The exhibition “Stendhal Syndrome” at Circle Culture Gallery represents a highlight in Katrin Fridriks’ work to date. The title refers to her work “Perception of the Stendhal Syndrome”, which is being shown here for the first time and will also be presented at the 2015 Venice Biennale in the Global Art Affairs Foundation’s “Personal Structures” exhibition. The expansive installation is the central exhibit and also refers to Fridrik’s fundamental artistic concept of approaching existential questions through aesthetic experience: In “Perception of the Stendhal Syndrome”, Fridrik’s previous investigations into the human perception of space-time converge. She fundamentally links this process with a sense of awe for the sublimity of nature and for life. Her native Iceland with its overwhelming landscape has had a lasting influence on Fridriks in this respect. The experience one has when looking at Fridriks’ paintings can best be compared to that of a natural wonder, such as the eruption of a geyser.
However, Fridriks does not actually depict an eruption itself, but rather conveys the experience of it by capturing the very essence of such an event. On an abstract level, this basically refers to the historical moment of the development of the universe from an original singularity: it is this intensity of energy that Fridriks’ painting conveys. Even though the paint adheres to the canvas, it seems to pause only briefly before immediately continuing to swirl and splash beyond its boundaries into the viewer’s space. Fridriks’ technique conveys more than a snapshot, it evokes a sense of movement.
The installation “Perception of the Stendhal Syndrome” comprises one of her large-format paintings from the series “Gene & Ethics” (2.80 x 1.80 m) and a specially made, sculptural magnifying glass (Xm high), which hangs from the ceiling in front of the canvas. Although it is positioned at the end of the gallery space, the magnifying glass brings the smallest details of the dense and multi-layered painting to the fore, turning them into ephemeral images in the round, silver frame of the lens. Each visitor thus sees a completely different image when they approach the work, as even the smallest movement completely changes the overall impression. The installation thus allows a view of the painting from both a micro and macro perspective, revealing the full extent of Fridriks’ artistic skill. At the center of Fridriks’ interest is above all the fleeting and confusing character of the aesthetic experience: each viewer is literally forced to reflect on his or her own – literal – point of view with regard to the work and within the gallery space.
The title of the exhibition “Stendhal Syndrome” refers to a psychosomatic disorder caused by an overwhelming aesthetic experience when looking at a work of art. The symptoms were first described by the French writer Marie-Henri Beylem under his pseudonym Stendhal, who suffered a seizure in 1817 after visiting the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence: “I was lost in admiration of the sublime beauty; I saw it at close range and almost touched it. I had reached the point of enthusiasm where the heavenly sensations offered by art were combined with passionate feelings. When I left the church, my heart was pounding. My source of life had dried up and I was afraid of falling over.” With her installation, Fridriks refers to the possibility of such an intense experience, evoked by the effect of a single work of art. Based on chemical and technical experiments with different colors and a choreographic act of painting, Fridriks has developed a unique and distinctive technique. The fluid and organic quality of her painting is based on the interplay of medium, timing and the artist’s body, which moves freely around the canvas lying on the floor as she paints. All the works shown in the exhibition are united by the aspect that they also represent this act of painting itself.