Karin Preller

The discreet drama in these works is palpable. Four paintings of men and cars could be sprocketed together; they seem sequential. Their story is discomforting, sinister, ineffable… and yet, we look at the beautiful old cars, the lie of the land from over 40 years ago. A judder of nostalgia sweeps us. Black Dress (2009) focuses on the gesture of an adult reaching for a child’s hand. It is timeless and wordless, and represents a refined bond of protectiveness, possessiveness, properness and love.

They are not long/ the days of wine and roses…” These opening lines from the Oscar- winning soundtrack by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer framed The Days of Wine and Roses, director Blake Edwards’ extraordinary 1962 film. The critical success of the movie, which starred Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, rested on its beautiful telling of a disturbing tale. It is also magnificent in its aesthetic decisions, in how it reveals and reflects the period’s fashions and affectations. The tales told in Karin Preller’s current works might be obscure, but it is clear that they are not ones of clichéd happiness. They reflect other days of wine and roses – beautiful images of emotionally complicated times.Preller’s visual grammar melds an elegant, cool reflection on nostalgia with the accidents of amateur snaps, the exaggeration of photographic comics and a nod at Pop Art. Her ethos rests upon that of the 1960s, the time of her childhood, a time of beautiful technological objects and contrived behaviour. Women were unequivocally feminine. Fashion was god. Convention was governed by an unambiguous understanding of right and wrong. Preller’s new body of 12 large paintings is deeply private, splendidly universal. Emotional residue gives them rigour and compelling mystery, their aesthetic core makes the specifics of the stories they relay unassailable.It is Montgomery Park in the 1960s. A child flashes by, her head a mass of abstract shapes. The landscape behind her is jagged and non-specific. Preller’s paintings capture the unselfconsciousness of a small child playing in an implicitly safe environment. The light pervading her paintings is acerbic yellow. It mixes the distinct colours of 1960s colour photography with unmistakable harsh Highveld light.The discreet drama in these works is palpable. Four paintings of men and cars could be sprocketed together; they seem sequential. Their story is discomforting, sinister, ineffable… and yet, we look at the beautiful old cars, the lie of the land from over 40 years ago. A judder of nostalgia sweeps us. Black Dress (2009) focuses on the gesture of an adult reaching for a child’s hand. It is timeless and wordless, and represents a refined bond of protectiveness, possessiveness, properness and love. Preller informs these paintings with stills from home movies, provoking my associating them with remembered stills from Edward’s movie. Her lines have blurred: rather than veering the paintings into abstraction, she tightens them conceptually. Most of these pieces reveal, if not a child’s perspective, empathy toward the presence of the child in the family structure. Yet they are never sweet. These works are Preller’s most sophisticated and haunting to date, revealing her astutely engaging with her past, without sullying it with triteness – and touching my past and yours, in the process.
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