SCHÖN VERMÄHLT is the most comprehensive solo exhibition to date of the work of Kamilla Bischof (*1986 Graz, lives in Berlin), an important Austrian artist of the younger generation. In an open layout space Bischof shows a new series of large-scale paintings which, while inspired by reality, lead into worlds of fantasy. A specially designed artist’s book in which she juxtaposes recent paintings and photographs with prose interspersed with images demonstrates the double talent of the artist and writer.
In her paintings, too, Bischof employs surprising narrative strategies whose convincing technique makes it possible for figuration to interact with abstraction in the image composition in productive ways. The artist’s subjects are vibrant, colorful scenarios in which human figures, animals, but also fantastic creatures are the protagonists. What they have in common is a generally joyful combinational gesture which in its painterly sophistication opens up potential shifts in perception and thus different readings of the pictures. The symbolic character of Bischof’s images triggers her audience’s collective visual memory and oscillates between machine-like states and dramatic postures. The represented figures and objects are evidence of a memorable visual vocabulary, whereas the backgrounds largely range from diffuse to abstract, thus creating the impression that the scenes she represents are dream sequences which, while in essence clear and perfectly recognizable, outwardly rapidly fade, like a memory.
Kamilla Bischof likes to complement her visualised narratives in prose texts and to stage them in the exhibition space in prop-like installations. Thus the current exhibition, too, is accompanied by a prose text comprised of multiple scenes that appears in her new artist’s book. In her texts Bischof pursues similar strategies as in her painting: Her narratives are mostly concretely located in the real world, though, time and time again, they drift off into the realm of the surreal. Prior to studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna she worked in the area of stage design. Thus the artist is not only interested in backdrops for her painted figures; rather, she arranges self-designed interiors in the exhibition space, creating theatrical, cosily inviting environments.
Before entering the Künstlerhaus, visitors have a foretaste of what is to come: On the roof of the building there is a huge plastic strawberry, as if on a beautifully garnished ice-cream sundae. Once inside SCHÖN VERMÄHLT, you discover a seating area consisting of decorated garden furniture, in the middle of which the artist’s book lies ready for reading. The cover of the book shows tacky slippers painted with gaping red mouths. And the homely atmosphere quickly turns into a fantastic scenery when, a little later, you encounter a group of painted, horned cardboard boxes. The herd of animals is fenced in by large-sized paintings, gathered by a colourful installation consisting of an alarm siren, traffic cones, bits of furniture, figures, ornamental plants, tyres, catapults, soap dispensers, stirrups and an overflowing bathtub.
With her compositions Kamilla Bischof develops an ever-expanding repertoire of recurring motifs and interiors. Through the masterly staged interplay of figures and objects in a polarity between the surreal and reality she is able to formulate narratives which because of their complexity remain open and ambiguous. The artist fluently moves along the pure coincidences of daily life between installation, photography, performance and text, thus expanding the narrative framework in all directions to the point where her wide-ranging activities finally gently intertwine as the proper elements of painterly art.