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Paintings and works on paper by Miriam Cahn on view at Blondeau & Cie
Miriam Cahn, Paintings and WOP 1977-2016. Exhibition view at Blondeau & Cie, 2016. Photo: Annik Wetter, Geneva.

GENEVA.- Blondeau & Cie is presenting Paintings and works on paper from 1977 to 2016, an exhibition by Miriam Cahn. On two floors at 5 Rue de la Muse, a selection of paintings and works on paper go back over the different periods of the artist’s work, from 1977 to the present. The work of Miriam Cahn addresses themes such as femininity, sexuality, love and war. “ That’s what life’s about, don’t you think?” she smiles. Shaped in part by the feminist movements of the 1970s, her art shows the individual struggling with wider events. Although not autobiographical, the works yoke together individual and collective history.

Cahn expresses her ideas in mediums as diverse as drawing, painting, performance, film, photography and writing. In the 1980s she concentrated on drawing, mainly in black chalk. In the1990s she turned towards colour and painting. The two floors of the exhibition reflect these two respective periods.

On the second floor, a selection of works on paper fills three spaces. Here, working in chalk and charcoal, the artist evokes darker atmospheres , communicating the complexity and diversity of her personal world. Several series show deformed bodies and faces, while others feature geometrical forms, including the skeleton of a hospital bed. Often executed at a single stretch, in several hours of intense concentration, the drawings also reveal a method: the artist works on the floor, kneeling, which makes her gestures harder to control, so that the resulting image is intrinsically linked to her body. Movement and performance are thus integrated into the creative process, showing its direct, physical nature. In the exhibition, the simplicity of the hanging and the absence of colour create a distinctive atmosphere, a dissonance that is in equilibrium with the efflorescence of the colours on the ground floor.

There, twenty-five oil paintings in a variety of formats retrace the last twenty years of the artist’s work. In these largeformat canvases, the nude full-length figures are striking in their magnitude and vibrant colour. The line that separates the bodies from the background is diffuse, as if they were surrounded by an aura. A cerulean lake at the foot of an imposing mountain, a pink chimera or a horse, whose head contorts in order to stare at the viewer – such are the kinds of subjects that Cahn finds in nature. But we can also see abstract canvases throughout this hanging, as well as volumes that suggest houses, revisited perspectives indicating the instantaneous nature of the image, the event of its tracing. The alternation of brightly coloured and darker canvases reflects the rhythmic pulse of this artist’s energy. Among the smaller paintings, a series of heads occupies the width of a wall. Their intensity is uncompromising. There is no background. Presented facing the viewer, these heads immediately hold the gaze, revealing an impenetrable presence.

At the end of the exhibition, we gradually witness the construction of a specific language. The artist combines figurative and abstract elements, impulsive sketches and meticulous glazes. The viewer is confronted with a raw power that makes him aware of his own vulnerability. For, beyond her own experience, what the artist evokes here are the elementary conditions of existence itself.

After a retrospective at the Kiel Kunsthalle in 2016, Miriam Cahn will feature in Documenta, Kassel, in 2017. This exhibition is a unique opportunity to discover in Geneva the work of this prominent artist.

Born in 1949, Miriam Cahn lives and works in Stampa (Graubünden, CH).

Since her work was exhibited at the Kunsthalle Basel by Jean-Christophe Ammann in 1981, she has taken part in numerous exhibitions, including the Kassel Documenta in 1982 and the Venice Biennale, where she represented Switzerland, two years later, and more recently, a major retrospective at the Kunsthalle Kiel, AUF AUGENHÖHE— AT EYE LEVEL. In 2015 she presented Körperlich—corporel at the Kunsthaus in Aarau. The Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris gave Miriam Cahn carte blanche in 2014, 27 years after her first exhibition in the same space. The result was a remarkable retrospective. She has also exhibited, among others, at the Fundación La Caixa, Madrid (2003), the Bonn Kunstverein (1996) and the Kunsthaus Zürich (1993).

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