Dominique Fung and Katherina Olschbaur: My Kingdom and a Horse, 2021
Galeria Nicodim, Bucharest
Dominique Fung challenged Katherina Olschbaur to equal her in painting the largest canvas to which she ever set brush. Olschbaur accepted. Each of the monumental works is a case study in its respective author's practice. Fung begins with measured, thoughtfully rendered sketches on her gessoed surfaces, then loosens-up as the forms breathe their first earthy-toned breaths; Olschbaur improvises at first, then reins-in and articulates her subjects as they discover their voices in a technicolor gravity that defies Newton.
Both canvases radiate outward from a mysterious central figure and flex a sort of soft power to contain the ensuing chaos without diminishing its energy. Like much of her recent work, Olschbaur grounds „Dom's Arc,“ 2021, in references to the violent, erotically-charged biblical paintings that flourished in the Renaissance. A stormy horizon line bisects the northern and southern hemispheres of the piece, the vibrant reds and pinks above serve to illuminate the darker, dirtier blues, lavenders, and greys below. Coupled horses and erotic dancers spring forth away from Dom (Olschbaur's gender-reversed Noah) and a female partner, and charge the viewer. The absence of men sensually subverts the traditional understanding of the ark, and hints that this cruise was more about pleasure than procreation.
While Olschbaur's work dances with the destabilization of Judeo-Christian lust and expectation, Fung thrives in the creation of contemporary allegories for ancient objects, and encourages new metaphysical understandings of their value and purpose. Two huntresses center „The Control of Fire,“ 2021, bows drawn and at the ready, one figure almost completely obscured by her hair or a long veil. Each is rendered in an earthy palette that diffuses light and enables focus. Their hunt has already been successful. A stuck sparrow is suspended face-down, the arrows that killed it butted by a ceramic vessel. Five disembodied hands suspend a net with dead geese, gathered mushrooms, and other bounty. Like Olschbaur, Fung delights in unsettling faulty conventional wisdom: archaeologists have documented that women have hunted without male counterparts throughout history.
My Kingdom and a Horse is an exhibition of ten major works by two young painters just beginning to recognize that the kingdoms of their talents have no borders. It is a celebration of shared ambition, collaboration, and splendid painting.