Texts and Publications
Die Broschüre «Lisboa» zeigt Arbeiten von Brigitta Gabban, die während ihres Aufenthaltes im April/Mai 2018 im Gastatelier «Viera da Silva» in Lissabon entstanden sind.
‹New York City 2013›
Zeichnungen und Fotografien
(deutsch/englisch) 150 Ex.
davon 50 numm. Ex. mit Originalzeichnung
(deutsch/english) – CHF 20
Texts and Citations about Brigitta Gabban
CARLOTTA GRAEDEL MATTHÄI
The Image Between Me and You
A red line graces the cover of the present catalogue and like the proverbial thread it weaves its way as an artistic principle across the oeuvre of Brigitta Gabban. Her creative work that comprises different media and techniques emanates from the line and the act of drawing, while a conceptual practice determines the spatial realisation thereof. She captures her artistic inspiration by way of the line, approaches it, contains it and ties it to different two or three-dimensional surfaces.
In 2011, across the footbridge that leads to the Gotthardstrasse in her place of domicile Thalwil, Brigitta Gabban drew - true to scale and in bright red - the winding line of the old mule-track that leads up the Tremola gorge along numerous hairpin bends on the southern flank of the Gotthard pass. The small footbridge over the rail tracks of the Thalwil station became the screen for the arduous yet contemplative trail to the top. One hopes it may have moved passersby to meditate on the paths of life and goals therein, encouraged commuters to curb their step and devote themselves to a more sensitised perception within the speedy flow of the daily grind. In the same year, the exhibition theme ‘Ausziehen’, meaning ‘to draw a line’, ‘to undress’ or to ‘move out’, inspired the artist to photograph the evanescent vapour trails drawn across the sky by planes.
The concept of drawing informs also Brigitta Gabban’s watercolours and paintings. Her oils are not composed in the traditional manner from numerous superimposed layers of colour, but retain an appealing sketchiness in their execution. Forms are contained in black, filled-in and surrounded by assertive brush strokes and forceful accents in a joyfully colourful palette.
Following a period in which the artist focussed on a non-figurative to abstract visual language, Brigitta Gabban has in recent years produced increasingly more figurative works, in which she captures images unexpectedly rising from her subconscious. When painting, the artist prefers to work in series, in the process of which, comparable to a domino effect, one image emerges from the other by way of association. Objects such as a child’s swing, the symbolic or aesthetic peculiarities of which appeal to the artist, or ambiguous basic shapes are playfully staged in changing contexts: In this way a cat’s eyes may mutate to frog spawn from one composition to the next; a ball within a series of works reduplicates as Mickey Mouse ears, piles up as ice cream scoops to form a mountain, or multiplies to a number of large snow balls that tumble onto a green meadow.
In her current paintings, Brigitta Gabban cultivates a simplified visual language by concentrating on sparsely furnished compositions. On an aesthetic level her imagery brings comics to mind. Contrary to expectations, however, the reduction of form and content does not aid the legibility of the works. The scenes, usually presented in close-up, in which dinky hybrid animals act as protagonists and imitate human actions are surreal. They contain elements that cannot be assigned unambiguously or that in their combination and individual representation are disconnected from reality. It is thus up to viewer to complete the gaps, to construe actions and their setting and to write these humorous fragments into an imagined narrative.
A number of poetic installation works have evolved over the years from Brigitta Gabban’s fascination with ink painting on thin tracing paper. Following on from painted feathery floating objects and pillows covered in personal annotations made in 2001 and 2002, the artist has recently reclaimed her early beginnings in East Asian ink painting. She now conjures up fairytale scenes of tropical gardens on three meter long paper scrolls, in which mythical creatures, people and animals coincide happily.
Brigitta Gabban is a remarkable artist, who neither lets herself be constrained nor governed by the customary demand for constancy where content, style and technique are concerned. By firmly relying on the rightness of her own artistic intuition and creative energy, she produces authentic, interconnected works that unfailingly invite the viewer on a journey of aesthetic and thematic discovery.
At a time when contemporary art is only gradually throwing off its identity crisis, Brigitta Gabban through personal determination pursues a return to the origins of art. Moving between different expressive worlds, she does not subject her work to current trends or the constraint of avant-garde media technologies. On the contrary: out of a need to prevent the authentic and irrecoverable, emblematic and intuitive, invisible and associative from perishing in the glossy mechanics of the consumer world, she takes up an emphatically sensation-oriented position. A position which makes the variform fascination of life and experience, imagination and memory its core theme invested with a holistic expressive power.
Free from a need to represent anything apart from themselves, Brigitta Gabban’s paintings reveal what she is and can do. The independence of colour and shape, area and line evolves solely through the fabric of colouring mediums which the artist uses to achieve a well-tempered wealth of modulations. What emerges are worlds of expression in pure primary colour tones, murky pastel nuances and emblematically scattered black focal points, which she links – depending on the desired effect – by covering areas or for-ging outlines with oil glazes or pastes to create associative shapes. Merged together or arranged alongside each other harmoniously or controversially, the colour zones coexist in an exciting balance. Her orchestration risks harsh contrasts only to at the same time arrange itself in gently shifting tones.
