With images that are surreal yet lyrical, artist Brigitte Niedermair explores the antagonism between photography and painting. Her work touches boundaries that are yet to be defined, exposing the ambiguity between seeing and imagining, fiction and truth.
In conversation, she is abstract and poetic. 'We only perceive the world behind a curtain of semblance yet, at the same time, an object needs to be covered in order to be recognised at all,' she says.
Her latest collaboration with Wallpaper* fashion director Isabelle Kountoure for the September Style Issue (W* 198) presents the season's finest leathers. It pays homage to two of Niedermair's personal heroes: the Belgian surrealist René Magritte and the Italian painter, sculptor and theorist Lucio Fontana. 'In many of Magritte's works, he used curtains as the entrance to an unreal scenario, creating new worlds. I wanted to use the curtains as a metaphor of a closed and open state of mind.'
Fontana - who began his series of lacerations on canvas in 1949 - coined the phrase concetto spaziale (spatial concept) to describe work that he referred to as 'art for the Space Age'. He thought of his paintings as sculptures, blurring two and three dimensions; Niedermair uses the slit of a curtain as a window into a new space: 'one where fashion, human figures and faces look like they are in a world that is suspended in time.'
'I always loved Fontana,' she says. 'One day I accompanied my seven-year-old daughter to a show of his work and she said to me: "Mum, these are cuts in the light." These simple and beautiful words have conditioned me to want to bring new light to photography.'
In November a solo show of her work curated by Gianfranco Maraniello will open at The Bologna Museum of Modern Art. The first half looks to the still life paintings of the Italian artist Giorgio Morandi; the second looks to Egyptian pyramids. 'They are fascinating examples of architecture that represent a limbo between life on earth and elsewhere,' she says. 'The pyramid is the most powerful symbol of a passage between the existence of life and what awaits us after death.'