For more extensive artist's bio, articles and list of exhibitions, visit artist(s) website(s). Many of the images displayed on this site are copyrighted, and are used here only for purposes of education or critical review. All rights are reserved by the artists who created the works referenced herein.

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Gabi Hamm

"Gabi Hamm’s paintings evoke memories. Her predominantly classical themes including landscapes, interiors, or situational female portraits appeal to our memory of images and make situations come alive that we are familiar with. Actually, the artist uses photographic material such as newspaper images, postcards, reproduced paintings, or self-made photographs as a basis for her works. Gabi Hamm applies thoughtful brush strokes to sketch the essence of her paintings on a monochrome background. The colour palette is always restrained, and the scenes, which bear resemblance with still-lifes, densify to form mostly mysterious, fragile worlds of images that always include a reflection of abstract ways of looking at things.
Though the artist uses well-known imagery and a traditional artistic technique such as painting the works by Gabi Hamm are by no means retrogressive. On the contrary, the details that Hamm selects from the underlying picture rather convey a silent dignity that states an alternative view as opposed to the fast-moving and hectic world we live in. Girlish faces, primeval trunks of trees, and situational arrangements that you might mistake for trivial genre scenes turn into manifestations of a microcosm of a kind that almost completely evades perception in our lives. Gabi Hamm creates an image time-out in order to counter the superabundance of images and impressions that the human eye must continually cope with in our times. The reduced elements presented on her canvases bring relief to the strained look and allow to focus on what is essential.
This effect is reinforced by the diffuse light situation in the pictures. While our medialized world of images relies on shrill colours and sharp contours the motifs and protagonists chosen by Gabi Hamm become blurred to the point where they change into soft figures that seem to breathe and hover against their backgrounds almost like ghosts. This apparent silence, however, does not mean that these images are void of conflicts: The humble look of a girl causes the beholder to halt in confusion, and the same effect may be caused by a forest landscape from which dark clouds of smoke billow up into the sky. This is why the peace that the beholder believes to perceive in Gabi Hamm’s paintings at first sight is often based on something morbid."

"It is Gabi Hamm’s complex strategy for finding her motifs that determines her position as an artist. Invariably she takes pre-existing images as her starting point, no matter whether they are (her own) photographs or reproductions from magazines or art books she happens to chance on. When it comes to selecting her material she acts as much upon a formal as an emotional impulse, for both criteria seem equally important to her. The attraction painterly problems hold for her and an affective reference to the selected pictorial model are prerequisites for beginning her work. If the viewer can grasp the formal challenges by looking at the tradition of painting, locating the affective interest is considerably more difficult. Gabi Hamm describes it as a sudden moment of awareness which pictorial models have to trigger in her. How can this be clarified? It is a general experience that certain situations have the potential to take one out of one’s goal-oriented actions, directing attention on visual perception instead. For a short moment a certain sight, a light-reflex or a tiny detail takes centre stage, capturing one’s attention. Although in retrospect no good enough reason can be found as to why this should be so, it is a moment etched upon one’s memory, which can be elicited by a similar situation even many years later. Often, however, we are not able to reconstruct the past situation, all that remains being a vague memory of a familiar “mood”. Gabi Hamm is only interested in pictorial models that succeed in triggering such an awareness in her, out of which she then develops her pictorial idea.

Highly-charged material such as this as her starting point, she then settles on a monochrome surface which is to be her painterly basis. Colour and size of the panel are carefully chosen in accordance with her pictorial idea, which, at that point, is still quite vague. Out of this basic colour the image is then being developed, as if modelled from variations and contrasts of one single colour, gradually gaining in visibility. Every single step has to be thoroughly tested as to compatibility with basic colour and pictorial model and the potential of these two starting points will be revealed only when the painting is finished. The models contain essential elements that help create the new image. In order to make them visible, however, they have to be lifted out of the model. Hamm’s method of painting is like a filtering process that eliminates all that distracts or conceals, highlighting the parts that were conceived intuitively. What induced the artist to choose a certain model is eventually revealed, and transformed at the same time. “Extract” might be the best word for describing the result of this process.

The selection of models has to be called intuitive, the result, however, corresponds to an analysis by painterly means. Yet, it has to be stressed that the model’s analysis is not what is behind her work. Rather, the model is gradually left behind, making way to a new image. Thus, the viewer does not have to be familiar with Hamm’s models. The picture that stands at the end of a process of painterly transformation does not in any way refer to the material it grew out of. Even those very emotions that were crucial for selecting the models of reference are turned into general experiences – this becomes clear each time one has this feeling of coming across one’s very own experiences when looking at Hamm’s pictures.

The indispensable key to the picture’s success is starting on them without knowing the outcome. The artist has to keep up the fragile condition of an attitude open to new things so as not to fall prey to availing herself of things known or experienced already, and the more often her working process succeeds in producing viable results the more significant this becomes. The second strategy of Gabi Hamm’s work is thus a constant renewal of the method described above.

Klaus Görner"

Geboren in Stuttgart, Württemberg (DE)

1976 - 1977
Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Kunst, Stuttgart

1981 - 1986
Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Frankfurt/ Main

Reisestipendium der Hessischen Kulturstiftung, Wiesbaden

Arbeitsstipendium der Stiftung Kunstfonds Bonn
Lebt und arbeitet in Frankfurt am Main (DE)

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