this issue contains
>> Immaculate White: Art and Winter
>> True North: Isaac Julien
>> Frozen Sculptures: Marc Quinn
>> Felt and Fat: Joseph Beuys

>> archive


But the exact opposite also applies, in that white is the color of winter - and the transitory. The history of Christian art is full of examples in which the portrayal of the four ages of man - youth, coming of age, maturity, and death - allegorically correspond to the four seasons. And it's no accident of course that white is the color of mourning in Chinese culture. A reflection of this transitory aspect can be found in a work such as William Wegman's photograph Dusted. The white dust the American artist sprinkled over his Weimaraner lends the faithful hound an almost ethereal, supernatural quality.

Christine Borland:
The velocity of Drops: City Park - Turning and Kneeling, 1995,
Deutsche Bank Collection

The span between the immaculate and the dying stakes out the field of tension that a number of artists have gratefully addressed in their works. It's a spectrum that offers ample space for what are often highly contradictory forms of expression. It is always, however, a matter of deep-reaching existential questions and problems. The Scottish artist Christine Borland, for instance, addresses the fascination that such divergent categories as aesthetics and violence can exert. For a photo series she made in 1995 called The Velocity of Drops: City Park - Turning and Kneeling, Borland let watermelons drop to the ground from a great height. She chose a wintry snow landscape as a scenery for the works: the jarring discrepancy between the neutral, innocent white and the burst fruits turning their red insides out like a grisly and beautiful revelation can hardly be topped.

Paola Pivi: Untitled (Zèbres), 2003,
Deutsche Bank Collection

The color and contrast-enhancing effect of a setting of this nature can also be found in the work of the young Italian artist Paola Pivi. The artist, born 1971 in Milan, invokes a paradox in her combination of two apparently incompatible spheres. In her photograph Untitled (Zèbres), she transplants a pair of zebras into a snowy alpine clearing to signalize a hyperbole of alienation; she augments the overall image with a glaring apparition of light as can sometimes be seen in the mountains in the snow. This 'coincidentia oppositorum' or simultaneity of opposites was always a sure means of shaking up habitual patterns and certainties of perception - as Pivi does in her work.

Asta Gröting: Pirouette 1, Pirouette 2, from the Video EIS,
Deutsche Bank Collection

An empty field of snow as a projection surface for irritations and absurdities is a cinematic notion the German artist Asta Gröting's video Ice adheres to. In her 28 minute-long film, Gröting, professor for sculpture at the Munich Art Academy since 1997, uses various "protagonists" including a live brown bear, a man busily writing the word "wie" (how) into the ice with the blades of his ice skates, as well as a duo whose demeanor recalls the British artist couple Gilbert and George.

Then the figure skater Nathalie Krieg suddenly enters the picture. Krieg holds the world record for pirouette; she spins on her own axis until you feel queasy just looking at her. The athlete's breathtaking achievements have also been recorded in film stills in which two impressions meet that are at once diametrically opposed to and yet contingent on one another - dynamic energy and a fragility that can be equated with the fragility of human existence in general.

Stephan Huber: Shining, 2001,
Deutsche Bank Collection

The threat to humans that nature's extremes pose is also the subject of the photographic series Shining by the Munich-based artist Stephan Huber. At first glance, a catastrophe seems about to occur. A single house stands in the midst of mountains of snow, evidently at the mercy of the forces of an icy desert - while the title of the four works - Shining - establishes a contextual system that refers directly to Stanley Kubrick's movie thriller.

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