ON THE PAINTING OF REGINA NIEKE
At the centre of Regina Nieke’s painting is the portrayal of a usually isolated figure, a kind of ‘painterly counterpart’ as an equivalent in human format. Struggling with unseen forces, the agitated figures turn towards the viewer, their faces often made unrecognisable through dissolution, spatters of paint and deformation.
Some of the works are combined into diptyches or triptyches. Because of the strong displacement of the figures from the background and their placement in the visual foreground, the horizontal is very dominant here. The artist has been inspired by Mark Rothko’s colour-field paintings, by his monumental rectangular forms on a monochrome ground. Regina Nieke’s horizontally ordered, overlapping areas of colour in the background, with a flowing sfumato at their edges, resemble a nebulous lunar landscape, which transforms itself into a kind of setting, a field of operation, for the exploration of figural existence. Nieke is interested in her figures’ qualities of movement, which by contrast to photography can’t be captured in a static image. In correspondence to human perception she scans her bodies three-dimensionally, which is expressed in her impulsive explosions of colour and form. What is important is the inner expression of the figures; narrative elements are insignificant.
Vibrantly coloured spray paints are used alongside acrylics and oils. The usually sprayed backgrounds only occasionally shimmer through the successive layer of oil paint. This creates a deliberate contrast between the smooth and evenly distributed layer of paint without brushstrokes in the background and the thickly applied paint in the area of the figures in the foreground.
The titles in brackets are an attempt to avoid a predefinition of the works. Regina Nieke often directly refers to art-historical sources, as in homages such as Untitled. Homage to Alberto Giacometti, or with supplements like Untitled (after Manet) or Untitled (after Goya), both from 2009. But films (White Ribbon, 2011) and literature (Stiller, 2009; Malte Laurids Brigge, 2009) are important sources of inspiration: Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler, from 1866, was the literary model for Untitled (The Gambler), from 2010.
Some figures are only indicated schematically. Apart from the faint silhouette and the roughly worked areas around the eyes, a substantial dissolution has taken place in Untitled (Rainy), from 2011. Through the partial removal of paint with turpentine the contours flow down the canvas, leaving long streaks of colour behind. These lengthened limbs allude to the weightless sculptures of Alberto Giacometti, who explained his figures’ radical reduction in size and stretching of limbs with the difference in perception from near and far. Aside from dissolution, Regina Nieke also lengthens and stretches certain parts of the body, so that they take on a metaphysical character. Furthermore, both artists share a merely fragmentary indication of the surface structure; the traces of forming and modelling remain clearly visible, and finely worked contours alternate with roughly marked passages.
In one series of paintings Regina Nieke explores human sexuality, allowing insight into very intimate moments. Untitled (Someone), from 2010, shows a figure playing with itself, perhaps masturbating. The nudes are distinguished from Nieke’s other figural portrayal in as much as the bodies exhibit an altered gesture of tension. The sprinklings of colour in the face of the woman in Untitled (Yearning), from 2010, which create almost complete unrecognisability, may be determined by the sexual ecstasy of the figure portrayed, by her drifting sensations of pleasure. The moment of physical disruption in the struggle with one’s own existence is joined here by a strongly erotic element which goes far beyond the aspect of despair and isolation.
Regina Nieke’s paintings testify to an intensive involvement with different artistic disciplines, which find their way into her pictorial world. A look at her sketchbooks reveals a rich treasure of images, which she collects almost automatically and brings into her compositions. In her remarkable works Regina Nieke shows the naked struggle of human existence, and presents the viewer with the transience of being.
Nina Lenze, 2013