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A Different Angle - Catalogue blurb for Mandy Friedrich's book "Malerei 2003 bis 2009"
written by Phil Shoenfelt
[Mandy Friedrich: Malerei 2003-2009, 2009, EAN 9783940418333]
It was the first time I'd sat for a portrait painter. I'd had my picture painted in New York many years ago by the artist Claus Castenskiold, but that was based on a photograph and was therefore after the fact. This was the first time I'd actually sat in studio where I could observe the artist at work.
Mandy had invited me to sit for her the night before, after she had visited the concert in Dresden which I played with my violin player, Pavel Cingl. She told me she'd already had some exhibitions of her work, and that she would like to attempt a portrait of me. I have to admit I was intruiged. No one had asked me such a question before, and my vanity allowed me to feel a little flattered. But my main thought was that it could be an interesting experience, one which would enable me to see myself through the eys of a stranger, to see how their view connected with my own self image.
A certain amount of alcohol had been consumed during and after this concert, so when Mandy picked me up the next morning to drive me to her studio, I was feeling a little light-headed. The bright sunshine didn't help, and it was a relief to walk into the cool, shadowy depths of her studio.
The walls were covered with portraits of other people from other times, some fairly recent, others from longer ago. Mandy gave me a brief tour, explaining who the characters in her pictures were, sometimes narrating a fragment of a story behind one of them. After offering me a cup of black coffee, she sat me down in a comfortable chair, then changed into her work clothes and began sizing me up.
She worked rapidly and rhythmically, casting quick glances in my direction from behind her easel while sketching the outlines of my features. I soon fell into a kind of revery, a trance-like state induced by too many drinks, too little sleep and the need to keep sitting upright in the same position. Sometimes I'd really float away, and through half closed eyes I could see Mandy furiously at work, as if I were viewing her from across a huge distance of space and time. Every now and again she'd shake her head with impatience, as if she were having trouble getting her interpretation of my appearnace onto the canvas. Sometimes she'd appear to rub out a portion of it, and I found myself wondering if I would find the image she created flattering, disturbing, or painfully honest.
At some point she switched from charcoal to paint, and as the sun slanted in through the high windows, time seemed to slip sideways into another dimension. Still Mandy continued to work, sometimes smoothly and precisely, at other times stabbing at the canvas with her brush as if she were attacking it. Again I found myself wondering what the result of all this frenetic activity would be. Sometimes she'd take a step backwards to look at the painting from a distance, comparing it to the physical me sitting in the armchair ten metres away. But then she'd "tut-tut" with annoyance, shake her head and return to the canvas to rub something out, or change a particular detail.
Finally, though, she seemed to be satisfied. Not a hundred per cent satisfied, but as if she were sure that she'd done all she could do, at least for the moment. As she told me to relax, that the sitting was now over, I checked the time and was astonished to find that something like 90 minutes had passed since the sitting had begun. In some ways it seemed much longer, and in other ways much shorter, as if the whole experience had taken place in the blink of an eye. My view of time seemed to be slightly distorted, as if I were looking down the wrong end of a telescope. Though Mandy told me that she hadn't completed the portrait to her satisfaction, she said that she'd finished for now and would work on it again at some point in the future.
As for my impression of the painting itself - well I have to say that it showed me in a way I hadn't expected. I don't consider it was intended to be a realistic rendition. While it is certainly recognisable, there is a certain amount of subjective expressionism at work that I find really interesting. I'd say it's quite a dark, and in some ways disturbing interpretation. This expressionistic quality was only heightened in the finished picture which Mandy mailed to me some weeks later. In it, I look a little bit demonic, the kind of guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley late at night. Maybe a dock-worker after a pub crawl on the waterfront, maybe a trucker, maybe an off-duty circus performer. Whatever the case, there is definitely more than a hint of criminality around the eyes, something a little dangerous or threatening. But it's an intruiging image, one that makes you think, and there is something elemental, even archetypal, about it. It doesn't exactly keep me awake at night, but it has certainly given me something to think about while adding another layer to the onion...
Prague, March 2009