The creative process is intuitive and concentrated, and in the course of its progressive development the colour sediments take on a vulnerable skin-like surface texture. Looking at the picture as a whole the chronology of steps is lost, without however banishing the immediate gesture of the artistic style. Visible emotional traces of tentative exploration and determined positioning are left behind by the act of painting, in which the whole physical being is involved.
Given the density of colour and movement which looked at in detail can reach extremely high levels of complexity, the transparency of the picture structures is surprising. Floating lightness and the physical mass of shapes characterise the images. Brigitta Gabban’s painting develops a barely graspable three-dimensionality which draws the eye behind the surface with a magical power. The intuitive onlooker, opposite and through the silky veils of colour and opaque layers, glimpses insights and aspects of a prolific world of shapes full of mysterious naturalness and unfathomable origin. The movements of lines and areas drift confidently from the vibrating atmosphere of the background to the surface in order to draw closer or intensify shape distinction by circling around, touching, pestering, complementing, melting into, bunching up and connecting with each other. Without conceptual or representational compulsion, spontaneous visions of synapses, physical and cellular structures occur. Situational associations and thoughts about the various guises of monads, micro-organisms and insects emerge only to at the same time form unearthed memories and sketches from reality drawn from the world of everyday sensations.
Brigitta Gabban’s painting follows its own syntactic rules. By avoiding a defined interpretation it defies unambiguous decoding with the aim of capturing tensions and inter-references between colour and shape concepts on the picture surface. The drawings too benefit from this unmistakably open visual language which expresses itself through contradictions and manoeuvres between graphic revelation, associative veiling, spatial positioning and pictorial resolution.
The drawings are created in ink on tracing paper. Impressive large-scale and intimate small formats provide the sounding board and stage for intuitive rhythms and representational shapes. They are always on the threshold between the rendition of external realities and the seismographic exploration of inner states of being. The line, primary medium and unavoidable reality, advances determinedly. It grows fatter and thinner, swings, hops, swishes and flows, trying to find its way, a place, a destination or exit. Every trail entrenches itself indelibly in the delicate vulnerability of the colourlessly translucent background which bends and contracts under the pressure of the damp line of ink.
Weightlessly, like reminders without spatial positioning, the figures drift across the paper surfaces and beyond. Phenomena in transit, figurations on the verge of abstraction, a whole Menagerie of two-, three- and four-legged creatures emerges, and hangs, stands, falls and loses itself in the focus of picture sections. In her ink drawings Brigitta Gabban collects citations of objects and schematised codes of an experienced, imaginary and internalised reality. The sparsely-outlined shapes take on the colour of the picture background and their bodies gain substance from its fabric only to become settled in the concentration of delicate lines and bulky expanses. The shape vocabulary queries the relationships of object and non-object. It plays with the irritation of our visual experience. Every attempt at reading the displayed pictograms leads to doubts about their meaning. The ciphers of the pictures, which are introduced so naturally and found so easily, with every new approach grow less graspable, until they are as ungraspable as the memory from which Brigitta Gabban’s drawing hand retrieves the fabulous creatures.
Brigitta Gabban’s work rejects intellectual perfection and conceptual systematics in order to focus completely on the situation of the moment and a process-based creativity. With experimental energy she pursues the central idea of her art, which with varied refractions revolves around the notions of mnemonics and metamorphosis. The serial work method aids the exploration of changing shapes and preservation of impressions. Brigitta Gabban applies methods of adoption, variation and paraphrasing to arrive not only at her own pictures, but also statements in form of sculptures and installations.
The aesthetic and haptic fascination of working with paper has led to the creation of ever new floor sculptures which, as illustrated processes measuring several hundred metres, monumental individual objects or area-covering groups, fill entire rooms. The tracing paper changes from two-dimensional picture surface to autonomous sculptured shape. Inflated into a mask-like stereotypical Tête-à-tête or large-scale boat, the cellulose membrane develops an unexpected physical strength which with seductive aloofness thwarts the fragility and lightness of the material.
Nothing lasts forever, everything is in a state of flux and shirks attempts at final understanding. The art of Brigitta Gabban is established in the camp of the reminiscing view and driven by inner and outer (e)motion. My Pillow, for example, is an installation made for an exhibition on the premises of a dilapidated hotel in Brigitta Gabban’s home borough of Thalwil using pillow cases and lighting elements. Brigitta Gabban inscribed the pillow cases – taken from the bedrooms of the traditional establishment – with text and thought fragments, fictional notes relating to origin and daydreams, and arranged them on the floor to resemble an apparently accidental collection of flotsam. Emotional moments, ranging between intimate poetry and subdued melancholy, lightness of being and its inescapable transience are triggered in the face of the biographical scraps recalling generations of imaginary hotel guests.
