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Lydia Mammes



What one sees in the images created by Lydia Mammes is painting, and nothing else. These pictures are abstract in the sense that they do not evoke any identifiable object. The artist, however, is not simply concerned with the pure and simple concretion of the means of painting: the paint, its structure and its application. Lydia Mammes could be said to avoid both extremes: an image that is simply a likeness breaking through a layer of paint on the one hand, and an analytic approach that is concerned solely with investigating paint and the materials and phenomena of ‘the pictorial’ on the other. Her painting occupies a narrow strip of territory between these two possibilities: a pictorial quality depending on the recognition of things and situations on the one hand, and the assertion of a perfect autonomy for the image on the other. This painterly in-between space may not be so easy to comprehend, but the paintings’ processual character is immediately apparent. These paintings are constructed in multiple layers, with the generating, negation and transformation of visual material as different aspects of the same process. At the same time, the pictures expose the story of their own origins; to some extent, they permit us a glimpse of their history.

In a large number of artworks from past years, the layering of colours, surfaces, forms and movements conveys itself to us in at least two – categorically different – ways. For one thing, Mammes works primarily in low-viscosity glazes, which allow the layers of paint beneath to show through. In addition to creating new ways of combining different paints, this method constantly gives the paintings a curious impression of depth. On the other hand, these upper layers are often not applied across the whole of the picture’s surface; instead, they terminate at varying distances from the pictures’ edges, leaving the deeper-lying levels exposed.

Clarity and vagueness, sharp distinctions and blurring, immediacy and temporal extension – these paired terms might provide an approximate verbal description of the vivid complexity of these pictures. We must bear in mind, however, that these opposites – which, in an analysis, are of necessity sharply distinguished from one another – merge into each other, and are interwoven, within the pictures themselves. Going further, one has the impression that this ‘paint curtain’ might lift, revealing to our gaze a scene that lies beyond it. Lydia Mammes, however, does not lay plans in advance for this narrative or imaginative potential; instead, it simply emerges – sometimes almost inevitably – from the image‑making process.

The rough material of the MDF panel, which Mammes consistently paints all but her largest-format pictures on, makes itself felt as an object-related element in the painting; sometimes, the untreated brown panel surface is actually left exposed.

Lydia Mammes studied Fine Art at the University of Applied Sciences, Cologne 1986-91.

Selected exhibitions:

2015 The Great Art Exhibition, Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf
2014 The Great Art Exhibition, Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf
2014 Repose, Lisa Norris Gallery, London
2013 The Great Art Exhibition, Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf
2011 Slow Colours, Gemalde
2009 Dujardin, Krefeld
2007 Municipal Gallery, Kaarst
2005 The Great Art Exhibition, Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf

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