“A Woman’s Voice 2” by Annegret Soltau, Leda Luss- Lyken and Mona Hakimi-Schüler

When is a woman a woman? What does society make of women? And what impact do women have on society? Three women have spoken out. Under the title ‘A Woman’s Voice II’ a new exhibition opens at the Haleh Gallery in Berg on 25 November 2011. The very successful first show in this series was staged early in 2011. The new exhibition showcases paintings, collages, photoworks, objects and installations. It is set to be an exciting aesthetic experience but is also designed to provoke discussion and artistic debate. The gallery’s objective is to provide a platform for women to showcase their art and thought, to promote dialogue and to further intercultural and interdisciplinary communication.

Annegret Soltau  (b.1946 in Lüneburg, studied painting and graphic art at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg) has worked in the medium of painting, graphic art, performance, photo and video. The confrontational aspect of her work has provoked scandal and censorship. In her sewn and collaged photoworks – images of young girls and old women – she depicts the ‘ages of woman’, melding the processes of development and decay to show human existence as a continuous metamorphosis. The stitches sewn across her photoworks initially resemble a show of vulnerability and finiteness but are simultaneously a reflection on family ties. The scars that cut apart and stitch back convert the make-up of personal identity – something Soltau refuses to see one-dimensionally – translating it into an effective, modern vehicle of expression. In the series titled Personal Identity, begun in 2007, she stitches up documents of her own life, examines data-retention use and investigates sterotyped, true and imagined identity. In her sewn photo self-portrait series Verified Self she transforms emotionally void photo-booth mugshots into disconcerting, emotion-laden images. In the stitched photo series Grima (the Old Norse word for mask, the origin of the words grimace and grin) humans and animals meld into highly emotive fantasy images. Or are they revelations of the ‘true self’?

Leda Luss Luyken (b.1952 in Athens, studied fine art and architecture in Zurich, New York and Manchester), as a former interior architect, has an eye for beauty. But that’s not all. She has developed a highly sophisticated art form known as ‘ModulArt’ in which the pre-determined configuration of a group of canvases (in specially designed ‘ModulFrames’) is systematically deconstructed and reconfigured. The process of reconfiguration calls for interactive participation on the part of the viewer. The artist has let go, however nothing is static: the art work remains in a state of flux and can be ‘modulated’ freely by the viewer. This allows for endless variations. Many of Luss-Luyken’s drawings and paintings incorporate strands of mythological tradition. Her Now and Then embraces the whole tradition in the portrayal of the female figure from Aphrodite to the present day. In Breaking the Shackles to Earth man and woman are depicted competing in a futile, unending race through a violent world. It could be otherwise: Our World represents the generations and the world itself in a positive, joyous state of constant transformation. Rigid pictorial ideas are shattered. In the series RiceArt (begun in 2001), Luss-Luyken expands on the conceptualism of ‘ModulArt’. Using fragile pith papers she transports panel painting into the realm of multimedia, enticing the viewer into an exotic Garden of Eden.

Mona Hakimi-Schüler (b.1977 in Tehran, applied physics in Tehran and art education and linguistics in Osnabrück) has initially drawn her unique visual language from the agitprop style seen in her home country (Iran). Her more recent work sees a transition from a broad, bold pictorial approach towards a more complex vocabulary that demonstrates her painterly virtuosity and compositional strength. She sets out to dissect the role of women on the interface between western and Islamic culture, modernity and tradition, in a country where the hijab was banned in 1936, only to be lifted in 1979. In recent work Hakimi-Schüler herself embodies the roles accessible to women in Iran today. The collaged paintings of her new series stories I live by (2010-11) examine the multifaceted aspects of identity – personal, national and female – in the context of changing political, artistic and religious ideals. Patterns, fragments of script, traditional symbols (the lion or the sun), emblematic devices and references to mythology are skilfully interwoven to create dreamlike sequences and surreal encounters. These constructed worlds draw on profound personal and historical experiences. They are powerful images that offer the western viewer in particular rare cultural and visual insights.

The new show of work by these three innovative international artists underlines the scope and calibre of the Haleh Gallery programme. The gallery’s objective in addressing this very topical theme is to build a bridge between East and West, benefiting simultaneously from their differences and affinities both on a cultural and a human level.

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