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Mirjam Elburn | M. A.| museum educator | freelance art lecturer | Diploma Fine Arts
The subject of the Judith Sturms paintings is settled in the object world of everyday lifestyle magazines and the advertisement industry. They represent the reality of contemporary media-related everyday life, they show fragmentary insights into a world dominated by pictures of eternal juvenile models owned by the fashion industry.
Although the end of prudery was ushered long ago and the end of playing hide-and-seek with pin-up photographs supposed to have led to a conversion of values, the paintings of Judith Sturm demonstrate that - in the face of increasing commercialization inside of social reality - terms describing values like beautiful, good and true became interchangeable, inflationary phrases. Rather – time and time again – she poses questions on reality and truth, surface and depth.
Female bodies – primarly fragmentary reduced to bottom, breast, legs – seem to document the eternal girlishness of the fashion and lifestyle magazines. But just as little as fashion magazines express the fly-by-night demand of the fashion czars or create a new fashion trend, but have the focus on the body. Just as little the paintings of Judith Sturm can be understood if they are reduced to a female living environment restricted by bodily conventions.Fashion magazines create regulations concerning the bodily measurements. Those regulations are reflected by Judith Sturm and at the same time painting itself is thematized by versed composition decisions and formal aplomb.
On first glance the observers eye is caught by those lascivious staged fragments of female bodies, he is invited to glance at the surface in a voyeuristic manner hoping to receive an intimate insight. But this expectation is refused by the composition decisions. Inspite of an extreme view from below, pretended insights and transparancy the viewer does not see anything. Moreover the female presentation reminds us of the burlesque dancers pin-ups of the 1950ies. At last the intimate parts are covered by clothes and - even if they are short-cut - they refuse any clandestine views.
Instead - at second glance - the observer is confronted with a blemish on the surface which supposed to be eternal juvenile; he is shocked to see red, stained, harmed and wounded skin and to experience it nearly haptic. The saline, which is used by the artist corrodes the clean colour surface, a process of decay is revealed on the skin colour and evokes the idea of vanity. A body is shown, whos surface embodies its own vanity as every life holds finiteness, aging since birth. By using saline paint Judith Sturm disrupts the homogene and two-dimensional presentation of the skin surface. As the observer approaches the painting it becomes obvious that she veers away from the figurative pictorial presentation. What - at first glance - seemed to be a plane monochrome surface - reminding of the pop-art poster style – is on second sight an organism itself, an abstract structure, showing the materiality of color.
Judith Sturm creates a reduction on body forms, which are fixed to the two-dimensional space. She forbears from using the traditional illusionistic pictorial media of perspective. Judith Sturm clarifies the nature of painting - the bondage of its items to the two dimensions.
Instead of depth Judith Sturm creates unity on the pictorial surface.Solely through a layered arrangement and through overlapping an impression of back-and-forth is evoked. Elements known from fashion magazines: en vogue kittenish cloth patterns appear as a background element and at the same time as pattern of the clothes. Thereby an interplay of surface and depth occurs. Paint runs over the surface, countermands the impression of neat industrial produced cloth patterns – mainly polkadots and stripes – and penetrates the poster appearance of the painting.
This interplay of surface and depth is carried extreme, as Judith Sturm arranges likewise clothes and paper doll patterns for sewing. She reveals by showing paper hangers that those are bound to the surface. Next to two-dimensional patterns she arranges fragments of a body, which evoke a three-dimensional illusion. The observer seems to be invited to dress them, they appeal to neonatal female role-models and offer an option to act. It is noticeable that the fragments of the bodies shown, seem not to relate to any special person. There is no distinctive distinguishing mark visible, never a face, if at all a head of hair from behind. This might assume a relation to the non personal sexuality of our present time, a critical remark on sexuality without a face. But if you see a photo of the artist herself, you will realize the body shown is her own, the hair and the figure are identical.
After a long time drawing models, Judith Sturm now relies on photographs of her own body, using herself as material for her painting. She stages situations up to her own limits and rearranges photographical fragments to a painting. Thereby the observer is thrown into a interplay of nearness and distance, but without reaching the point of embarrassment. Because as well as a visual insight into intimate space is refused, there is no emotional self-display presented. Although the viewer notices the artist in lascivious posing, a distance is kept alive by presenting only fragments and role-playing.
The viewer is involved again and anew as Judith Sturm appeals his play instinct and plays with his expectation and knowledge of everyday life, incidental actions. For example he is invited to complement a body by virtual filling in blank spaces or his hope to catch a ‘forbidden’ glimpse of secret parts is nourished. Headmost the observer is anew insistently demanded to question the nature of painting: to become aware of the tension in-between depth and surface and to question reality and truth of images.