Central to Sibylle Springer’s work are disturbances and distortions in images and in perception. A moment of shock, an extreme experience, speed or violence: they are all written into the depictions, both in their motifs and use of materials. Fluids often play a part in this. Her large-format views of New York are slashed by rain; blood flows through her adaptations of Renaissance Christian scenes. Perceptual distortions become tangible in the images: ink and water flow into each other and create edges; planes of colour are abraded and thus become brittle.
By comparison, the distortions in her new series of portraits are more subtle. Men’s faces bear tears. They are made of gold and silver leaf applied to the canvases. Bonding agents and solvents, made for sticking the metallic foil and to soften it, alter the paintings’ surface, forming a reflective layer that surrounds and protects the drops, while also eating its way through the acrylic paint.
The history of painting readily offers up only a few crying men, usually Jesus or Heraclitus. Weeping women are of course plentiful. And so the tear catchers, which Sibylle Springer had framed as readymades, were indeed made for women. The artfully crafted glass vials date back to the American Civil War. The women who stayed home used them to prove their love and as an instrument to measure their sorrow – though of course this likely included lies and betrayal.
In another new series of large-format works, Springer hides small obscene scenes in misty jungles: a chained man goes down on a woman sitting in front of him; another woman is being mounted by a donkey; hidden among ferns, a colony of fungi-penises is sprouting from the ground. The artist thus creates the initial impression of a smoky landscape in charming, subdued colours, before the viewer is met with one shock after another.