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“Every drawing, every note, every movement, every gesture is equally important as the rest, from the sketches to the largest works; a tree is as important as an atomic bomb, thoughts are as important as feelings.”
Miriam Cahn (1949, Basel, Switzerland) paints what occurs around her and, with a unique vision of the world, communicates the essence of how she feels and understands her place in the universe through her drawings, paintings, photographs, prints and performances. They are her voice.
In each of her exhibitions, the artist acts as guest curator, selecting, distributing and hanging her own works. These exhibitions serve to call out those things she finds hurtful, to express her hopes and portray what moves her: war, refugees, violence, sexuality, women, nature, family, death. Cahn hangs her drawings and paintings so that her human figures appear at the same height as viewers; their skin is luminous and their faces schematic forms. They look at us, gazing straight into our eyes.
Art is movement
This artist communicates by using her whole body as a driver of artistic expression. Her body is at the centre of her work and her hands a “thinking tool.” For her, drawing is a direct form of communication, something akin to writing or thinking in movement. She started out with pencil drawings and later developed them into large formats, turning the act of drawing into a performance by using her entire body and entering into a kind of ecstasy where her whole being takes part. She lets her physical limitations be her guide, placing body and its innate wisdom before logical thinking.
Cahn questions the old, traditional way of doing things imposed by a society where patriarchal structures dominate, making a case for the importance of emotion before reason in artistic practice. For this artist, it is not the graphic or pictorial elements which are most important, but the result. Sketches do not form part of her work as such, nor do paintings in the usual manner of understanding the term. Characterised by their unfiltered visual language, her drawings and oils are sheer gesture, the pure and direct expression of her emotions, everything she is feeling inside and wants to share with us.
The voice of Miriam Cahn
A violent, fragile world in continuous and savage change is exposed in Miriam Cahn’s works. Locations and equipment related to war, architectural spaces, dreams, fighting women, vaginas, refugees torn away from their homes and loaded down with their suitcases, soldiers and fists, dogs, men with their genitals exposed, flowers, birds, women who transform into animals or plants. Cahn is deeply affected by the fragility of the defenceless, of children, women and particularly of refugees who are forced to flee the horrors of war with the clothes on their backs and a small suitcase containing but a few precious keepsakes. Through her work, Cahn expresses the horror she felt during the Balkans War, a conflict so close to home. Who will be the next ones forced to drag along their “luggage” and search for a better life, fleeing from violence, hunger and desperation? It causes vertigo to see the person walking alongside you fall. It brings home the uncertainty in which we live, a false and superficial kind of safety. What’s certain in life’s ups and downs or in this fragile world?
Incredibly economic in her use of materials — charcoal and huge sheets of paper which she later folds up to transport — Cahn creates works where nothing is in excess. Using barely four colours, she manages to create paintings with glowing tones, shades of red, blue, yellow, orange and green which are characteristic of living beings, of plants, flowers and nature. What really counts for Cahn is the experience of producing each line and each brushstroke, the meaning of her artistic expression, and all in a constant flow which aims to break with art world tradition and everything she has seen up to this point.
Expositionn: Miriam Cahn everything is equally important in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia from 5 June to 14 October.
Curartorship: Ana Ara y Fernando López.
Photography: Oscar Rivilla
Translation: Rebekah Jane Rhodes
Music: Dr Symptosizer
Art Directors: Oscar Rivilla and Carolina Verd
Main Picture: Red raincoat by Rains; red bathing suit by Champions courtesy from Globally.
Picture 2: red t-shirt and pants by Champions courtesy from Globally.
Picture 3: blue dress Maje; blue raincoat by Champions courtesy by Globally.
Picture 4: blue skirt by Champions; blue jacket by Diadora courtesy from Globally.