23 Jan – 31 Mar 2020

Kunsthaus Dahlem, Berlin, Germany

Solo exhibition by Susan Connolly

‘Wandering Things’ is an exhibition in response to the Kunsthaus building originally designed to work as an artist’s studio. The artist Susan Connolly works with paint as a method of exploring ‘site’ and ‘space’ that goes beyond the canvas support in an expanded field. 

Connolly’s practice expands the definition of painting by creating something that can most easily be described by how it is different from painting. The medium’s established traditions are challenged in the installations inviting the viewer to explore the back of the paintings, by the missing canvases, and the deconstructed and reconstructed of the objects for each new appearance. Despite the seemingly anarchic approach to the medium and its perceived rigidity, the works are light and invite to play, join in the trying to image what else painting could be, how else could it exists.

The artist works on the painting by building the thickness layer by layer, and conversely peeling it back off again resulting in a skin of paint detached from the surface onto which it was applied. The paint skins exhibited at Kunsthaus Dahlem have been created and presented in arts venues and cultural institutions in Northern Ireland and Ireland. ‘Wandering Things’ brings to Berlin literal traces of the history of each object’s production venue, of the context in which they were first made. 

By bringing these paint skins to Berlin, Connolly continues her artistic practice of recent years: the artist has created site-specific installations in various galleries, applying paint directly to the wall. The interventions reveal and make visual traces of the building’s past, its present, and the possibility of it becoming both the support and ultimately a painting holding all manner of fragments and traces of the artist’s activity within their surfaces. The work is created by the wall, by the physical existence of the brick and mortar. At the beginning of the process, it is impossible to know what comes out of it, making the works truly site-specific. The paintings are produced the same way over and over again, applying Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow layer after layer, as if to cover up the uncertainty and in an attempt to resist the gradual loss of control created by the process. Connolly’s method of working makes the process unpredictable. Bringing the skins to the Kunsthaus Dahlem is a nod to the historical use of the building as an artist’s studio. A studio is a place for risk-taking and experimentation, a space where initial ideas find their forms and manifestations through the manual labour of the artist.

At Kunsthaus Dahlem, the paint skins created by the walls of arts venues and cultural institutions in Northern Ireland and Ireland find, yet again, new forms of being. They bring to Berlin literal traces of history of each object’s production venue, of the context in which they were first made. These travelling skins become wandering objects, which are reconstructed for each new venue they are shown in, finding new ways of responding to the their surroundings. The sheer dimension of the architecture of Kunsthaus Dahlem with its pale, monochromatic colour scale makes paint, colour, and the aesthetic of colour fields the most rudimentary yet compelling starting point for artistic discourse. The sculptural objects that hang on the walls and now lay on supporting structures on the floor are large scale paintings, colour-fields with very little colour. They escape the wall, draping over supporting armatures emphasising their materiality. 

The exhibition was generously supported by Culture Ireland.

Photo credit: Gunter Lepkowski

Link to the exhibition website: https://kunsthaus-dahlem.de/en/ausstellung/susan-connolly-wandering-things-2/