The exhibition “Vivian Greven. Budumn” presented by Setareh Gallery provides insights into the poetic and powerful artistic work of Vivian Greven. Paintings, objects, graphic works and texts by the artist are shown, which address – each in their own nuanced ways yet with a consistently conceptual and visual focus – the fundamental meaning of human existence, sensorial perception and sensuality. Working at the interface between figurative, conceptual and abstract painting, Vivian Greven effortlessly overcomes the traditional boundaries of classic artistic genres, employing various modes of artistic expression such as painting, graphic art and sculpture in order to explore the central subject of her artistic pursuit: the dualism between proximity and distance as well as the in-between and the counterpart or the vis-à-vis.
In her current artistic work, Vivian Greven begins with digital representations of striking details in baroque or classicistic sculpture (such as by Gian Lorenzo Bernini or Antonio Canova), which she then puts into focus, enlarges and transfers to her drawings, paintings or installations. This process not only creates a mimetic shift from the three-dimensional original to the two-dimensional image carrier via the digital representation, but it also enables the artist to perform a concise transferral of phenomenological connotations that run through centuries of art history. Whilst baroque or classicistic works of art mostly depict full-figure sculptural groups, Greven’s representations of the body are almost exclusively reduced to the head or torso. By focusing on details and layers or surfaces, they mostls evade any sense of clarity and unambiguity. By virtue of the mimetic process (which does not serve to imitate art historical topoi but to expand and juxtapose them) and of the artist’s masterful representation of human skin, Vivian Greven’s paintings initially seem to have fallen out of time. Yet in their semantic, formal and conceptual explorations, they are highly contemporary and coherent – not because they adhere to any one artistic style, but because of their aesthetic approach: an empathetic observation of sensuality and sensibility and a general openness for the infinite possibilities in which form, sense and – above all – sensual associations are created and can be perceived.
In most cultures, the image of a couple touching each other or engaging in lovemaking bears something sacred. The pathos of this particular subject is reflected in the exhibition title “Budumn”, in which Vivian Greven refers to the physical moment of contact between two human beings – a touch or the most fleeting of caresses that lasts as long as a heartbeat: “Budumn”. The artist traces this moment of the heartbeat, which oscillates between becoming and fading, in her sensual, concentrated and decelerated pictorial spaces. Gently touched by artistic imagination, her canvases are covered with layers of fine glazes, creating transparent, elusive and illuminated coloured surfaces that drift towards and away from another: agreement and disagreement, harmony and tension, and tenderness and turbulence abound in the relentless play between proximity and distance.
The seemingly haptic and subtle materiality of the surfaces of Vivian Greven’s paintings and objects turn her work metaphorically into aesthetic experiences of skin centred around sense and sensuality. Alongside the transfigured expressions of the mask-like, anonymous entities she depicts, the artist refers to human matter and the human instinct to touch, thus evoking a sensual tension between the image/object and the viewer. Vivian Greven is in search of a sensuality that she wishes to rekindle and remember – a sensuality as fleeting as a heartbeat and, due to the pervasive digitisation and optimisation of the world, seems lost today. “My work picks up at this interstice. I wish to create a sensual connection – to the art historical element (our cultural past), to the artwork (our cultural present) and, finally, to the aspect of togetherness.”