contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the Month / November 2020

Fatigue Mom (02)
Grit Richter

Courtesy the artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin

Stretch velvet, fleece, foam, siliconized fiber balls, wood, Styrofoam
105 cm x 83 cm x 83 cm

Grit Richter’s sculpture “Fatigue Mom (02)” is part of her series with the same name, created in the time after the lockdown in spring 2020. Consisting of two spheres, a bigger one below a smaller one on top, it reminds a snowman. However, the material and the colour is all, but frozen and cold, since the “Fatigue Mom (02)” is covered with red velvet. Even though there is no face presented, the figure has a clear orientation by the two long red cords, attached sideward to the lower sphere. In relation to the body, they are thin and long. Nevertheless, they are spreading in wavy lines on the floor, in direction of the onlooker.

According to the title, it is a mother figure, whose exhaustion is illustrated by the cords as drooped arms. Moreover, the centre of gravity is in the lower part of the sculpture, since there are no legs. This underlines the downward trend, solid as a rock. Despite this posture, the material and the colour do not radiate rejection. In the contrary, the softness invites to snuggle with the body. The arms will soon embrace gently. Hereby, Grit points to the contradictory feelings of motherhood. On one hand, there is the love and the will to provide comfort. On the other hand, all the requirements addressed to a mother are strenuous and tiring, without the possibility to run away. These opposite feelings probably accompany many mothers most of the time, at least until the children are grown-up.

With regard to the time of creation, these contradictions might be even stronger, since the time of the pandemic is marked by uncertainty and increased charges, for the mother as well as for the children. The curfew forces families to stay at home, trapped in limited space, without noteworthy external physical and social contact. Nonetheless, the daily necessities have to be mastered and the worries to be handled. Hence, the fatigue of the mother with the will to support, protect and comfort her children. These mixed feelings find their expression in the sculpture.

Herewith the work makes a notable difference to other female representations in art history. Due to the corpulence of the body, “Fatigue Mom (02)” reminds the Venus figurines of the Late Stone Age. However, the legs as well as the sexual characteristics are missing. Although the Palaeolithic statuettes have mostly less pronounced arms, they are prominent and decisive for the interpretation of tiredness in Grit’s sculpture. Whereas the ancient figurines probably expressed fertility and pregnancy, “Fatigue Mom (02)” is reduced to the comforting soft female body.

Even later depictions of women do not fit into Grit’s concept. The often curvaceous mythological representations of the baroque are more sensual allegories than sentimental torn. Also the almost obese women of Fernando Botero have a capricious lightness and likewise the self-confident Nanas by Niki de Saint Phalle. In “Fatigue Mom (02)”, there is no space for lightness, the weight of responsibility seems to press on her. Deprived from all sexual characteristics and even without an individuality giving face, she is a prototype of a mother: despite her fatigue, she is warm and welcoming to her children, in a dilemma within her feelings.


Grit Richter

Born in 1977 in Dresden, Germany, Grit Richter first studied painting and graphics at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts (HfBK Dresden) and then at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg (HFBK Hamburg) under the tutelage of Anna Gudjónsdóttir and Norbert Schwontkowski. Since her graduation in 2007 she had at least once a year a solo exhibition in various German cities and had in 2019 a solo presentation by her gallery Tanja Wagner at The Armory Show in New York. Moreover, she participated in numerous group shows, mainly in Germany, but also in London, Lapua (Finland) and New York.

Grit was awarded with several grants such as a Project Grant by the cultural office of Hamburg, a Working Grant for Visual Arts of the City of Hamburg and a DAAD Travel Grand for Vienna. Additionally, she was nominated for the Villa Aurora Fellowship. From 2015 to 2018, she was lecturer for painting at the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg (HAW).

Coming from painting, Grit expanded her artistic vocabulary to other techniques for example textile dyeing and bleaching and sculpture. Likewise, her early more figurative images became more and more abstract, including some figurative elements. Her artistic research is about the possibility to represent emotions, remembrance or the unconscious. In her oeuvre, she translates her investigation into a compressed, reduced visual language. Thereby, the abstract forms become a projection surface and a kind of figurative placeholder.*

In practice, this might be bright coloured oil paintings, arisen from preliminary sketches and / or computer based simulations or more experimental images, made on pre-treated surfaces. There are huge paper collages and wall paintings as well as pigmented plaster and concrete sculptures. Neon sculptures including glass, used wood, acrylic glass or bitumen belong to her oeuvre like fabric works and sculptures. In 2018, she made her first series of soft sculptures. Others should follow. One of this new fabric figures is our artwork of the month / November 2020: “Fatigue Mom (02)”. It is part of Grit’s series “Fatigue Mom” where she reflected on the contradictory emotions of parents.

These sentiments were even stronger in the exceptional situation of the lockdown due to the pandemic in spring 2020. It extremely affected family life and the relationship between mother and child. Hence, Grit’s artistic expression of her feelings. Until now, the series contains three works. (01) is a mattress with cords, formed like a seat as a mother might take her child held on her lap; (02) reminds prehistoric fertility figurines by the two superposed spheres and (03) is once again a mattress with cords, but this one lies exhausted on the floor and leans a bit on the wall. These three initial versions of “Fatigue Mom” were shown for the first time to the public in the solo exhibition “Mixed Feelings” during the Berlin Gallery Weekend in September and later during the Frieze digital in October 2020, both featured by the Galerie Tanja Wagner.

Grit lives and works in Hamburg, Germany.