Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Jutta Koether – Seasons and Sacraments


Dundee Contemporary Arts until April 21st 2013
4 stars
The back catalogue of seventeenth century painter Nicolas Poussin isn't the most obvious frame of reference for German iconoclast Jutta Koether, but when she was taken to see his The Seven Sacraments at the Scottish National Gallery, something clicked. The end result for Koether's first major show in Scotland following an appearance at the DCA as part of the Altered States of Paint group show in 2008 is this large-scale, hopelessly devoted homage/reimagining of Poussin, rebranded and rewired for a post-modern twenty-first century pop age. The fact that Koether's versions of Seasons, four paintings first shown at the Whitney Biennial in New York in 2012, and the more sculptural The Seven Sacraments, created in situ, feature bit part players such as philosopher Jacques Derrida, German racing driver and walking product placement Sebastian Vettel and the Queen adds a playful wit to the pop classicist sheen.

There's something Blakeian about The Seasons, hung in mid-air and in the round on sheets of glass in such a way that the viewer moves anti-clockwise from Winter onwards, with Vettel's appearance alluding to seasons that are about more than just the weather. Vettel is there too in The Seven Sacraments, which are all too personal interpretations of Poussin, involving pearl necklaces and the keys of Koether's own life and work as we move from 'Baptism' to 'Eucharist'. Such totems that adorn the three large sheets of glass actually more resembles tributes left after a crucifixion than the 'Confirmation' it represents. Inbetween the galleries, though only accessible from one, is 'Extreme Unction', a construction laid out in the shape of a number seven, and again laden with pop reference points. Rather than overloaded with scattershot free-associative detritus, Koether has meticulously plundered her sources to make a series of epic statements for a secular age. 

The List, March 2013

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