contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the month / June 2018

Luciferine 11
Petra Warrass

Fine Art Print, hand coloured
20 cm x 30 cm

The photo “Luciferine 11” by Petra Warrass shows a branch in front of a blurry background in grey tones. This branch, coming from the left image border is ramifying into slimmer twigs, whose tips are cut by the other three image borders. Partly, the branch is coloured in pale red, accentuated by bright red dots. The artist added this colouration subsequently. Nevertheless, regarding the natural aspect of the branch, the colouration could be read as a fungal infestation. At the same time, it intensifies the abstract character of the image, going along with the chosen display and the blurry background.

Name giving for this single photo and the eponymous series are substances called “Luciferins”. They are natural light-emitting compounds, which generate light and are used by living organisms like fireflies and bioluminescent fungi. Hence, the association to a fungal infestation. However, Petra works with protein-based glazing paints. As mentioned before, herewith she produces effects, which easily exceed the simple reproduction of nature.

The branch stops to be only a branch. In fact, it could be seen as lines, which partition the image. In this case, the focussed twigs refer to the blurry background. The attention is guided to the shadows and uncertain forms. This could inspire the imagination of the beholder, to discover hidden elements and interpret them. In a positive mood, this could be an amusement; in a negative mood, it could be frightening, due to the vague presentation. Gabor Baksay mentioned the terrifying aspect of Petra’s work in a text to her latest exhibition in Monschau (Germany), where the artist displayed the series Luciferine along with other photos. He also refers to the name of the cycle. Even though inspired by the bioluminescence compounds, the name carries in it “Lucifer” the fallen angel of light who turned in different mythologies and religions into the devil. Hence, the frightening and diabolic allusion for an interpretation.

Along with that, we could return to the focussed branch. Here the edges are mainly sharp: all ambiguities are eliminated. Really? Even here, one might find alarming and assuring elements. The accentuated bright red dots, could remind fresh blood: a reference to an injury or the life-giving element. Additionally, the spots could symbolise young flower buds, a reminder of the going by winter and the up-coming spring: the awakening of nature.

More abstractly thought the branch with its bifurcations could indicate a path, perhaps a path of life. Depending on the reading direction, the ways could reassemble or separate. However, the endings of the path are cut by the photo’s edges: we do not know from where we are coming from or where we are going to. Once again, there is a positive, negative or uncertain interpretation possible. Moreover, the photo could represent decisions, which guide into different directions. The beholder might find many other readings. This reinforces the ambiguity of Luciferine 11, but this is exactly what makes it so appealing.


Petra Warrass

Born 1970 in Birkenfeld (Germany) Petra Warrass lives and works in Düsseldorf (Germany). First she studied visual communication with the focus on photo and film design at the Fachhochschule Dortmund (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Dortmund, Germany), then photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam (Netherlands). She finished her studies as master student of Joachim Brohm at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, Leipzig (Academy of Fine Arts, Leipzig, Germany). Since 1999, she received many grants and prizes. Besides several residence bursaries in Germany inter alia at Schloss Balmoral, Bad Ems, she worked as stipendiary in the Netherlands, China, France and Croatia. In 2016, she was granted for a residence at the CCA Andratx in Mallorca (Spain).

Petra’s photo series were represented in numerous personal and group exhibitions. Furthermore her videos were shown in Germany and Europe, inter alia in France, Poland and Spain. She frequently has teaching assignments at universities, art academies or in special art projects. Since 2015, she is lecturer at the Bergische Universität in Wuppertal (University of Wuppertal, Germany)

In her works, be that in photography or video, Petra is showing supposed everyday situations, which on closer look bear surprises and ambiguities. Characteristically are clear compositions; supposed main parts or the whole pictures are captured sharply. Nevertheless, there are often unexpected components in them. The images deprive themselves from all clarity regarding the content. They are fostering uncertainty so that beholders are thrown back to themselves to find a suitable interpretation.

For the series “Stay home” she took inside photos of apartments. Nevertheless, the arrangements of the furniture are not as expected: a table is turned upside down, the mattress of a bed is folded or a rack is hiding behind a curtain.

“Täuschung und Wahrheit” (Deception and Truth) has its conflict not only in its title. Here Petra took portraits of teenagers. The camera is not focused directly on the youngsters. They are looking into a mirror and the artist photographed their mirror image. In consequence, the images are in a high degree self-portraits, where the model takes direct self-control of the expression that should be shown.

Besides # 7, which was our artwork of the month in February 2016, other images of “Where it is” are as well ambivalent. In # 1 Cédric, the protagonist of the series, is dressed in jeans and a white pullover. His posture implies that he might be struck by something in the breast, but there is no blood. In # 9 Cédric is standing in front of a window, except he is looking from outside to the inside of an apartment.

Our artwork of the month / June 2018 comes from the series “Luciferine”. Made in 2015, the sequence is shot in gardens, often at night. Developed in black and white, Petra coloured the images manually to highlight certain parts. This gives a mysterious atmosphere to the photos.

During her residency in Andratx in 2016, she concentrated on a halfpipe. Due to the different light incidences, resulting from recordings at various day and night times, the unspectacular “Ramp” appears in an atmosphere, partly romantic in twilight and at night.

These two latest, formally so different series, were united in April/May 2018 in an exhibition at the Kuk Monschau (Germany). For the interactive project “clash // Open Studio” Petra collaborated with Julia Wenz. From December 2017 until March 2018 visitors could bring personal belongings to the Dortmunder U. wenz’n warras arranged them in front of projected photos of artworks from regional museums. The collages thus created where published in a printed edition.