This is an expressive art which develops between opposite poles, between the traces of an empirical reality and its physically over-drawn reduction. Although many of the titles emerged intuitively, like Papageno and Satchmo, Sushi and Big Apple, Baghdad and Willisau, So what?, and Why not?, are narratively inquiring, Brigitta Gabban’s art remains emphatically imaginative and visual. The paintings, drawings and room installations coexist in mutual endorsement in order to establish an overall statement which makes sense content-wise. It is all about giving individual expression to a sensually absorbed and artistically styled life context which, through a seemingly never-ending repertoire of unearthed memories caught and captured in diary-style, approaches the phenomenon of what is conspicuous and inconspicuous.
From the catalogue BRIGITTA GABBAN (2005)
From Shoes to Art
Max is the title of the first oil painting I bought from Brigitta. Since then Max has been joined by two companions, Blues and Yellow Darling. As soon as I set eyes on Brigitta’s crea tions I knew this was the work of a true professional! But how can an artist who has been painting, sculpting and designing for a mere ten years have reached such an advanced level of technical maturity? My surprise subsides a little when Brigitta tells me about two past events which clearly show she was born with creative talent. When she was eleven, Brigitta entered an international painting competition organised by UNICEF. The panel of expert judges awarded Brigitta’s effort a bronze medal. And at a recent school reunion Brigitta was greeted with the words, „you’re the one who used to be so good at drawing, aren’t you?” Perceiving her brother and father as rivals of unreachable ability, Brigitta during her childhood never felt she was particularly gifted. Both her brother and father trained at what was then the art college and later worked as graphic designers. And her father, particularly after his retirement, painted a lot and enjoyed some local success.
So it was not until almost three decades later that Brigitta was able to develop her artistic potential. Initially Brigitta pursues a different career path.
With her primary and secondary school education complete, Brigitta moves abroad. She improves her language skills in London, Paris and Perugia. Her first career takes off with a job as a secretary in a shoe import company. Following a change of position within the same line of business, she joins the company management. In 1981 Brigitta sets up her own business selling shoes from the Far East in Switzerland and Austria. For almost ten years she travels the world in her capacity of businesswoman: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Holland, Italy and Germany are all within her operating range. And yet this success story was to come to an unexpected end.
Art bug offers way out of crisis
Carrying heavy collection cases led to health problems, and with an injured back and urge for change Brigitta has to take some time out to ponder life. A year before her fortieth birthday she starts to attend painting classes at the School of Art and Design in Zurich. Then, in 1991, Brigitta once again packs her bags, this time however they contain paints and brushes: prompted by the wish to establish a distance, Brigitta decides to study at the famous Art Institute in San Francisco. She attends courses in painting, photography and printmaking. While in America she succumbs irrevocably to the art bug – and Brigitta is convinced that she has now found her true vocation. Back in Zurich she enrols at the F+F School for Art and Media Design from where she graduates in 1995.
Brigitta experiments with various materials and techniques. She paints, preferring the classic technique of oil on a cotton canvas; she draws, takes photographs and makes sculptures out of tracing paper. The ink drawings emerge as a result of Brigitta’s fondness of Far Eastern culture and having for several years attended courses taught by the Korean master Kwangja Yang. Tracing paper quite quickly establishes itself as Brigitta’s favourite material. It is a metaphor for vulnerability, fragility and transience. She draws and paints on this type of paper, or turns it into three-dimensional art objects. She makes My Pillow, ein Boot, and tête-à-tête, all of which are components of installations for various exhibitions. In her latest work Fabrikschau, Brigitta Gabban displays digital prints of large-scale photographs on transparent film.
After just a few years of experimenting, Brigitta’s work has matured enough for it to be accepted at the Galerie für Gegenwartskunst in Bonstetten. And in 1996 Brigitta’s artistic and curatorial involvement in Thalwil, her place of residence, begins: she designs and organises exhibitions and big events for ThalwilerHofKunst. Her conceptual work for the KreuzKunstQuer art event becomes the talk of the town: for example, she throws darts at a map of Thalwil. The targets are houses. Then photographs of the inhabitants – in groups of people sharing the same accommodation, and their pets – are taken and displayed meeting afresh in a slide show Wohnort Thalwil.
In 1997 Brigitta moves into her studio in Zurich’s Seefeld district, but she also frequently retires to the Ticino, where a converted goatshed in the Val Colla offers an opportunity to work uninterrupted. In recent years Brigitta’s work has been shown in several individual and group exhibitions. In 2006 her work will for the first time be shown in an individual exhibition in the United States, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
And now, after ten years working as a creative artist, this book takes stock while at the same time representing a further important step in the life of this artist.
Impressed by Brigitta’s success story, I cannot help wondering whether she might one day abandon her artistic career path just as she abandoned the business career which preceded it. Brigitta shakes her head vehemently, „I’m going to be an artist for the rest of my life”, she is absolutely certain about that – and I am very glad to hear it.
From the catalogue BRIGITTA GABBAN (2005)