Miriam Cahn’s work emerged from a compelling physical experience instilled by the performative happenings of the 70s and is heavily influenced by the feminist movement of the 1960s. First structured around performances, large black charcoal drawings and interventions in the street (for which she was arrested in Basel), her practice grew to include films, music, photography and the medium for which she is perhaps best known—painting. Cahn’s paintings are uncommon and immediately recognisable: an extraordinary colorist, she uses vivid pink, violet and blue to represent ghostly silhouettes, faces and animals. Cahn works in series, some of which are related to political issues, for instance her series of works on Sarajevo or the Iraq war.
The exhibition opens with the room installation Schlafen (1997), comprising of thirteen paintings of lying figures of different sizes. The lying figure in Cahn’s imagery has often been associated with the war and its disasters; nonetheless the reading of these paintings remains ambiguous.
A second room installation, RAUMICH räumlichich (2010-11) follows. Shown in London for the first time, the work consists of ten portraits. The performative element of Miriam Cahn’s work is just as prevalent as her own corporeality and its influence on the formation of her pieces. The body is not only the object of contemplation, but also the medium with which the artist’s corporeal images are expressed. This installation, probably one of the most ambitious she has produced, expresses a number of her preoccupations together with revealing a wide range of techniques and forms.
Finally, the third room consists of an installation made of various existing works including some notebooks with drawings Cahn has never shown, alongside some of her latest paintings and photographs. Connecting the various media she works across—painting, drawing, performance, film, photography and music—Cahn sets the works in correspondence with each other within the given space. By allocating her works into different series she has not only created a private index, dividing the paintings into cycles, but also demarcates direct positions, which—in the whole and especially when they are hung together—interact with each other as autonomous bodies of work.
Miriam Cahn (b. 1949, Switzerland) lives and works in Basel and Bergell (GR), Switzerland. Her works are included in the collections of museums all over the world, significant solo exhibitions have been held at the Kunsthalle of Basel, Musée la Chaux-de-Fonds, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Haus am Waldsee in Berlin, Kunsthaus of Zurich, Kunstverein of Hanover, Musée Rath of Geneva, Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt, Tate Gallery in London, Museum of Modern Art of New York, Cornerhouse in Manchester. She was included in Documenta 7 in 1982 and represented Switzerland at the 41st Venice Biennial, in 1984.
This exhibition is curated by Vincent Honoré, director and curator, DRAF.
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