The artist Christina Steffans was born in 1994 in Kleve, Germany. From 2013 until 2019, she studied painting with professors Stefan Kürten and Sabrina Fritsch at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from which she graduated in 2019. Her works were displayed in galleries and museums in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn, and New York, amongst them Kunsthaus Mettmann and Kunstpalast Düsseldorf. The artist currently lives and works in Canada. I would like to invite you to focus on one of her paintings that I have selected from a series of 19 artworks the artist has created for her graduation show at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 2019. Most of the paintings from this series are works on polyester canvas, and some on acrylic glass, however, they all have one unique feature in common: the paint is applied BEHIND the material mentioned.
Let’s start from the beginning: The selected untitled artwork is 50 x 40 cm (15.79 x 19.69 in) in size and created with acrylic behind polyester fabric, which results in a very smooth surface. Although at first glance it appears to be very soft with its light purple and white pastel colours, the intense yellow in different shades reveals quite the opposite at second glance. This contrast is even emphasised in the composition: Strong vertical and horizontal colour blocks with in parts very smooth margins are interrupted by thin white lines that run across the painting. They look like brush strokes that invite you to follow the movement captured in this painting. You can imagine all the different layers that have been built up to the final composition. You might be reminded of digital brushstrokes and perceive the painting as if looking through a filter.
The artist says “the theme of my artistic exploration is the experience of colours”. Therefore, she has been working without objects in her artworks for quite some time and built up her artistic works in several transparent layers. About a year ago she began to experiment with different translucent fabrics instead of cotton or nettle as a background for her paintings. She finally ended up with a polyester fabric because of its unique properties:
“For me, the exciting thing about the translucent polyester fabric was that the layers of paint pressed through to the back, creating a completely new picture. So I took took the liberty to glaze the fabric on both sides and declared the reverse side of the painting a new view”,
says Christina Steffans.
Through the treatment of the fabric from behind and its immanent translucency, the aspect of light becomes an integral part of the work. At the same time, there is hardly a feeling of the materiality of the colour. This is not only owed to the fact that the artists paints with very diluted, water-like paint – which she mixes herself – but also to the fact that many of the brushstrokes visible in front were worked from the back.
Image: Thomas, Karin: DuMont’s kleines Sachwörterbuch zur Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, 1977, Köln.
Christina Steffans has worked with Stefan Kürten and Sabrina Frisch, of whom especially the latter is known for abstract artworks that display fluidity. Looking further back, Steffans works might follow the ideas of the American Expressionism and reminds of one painting by Dutch-American painter Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) in particular: Untitled, 1961, 178 x 203 cm, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, USA. Although larger in size, you can also feel a strong expression through vertical and horizontal lines, brushstrokes in between,
colour blocks including different shades. In comparison, Steffans’ work seems a bit more minimalist and focused, and it is was created from behind the canvas. This is the new aspect of Steffans’ work: giving us the illusion of a digital painting that is designed with traditional techniques and materials – which has current relevance to the present and future of painting in our times.
By: Ruth Polleit Riechert
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