Sophia Schama, Urban Jungle

Opening: 31st October 2008, 6 PM
Exhibition dates: 1st November - 6th December 2008

“When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment”
William Shakespeare, Sonnet

“There is a migration of trees, just as there is a migration of people ...”

“Dark green welled up between the curtains and the gaps in the shutters, thin bands of white morning froth snaked in ...”
Robert Musil, Posthumous Papers of a Living Author

Hamish Morrison Galerie is proud to present Urban Jungle, its fifth solo exhibition by the Berlin-based artist Sophia Schama. Numerous works by Schama have been seen during the past two years in solo shows in Belgium and Germany, and in a number of prestigious group exhibitions, including Living Landscapes – A Journey through German Art at the National Art Museum in Beijing, Garten Eden: Der Garten in der Kunst seit 1900 at the Kunsthalle Emden and Stadt Bietigheim-Bissingen, Six Feet Under at the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden and Daydreams & Dark Sides at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin.

In Urban Jungle Schama presents her most recent and to date largest paintings (210 x 340 cm / 340 x 210 cm), works that mark a further turning point in the artist’s development. Her hitherto prevailing motivic vision of the reconquest of artistic space through nature is now – more distinctly than ever before – overlaid with a painterly energy. On two of the vertical-format works luxuriant dark green bands of colour well up from a vibrant red surface, as if Schama’s numerous grass variations had united to form a new, temporary organism which now surges forth in its cumulative power.  

Schama’s large-format canvases bring together already familiar motifs and techniques in a rougher style. The “undergrowth” that grew into rangy, dream-like, grey-toned landscapes in her previous exhibition now becomes a proliferation of roots in a variety of earth tones. The ruinous interiors of the series The Promised Land are now transformed into discrete, if crumbling facades; superimposed windows hang on the walls like pictures within pictures, holding only darkness in check.

The artificiality of nature is tearing into the cities, and new techniques, accordingly, have entered Schama’s painting: trompe l’œils of the walls of buildings or wooden flooring; spray-painting in the form of graffiti-like, neon-coloured meshes or bundles of knots. But the sprayed elements trail across the canvas like extra lines, intriguingly drawing attention to the two-dimensionality of the images. Schama underscores this impression in some of her paintings by using expanses of colour that sometimes cover the width of the canvas, sometimes a section of the painting.

Schama’s new paintings lead us into the core of the long-raging debate about contemporary painting. They seem to raise a number of the issues simultaneously, questions of figurativeness, abstraction, non-figuration, spatial illusion, composition, light, surface, colour, form and technique.

But it is, was and remains painting. It is, was and remains a discussion with a fascinating variety of possible questions and answers that will never lead to a conclusive outcome. Schama’s painting is anything but arbitrary here. In her virtuosic way she allows us to witness her asking questions and taking decisions, with the result that her canvases are at once cohesive, coherent and open.

Within themselves the paintings lead into the discussion – otherwise far too theoretical and usually redundant – about the life and death, constraint and possibility, eligibility and anachronism of contemporary painting. She forms the questions and possible answers with a knowledgeable enjoyment of painting that gives rise to those things that can hardly be theorised about: the pleasure of looking; the magic of the whole, which is so much more than the sum of its parts.