I See you See Me See You, Kathrin Sonntag, Cooper Gallery, Dundee, 28 February – 4 April 2014
Originally published at Aesthetica Blog, April 2014,
Kathrin Sonntag, Installation view from I SEE YOU SEEING ME SEE YOU, Cooper Gallery 2014. Image courtesy of Kathrin Sonntag and Cooper Gallery.
Berlin-based artist Kathrin Sonntag’s new installation at Cooper Gallery consists, among other things, of mirrors, display cases, tulips, paint, transparencies, glass, mirrors, water, 35 mm slide projections, colour panels, paint, frames and eyes. Lots of eyes – glass prosthetics for the blind and animal eyes for use in the museum or the taxidermist. It is the material of magic acts. Double blinds, spoofs, props, mirrors and vanishing acts. It has resonances of the subtle and suggestive work of French artist Jimmy Robert. A habit of placing materials in comparison together to highlight their different and assumed properties: papers, leather, perfumes, details of fabrics, the moving body. The installation’s slide projections, showing small incremental details, have the seductive quality. Possible narratives unfolding like the Möbius strip loops of Glasgow-based artist Hazel France. While it continues curator Cooper Gallery Sophia Hao’s inquisitive tendency of drawing attention to the choreography of the space. How works transform themselves – and us – as we move through the space. How our movement, an encounter with ourselves and our perception, thoughts and choices, through the gallery becomes an individual, journey. Our navigation of the gallery and the works become a unique singular experience. Observing, in this installation, it luring us ever closer to bring into focus and discover its fine elaborate and elegant details.
This show is full of Sonntag’s noted visual witticisms and pleasures. An enclosed off area asks us to peer over only to be presented with a large sheet of broken glass stained yellow, a hammer is close by. A propped up sweeping brush at the other end of the room, window cleaner, and a ceramic broken fried egg is a set up for a sculptural and spatial gag and punch line.
Her installation has the quality of artists’ moving image as compositions emerge and perspectives changes. It requests a slow meditative analytical pace. The illusion of images and the solidity of their surfaces, double and triple reflections, materials and objects fall in and out of our gaze through vertical sculptural frames. Four slide projections change in slow sequences. Glass eyes appear on long stems out of the wall, the underside of images are mirrored back to us. Different territories of the installation are colour coded – electric blue, orange, brown, green. A “black” area like a photographer’s dark room with lenses, lens caps and books on camera technique is offset with inks in vibrant yellow. This region of the show is the most attentive to the elusive nature of images, especially photography and is staged to reinforce photography’s magical potential and ghostly nature. But also of seeing and its luxuries. On the sensations of looking, focus, perception and periphery. Returning us to the recurring motif of this show – the glass eye – and the long apprenticeships of their makers, and on their and Kathrin Sonntag’s craftsmanship and understanding of sight and what it means to see.