Stories made of and about things

A look at the painting of Sabine Christmann


First of all, Sabine Christmann positions her protagonists meticulously in her studio by means of patient, detailed precision work and then she captures them on canvas. She creates elaborate narratives about life in her pictures, fashioning them out of empty bottles, paper or plastic bags, tin cans and other apparent relicts of our consumerist world.

In her pictures, inconspicuous, conventional everyday objects – or rather their even less meaningful packaging – are divorced from their actual contexts of meaning and juxtaposed in new contextual relationships.
Side by side, bags and empties are grouped in constantly new constellations that seem to be accidental. However, on closer inspection it is obvious that what was assumed to be accidental proves to be a carefully devised composition in which every individual object is accorded its own quite special place in the pictorial narrative. Spacing and overlapping are calculated very precisely, thus triggering an interplay of individual objects in constantly new constellations.
Positioned in front of a white background and on a mirror-like surface, the focus is purposely drawn to the shapes and colours, shading and lines of the individual objects and to the interactions between them. In this way, they are simultaneously removed from their actual context even more tangibly.
Thanks to these new contextual horizons and the almost poetic interrelationships that are engendered by the objects that are combined and the specific pictorial elements selected by the artist, real everyday objects are transformed into fantasy-laden objects of art.
The artistic objective of initially representing an object in its most objective form is transformed into a new reality in the course of the work process through the subjective perception of the artist as well as through the constantly varying lighting conditions. Proceeding from Sabine Christmann’s individual experiences and impressions, the objects on the canvas are shifted – individually as well as in their collective overall structure – from universal validity to a new personal reality.
It is possible to initially, but erroneously interpret this development as having failed if it is judged with relation to the goal of depicting things in as true-to-life manner as possible. However, it effectively forms the foundation of her art as far as content and painting technique are concerned, and she makes use of it quite deliberately. Sabine Christmann’s painting is not characterised by a quest to achieve objectivity, but rather by interaction between objective and subjective perception and the overall whole that individual things can give rise to.
Her intention is not to bring her first, original pictorial concept to perfection as a picture; what fascinates Sabine Christmann is the evolutionary

process of a work of art per se and that is what determines the ultimate results in her works. Under the influence of the respective mood and associations of the artist, the real objects on the canvas are modified in various steps. Particular shapes, colours or shading are emphasised or toned down in order to achieve a well-balanced, coherent composition and to create a new reality through the spontaneous and distinctive painting process, whereby that reality still does not lose its reference to the objective article which is universally identifiable by all.
Everyday objects of seemingly little significance are transformed into highly individual compositions which are interwoven to create small stories or messages: they allow the viewer a scope of latitude that the artist has already exploited for herself while creating the respective picture. For in the eyes of the viewer, the objects on the canvas can coalesce to evoke very different moods and content due to the viewer’s emotional state when looking at the picture and every person’s highly individual background of experiences. Thus, the messages in Sabine Christmann ‘s pictures are constantly subject to change, because the meaning that can be derived from each picture changes depending on the viewer. In this way, the supposed still-life representations achieve a spirited vibrancy that suggests a wide variety of different stories.
Initially, the foundation for the motifs and content in Sabine Christmann ‘s art is an exploration of painting and of its fundamental stylistic and compositional options.
Thus, aesthetic qualities are no less crucial for her initial selection of the objects that are to be depicted. Shape and colour as well as the potential possibilities for combining those things are decisive factors. She establishes a compositional framework that defines the respective starting point, but still leaves herself latitude for further evolvement.
In addition to the individual objects themselves, lettering or illustrations shown in the picture also influence the interpretation of the respective pictorial message. Once again, there are connections with the outside world that every individual viewer can interpret with reference to his own personal reality.
The stories that Sabine Christmann tells in her pictures are extremely varied – sometimes intentional and at other times quite coincidental – depending on the person who happens to be standing in front of her works.