I've always been interested in the spectrum of painting, that is, the complexity of everything that is possible. There is some magic to it, that you are able to arrange pigment flat on a canvas and create light and bodies and volume in space.
The new beginning inherent in birth can make itself felt in the world only because the newcomer possesses the capacity of beginning something anew, that is, of acting.
While natality, derived from the Latin word Natalis (belonging to birth), has often been overshadowed in philosophical discourse by questions of mortality, death, and endings, the arts have long claimed it metaphorically for figures of beginning. Alongside procreation and conception, in this part of the world especially in the Christian pictorial tradition, parenthood, pregnancy, and birth mark a discursive field of aesthetic origins and new beginnings. For the publicist and philosopher Hannah Arendt, birth signified the unconditional possibility of the new - of granting a new way of thinking or a new (political) action an entry into the world.
In her exhibition WATER, artist Vivian Greven reveals a series of large-scale paintings depicting different moments of water birth. Greven paints explicitly, depicting birth itself, as an act of action. And despite the explicit pictorial subjects, time seems almost frozen in the paintings: they harbor something infinite.
Vivian Greven, Moon, oil on canvas, 170 x 250 cm
I wasn’t conscious of this beforehand, that there is this alternative pictorial space, and that I have to emphasize differently with this space. Water is just different in its physicality. To communicate this through painting was very exciting to me as a challenge.
Two bodies merge under the surface of the water, a baby’s head floats and is held. In one of the paintings, the irresistible surface of medical gloves is draped over two hands reaching for a baby’s clear head. His head is the center of the image and tension. Two thighs open in color and in turn become abstract mountains, patches of color forming a landscape. Warm brown and orange color gradients juxtapose blue and white. What happens here is clear, yet neither brutal nor voyeuristic. Although the viewer:s gaze is an outsider one, the painted formation nevertheless speaks a universal language. Greven combines in her new series of works the abstract and the explicit, infinite vastness and the smallest beginning.
Thus, another painting <0> I (2023) shows two hands pulling a small body into the light of day. The body of the newborn is jet black, dotted with small white dots and resembles a view into a cloudy night sky. This is an aesthetic continuation of meta- phorical interest in Greven’s work, but with entirely new potential. One that is perhaps close to Arendt’s understanding and at the same time knows how to postulate pain- ting as a constant new beginning. And isn’t water itself a fundamental condition of life and the promise of new beginnings?
Vivian Greven, <0> II, oil on canvas, 170 x 250 cm
On the occasion of Vivian Greven’s exhibition in Gladbeck, the new facets of her painting style as well as the confrontation with such a prominent pictorial subject, the interest grew to examine the painter’s artistic development more closely. The idea of illustrating and discussing this development and recording it as a sign of the times became more and more solid. The result is this publication, which shows the artist’s creative process over the past two years and culminates in the exhibition WATER. The publication also provides a glimpse of the artist’s serial work and shows how profound her artistic interest is in the development of certain groups of works. Since, such a publication project also requires a kind of midwifery, we would like to thank all those involved for their cooperation in its realisation. Together with the art cri- tic Magdalena Kröner, the art historian and curator Christoph Schreier, the graphic artist Jan Motyka, the publisher Franz König, the gallery Kadel Willborn and, of course, the artist, we succeeded in creating this timeless manifestation of Vivian Greven’s painting.
(Luisa Schlotterbeck, Artistic Director, Neue Galerie Gladbeck, DE)
silkscreen on paper
40 x 30 cm
If I could choose what I would like to achieve in this world as a painter, it certainly would be to touch people.
Vivian Greven (DE 1985) lives and works in Düsseldorf. She is represented in internationally renowned museum collections such as Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Xiao Museum Rizhao, Long Museum Shanghai, Sammlung Kunsthaus NRW and Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. Recent solo exhibitions have been at Neue Galerie Gladbeck, Kunstmuseum Langmatt, Kunstpalais Erlangen and Kunstverein Heidelberg, as well as group exhibitions at Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Kunstmuseum Bonn or Deichtorhallen Hamburg. In occasion of her solo exhibition at Neue Galerie Gladbeck her recent catalogue has been published by Walther and Franz König, Cologne.