Tortured Ecstasies, 2020
Solo exhibition at Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles
Gravity is the central protagonist in Katherina Olschbaur's new body of paintings. Her subjects are in constant dialogue with it, falling, flying, levitating, lifting each other, and being lifted. Each figure has its own degree of pull, whether suspended in gradient fields of vibrant color, or anchored to a mother's knee post-crucifixion. If they were in outer space or in the water they'd be perfect and graceful, but Olschbaur's canvases place these bodies in a constant, glorious struggle between Newton's law and their own fallibility.
A lifecycle is encompassed within each form-in-motion; Olschbaur's linework is descriptive in its restraint, the minimal figures speak to the viewer, telling us where they came from, where they're going. Drawing inspiration from Judy Chicago's PowerPlay series, the bodies themselves are encapsulated and filled with an illuminated palette, becoming the utopian color atmospheres of which they are composed, rather than sapping their energy. With the religious resonance of William Blake's illustrations and the tormented expressiveness of Maria Lassnig, Olschbaur's forms possess not a light that never goes out, but rather the tumescent glow of a Sissyphusian struggle to keep their lifeforce burning every time it is nearly extinguished.
If God is light, then Olschbaur's figures are aroused by the struggle to bask in it, to reflect it. There is pleasure to be found in stumbling toward grace, a tortured ecstasy.