Private View: Thursday 10 September, 18:30 - 21:00
Public and private, demure and violent, ordered and wild – for her second exhibition in Berlin, young Norwegian artist Martine Poppe has produced an extraordinary series of paintings and sculptures.
Pastel bands – painted in Poppe’s trademark circular brush strokes on silk or polyester restoration fabric – are reminiscent of the controlled silence of Agnes Martin’s striped works. Between the stripes, however a partial view of draped and paint-splattered fabrics generates a surge of contemporary noise and energy. Suspended between the tactile and the unreachable, Poppe’s works flex and glow through the delicate canvas.
"The surface is usually regarded as the ‘real’ painting, so the space behind – still visible between the lines of the cool, ordered surface – is a place I can be violent, intimate, vulnerable and lost.”
Acutely aware of the role her gender plays in how people view and understand her work, Poppe fixes splatter-painting – widely perceived as a hyper-masculine technique – between soft fabrics and pale colours. In Poppe's hands, the canvas becomes a screen – obscuring, revealing, tantalising; a deliberate echo of the digital world, another sphere in which we’re constantly forced to consider how much of ourselves we want to reveal, and how much of our autonomy we are prepared to give up.
The same themes are referenced in the show’s title, taken from a science fiction story by Alastair Reynolds about the practice of art and its connection to memory in a world where technology records and evaluates everything we say and do. In the story, attempting to free the protagonist from the tyranny of algorithms, the artist reminds her of what it means to be human. Zima’s gift is an unexpected experience and a true memory – fragile, subjective, a forgotten way of thinking about what lies outside surveilled and commodified experience.
Produced during lockdown, as the inadequacies of digital interactions grew increasingly stark, Poppe’s paintings perform this same vital task, opening as windows onto different worlds where we might see and live differently. In the gallery space, the viewer’s engagement with these worlds is mediated by the artist’s carefully positioned sculptures, created from tarpaulins and fabrics which were stepped on, splattered, torn, and ultimately discarded during the making of the paintings. Made from materials at once indispensable and overlooked, the sculptures highlight the quiet, addictive violence practiced against us by screens, cameras and algorithms when they infiltrate our most intimate spaces.
The result is a superficially calm surface powered by radical contradiction, a defiant hymn to nuance and complexity, where the repurposed ‘screen’ provokes us to reflect on the process of making itself, to imagine the actions involved and experience them within the context of our own lives. Poppe’s works set boundaries which can only be breached in the physical world. Gently freeing us from the burden of being ‘always on’, they draw us into a liminal space between public and private, a place where we can receive Poppe’s own version of Zima’s gift – the chance to experience new and other perspectives as valid, astonishing, and – most importantly – as a cause for celebration.