• Karin Lambrecht

    Artist Overview
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    The painting and sculpture of Karin Lambrecht (born 1957 in Porto Alegre, Brazil) embodies the gestural abstraction of her 1980s Brazilian generation. Using vibrant pigments, produced by the artist herself, she applies broad, gestural brushstrokes to hand-stitched, torn, and burned canvases, sometimes incorporating organic materials such as animal blood, charcoal, rainwater, and earth. Her recurring motifs include crosses and handwritten enigmatic words that emerge from layers of paint.

     

    Lambrecht began painting at the age of 15 and initially studied in her hometown of Porto Alegre. In the late 1970s, she began to communicate with members of various global mail art networks; she participated in mail chains that spread as far as Italy, Japan, the USA and East Germany. Most notably, she communicated with Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt and Robert Rehfeldt who helped to build a vast network of correspondence between international artists from their home in East Berlin throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Wolf-Rehfeldt sent Lambrecht versions of her meticulous concrete poems, and the two conversed in German and English. 
  • Lambrecht’s father was German and her mother, although born in Porto Alegre, went to a German school so Lambrecht grew up speaking German at home. In 1980, she went to Berlin in order to study at the Hochschule der Künste (HDK), now known as the Universität der Künste (UDK), where she was taught by artist, Raimund Girke and saw lectures by Joseph Beuys. While Beuys’s influence may relate to her use of natural pigments and the multi-dimensionality of her work, it is was time spent in Girke’s studio that was particularly inspiring for Lambrecht. From Girke she learnt to enjoy the meditative process of painting, his studio was calm, and he imparted the idea that painting was a process akin to calligraphy. His own work consisted of various analytical explorations of colour, specifically white, in which he saw himself as ‘writing’ the colour onto the canvas. While studying in West Berlin, Lambrecht remembers the strange process of crossing Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin in order to visit both her grandparents and Wolf-Rehfeldt and Rehfeldt.
  • Lambrecht’s time spent in Berlin was a crucial turning point for her career and in 1984, a year after her return to Brazil, she participated in the seminal exhibition ‘Como vai você, Geração 80?’ (How are you doing, 80s generation?) in Rio de Janeiro. Concurrent with vast Diretas Já protests around Brazil, which called for direct and free presidential elections, this exhibition showcased a refreshing selection of works by artists who were rediscovering the pleasure of painting at the tail end of almost twenty-one years of military dictatorship. In 1986 Lambrecht took up a residency at the Millay Colony for Arts in New York State.
     
    Lambrecht’s exploration of alternative, natural pigments in her work is best demonstrated by a series of works with blood, or ‘registros de sangue’ (records of blood). Between 1997 and 2008, Lambrecht witnessed or participated in the process of the killing of sheep in various countries ranging from Brazil, Chile and Uruguay to Israel. She would use the blood of the sheep to stain fabric as a record or memory of the process of the death. She would also take dissected parts of the sheep’s anatomy and place them onto paper in order to leave an imprint. The result would be a stain or a smear that was then labelled with the name of the body part that created it; these works serve as a record of presence followed by absence, life followed swiftly by death. With these works Lambrecht was expressing an interest in traditional methods of slaughtering sheep, methods that have remained unchanged for years. There is an almost eschatological fascination in these works as Lambrecht considers the way that humans separate themselves from animals, the process of death and notions of sacrifice. There is a constant connection to the natural world in Lambrecht’s work and this is reflected not only in the natural pigments she has used like blood, soil, charcoal or rainwater but also in the chromatic choices made when using more conventional paints. She frequently uses shades of red, orange, yellow and blue reflecting colours associated with the classical elements: fire, earth, water and air.
  • The shape of the cross is a motif that recurs throughout Lambrecht’s work, appearing both in the form of crucifixes and square crosses, which for Lambrecht are a sign of health and healing. There are religious elements in Lambrecht’s work, however she does not see herself as a religious person; she is interested in the poetic, human stories that are found in religious traditions and texts. Lambrecht extracts meaning from religious sources but chooses to discard the conventional, doctrinal associations. Thus, she occupies and explores a middle ground between the religious and the secular. 
     
    Handwritten words play a significant part in Lambrecht’s paintings, fading in and out of her work. They are often isolated but are sometimes repeated, forming lists that are translated into different languages. The textual elements of her work serve as a source of additional meaning, they complicate and deepen her compositions. Having moved from Brazil to Broadstairs in the United Kingdom in 2017, Lambrecht begins to include English text in her work, alongside Portuguese and German words, in what appears to be a method of physical and psychological self-location and situation.
     
    As Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro carefully observed in an interview with the artist, the potency of Lambrecht’s production is found in the conviction and clarity that it conveys despite exploring nebulous themes such as religion, time, language and the liminal space between humans and nature. Lambrecht’s work encourages viewers to engage with it spatially, chromatically and linguistically and in turn to consider how situate themselves in relation to their own environment.

     

  • Written by Dominic Christie

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