ARTIST STATEMENT

Memento by Susanne Wawra.

 

I want to solidify my memories. -  But how do you make a memory?

 

Memento is a series of mixed-media paintings as notes toward a (re)collection of my personal life history. The ability to remember and recall what is past is of major significance for the self, in particular the sense of self and identity. John Locke based identity and selfhood on the extension of consciousness backward in time, in memory. Personally, I am concerned about my very individual capacity to recall past experiences. In order to expand on my innate ability to store these events, I have set out to paint my memories. I aim to create a permanent physical record, a fabricated form of my internal psychology, externalised and mythologized on found primers.

 

I gather and generate observations photographically, acting as a tourist in my own life, a historicist of my being in this world. The imagery is informed by my visual sensibilities: places I've been, things I've seen, people I've met; things I remember and things I don’t.

 

I employ a mix of media, processes and layers to create a collaged composition. These works marry printing and painting. My work does not start from nothing, I do not begin at a blank canvas. Instead, my practice initiates from found and everyday material from the domestic sphere, such as patterned curtain fabrics. With the surface already alive, there is no beginning or birth to the picture, instead it is all an additive process.

 

My own photography is a major aspect in this series. In Anker, I employed imagery from my rural home village in the middle of Germany, such as the typical timber-frame houses, found photos of my mother and the radio my grandmother listened to religiously every single day. I am experimenting with both greyscale and colour prints to transport different aesthetic and psychological potential.

 

In the formation of memory, the processing of received information is followed by storing through creating a record which can then be retrieved. Since this is not exclusively visual but also sensory, a mere image does not contain all impulses encountered. Therefore, I enrich, echo and/or corrupt the prints with the application of paint by means of colour, marks and texture. Furthermore, I blur or distort some my source photographs to account for the obscuring that happens in memory and transient quality of time passing.

 

A sense of place has surfaced in most of the paintings, be it my home village or places that left an impact on me like Amsterdam and Hong Kong. Particular details I associate with a place have taken over, multiplied and occupied space on the canvas. There are Gouda cheeses, steep staircases, tropical fruit, characteristic architectures; things that strike me as “different” and belonging to a location or culture.

 

The images are fashioned into a composition on the fabric and applied by image transfer. The work is process driven yet intuitive, since I approach the canvas without a plan of what comprises the collage and where images are placed. The intention is to keep the work open and alive by allowing spontaneity, momentum and chance.

 

This improvisational tone is also reflected in my handling of paint. To me, painting is an experience itself and is personal, physical and instinctive. Merleau-Ponty attests the role of the painter to project what is making itself seen within himself/herself. I am concerned with questions around gesture and affect: How does a gesture translate from an origin in the mind to a mark or composition? By what process does the internal become external, how does a painter transfer vision into visual?

 

Gestural marks are traces of a moment in my life in the act of production driven by instinct and tapping into my individual perception and interpretation of the world inside and around me. A free association takes place, quite like automatic writing. Maybe this allows me to go beneath the surface and emerge certain aspects which then reveal themselves to me contemporaneously throughout the process. I enter into a collaborative relationship with the material, it is a back and forth between us. This is a visceral process in which I interpret and respond to the piece at every stage of its progression.


As a result, things happen that surprise me and my work presents itself to me as something unexpected but brought into existence by me. Throughout the creative act, moment to moment there is a continuous reinterpretation of the self. This constant dialogue allows for the creation of something that hovers between the real and the imagined; a memory.