeply, her studio standing for something permanent and safe amidst the more chaotic process of making artworks, recombining elements and finding a balance between realism and impressionism. Her technique is based on a long process of overlaying, turning the canvas, experimenting until she finds a multi-perspectival view that generates movement. The figures and segments show continuity, but she does not believe in sketches. Her approach is based on self-legitimatized failure and chance. For the artist, the canvas is a tool to overpaint, obsessively reshape until nothing matters anymore, by throwing caution to the wind and letting an unpremeditated idea come to bud.
In her frames, Schuldt candidly pays homage to her greatest role models, but she expresses it in an autonomous way. Tubism is a term coined by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles in 1911 to describe the style of French artist Fernand Léger, one of Schuldt’s biggest inspirations. The technique emphasized cylindrical shapes and the juxtaposition of uncommon imagery. Léger often depicted women in a static pose within a geometrically ordered space, the characters direct their faces to the viewer and Léger’s quasi-mechanical shapes exemplify his fascination with the technological advancements of the Machine Age. In Schuldt’s paintings, however, the young girls have a certain anonymity. They have intentionally heavy, large physiques not fitting into the frame: they are clumsy, with heels and mini skirts. While perhaps tongue-in-cheek, the figures never seem to grow up, as if in a perpetual state of insouciance.
The oil and egg tempera paintings can also be very intimate and personal. ‘Muse’, for example, could be a self-portrait: a painter in a state of crisis, she battles with inspirations while holding a brush. Body parts are scattered, doubled, creating a perplexing effect, like a puzzle, not knowing which limb belongs to whom. The backgrounds are unclear, they could be open spaces or walls made out of brick. Every stroke of color is markedly vivid: green, blue and purple are predominant on the canvas, the brush creates a browner outline and a white inner padding on every figure. Working from memory rather than photographs, the subjects become archetypal, but each is decidedly connected to the artist’s fortuitous process, adding another crucial layer to the exhibition’s title.