Inside of you

      Three colours predominate in the paintings of the artist Corinna Mayer, who was born in 1969 in Langen, Hesse, Germany. In addition to the strong red and blue tones, she devotes a separate section to depictions of dark-skinned people, painted in a brown tinge that reaches as far as black. The coloured groups do not replace each other but emerge in parallel. Between them, there are dialogues and transitions, so that one can speak of a trialogue rather than a dialogue of colours.

      Three colours: red

   The use of the colour red attracts attention. The meaning of colours in connection with the human psyche has often been spoken and written about. Every human being has his or her own reactions and sensations to a red or blue. There are, however, associations which have general validity, primarily due to centuries of tradition in different cultures. In his theory of colours, Goethe classified red as the "highest intensification amongst colours". Therefore it is often seen as a symbol of life and love. Corinna Mayer's colour variations of a striking, warm red seem appealing. The artist believes that the use of colour is always related to her own emotional state. Thus the extroverted red stands for an open attitude towards people. Corinna Mayer applies her perception of red to "Die Tänzerin" and "Die Nackte". In the group portraits such as "Cafehouse", the colour concentration is softened by brown and black, but the women dressed in red in various roles attract everyone's attention. Red is so much more vivid than other colours. The woman lying on the sofa in the background recalls the pose of Venus lying down, although she is not naked, but draped in a neckline dress with a side slit. The woman in the velvety, dark red front right inevitably reminds us of art historical models, and in this case of Renaissance portraits. In many of Corinna Mayer's other paintings, such associations arise, whether in a pose or through the entire figure - one has the impression that one has already met the characters in a museum or magazines. The inspirations are not limited to one direction; they are quotations of various styles from the Renaissance to the present day. Here it becomes clear how Mayer proceeds with her compositions: the small "dialogues" with art history or with other images from cultural memory are intended. Corinna Mayer works with models from her own, well-established collection of photographs and postcards. In addition to reproductions of paintings from different eras, there are photos of film stars of the 50s and 60s, from their films or from magazines that report on their lives, and there are press and advertising images from different periods. Mayer's archive does not contain personal photos but consists of publicly available images from often bygone eras, which we still vaguely remember, but which also feel somewhat unfamiliar. The artist recycles material from our cultural memory. She separates individual motifs from their surroundings and, as she processes them, makes it possible to see them in an entirely new light. The artist's working process is appropriation, without adopting the template 1:1. This compositional methodology, which brings together the aesthetics of everyday life with the art of former times, has been established with contemporary artists since Andy Warhol at the latest. Especially for groups of people, as in "The Party goes on", she integrates the found templates into invented figurations. The personal is, therefore, a combination of her own ideas with the prefabricated. Such montages sharpen awareness of today's reality. By fathoming the connection between past and present, they create something new and contemporary. They create disconcerting scenes that entice, arouse the viewer's curiosity and await decoding. For how do the visitors in the background belong to the three main characters in front? They can stand for their memories, for example, the austere children in black, who possibly refer to a difficult childhood. The whole setting with the assemblage of figures of different sizes looks like a family constellation. All look in different directions or are wholly absorbed in themselves; only the man in the front right looks out of the picture and offers himself as an identification figure in the composition. Corinna Mayer does not stop at the figurative. She knows too well about developments in painting, in which there have always been abstracted or abstract positions. The circles that initially appeared in the woman's clothing in "Flowers inside" or as bubbles in the party pictures became independent motifs. In "Flowers allover", they cover the entire picture without figurative integration. There is no actual centre or central motif here, the circular forms in varying reds rhythmically and playfully animate the whole surface, interrupted only in a few places by spots of other colours.

    Three colours: Blue

    Even though Corinna Mayer's compositional approach to her blue paintings is similar to that of the red ones, the use of blue creates an entirely different atmosphere. While the energetic red "jumps" at you, the blue colour gives more the impression of drawing you into the picture. It radiates a cool quality - which Goethe has already described. If you look into nature, the blueness of the sky is only an expression of the infinite universe behind it. Thus blue itself can also be understood as an expression of boundlessness. In Corinna Mayer's paintings, the opposite pole of colour to red creates an unreal atmosphere. The indirect light emanating from the computer screen illuminates the scene in "Talking to the Computer" in an unreal way. Also, "Astronaut in Orbit", a group picture in blue, seems surreal: is it a dream or reality one sees? The image also raises the question of whether different figures are intended or rather an introspective view of the different faces of a single person. The alienating colour seems to make it possible to address things that are further away from a visible world.

    Three colours: Brown

    In an extensive series, Corinna Mayer deals with dark skinned bodies. She also gives them dark backgrounds to create a harmonious, soft overall tone. Usually one sees naked or only sparsely dressed young women. The differentiated colours support their erotic charisma. One immediately thinks of the American Black Power movement, which issued the slogan in the mid-1960s: "Black is beautiful”. However, the artist is only marginally interested in this. She wants to refer to the deep dichotomy that still exists today between the longing for the Other, the Wild and the Stranger and the racist view of blacks. Since colonial history at the latest, we have classified people into higher and lower species. Dark-skinned people belonged to the latter category. In erotic male fantasies, the "exotic savage" also plays an autonomous, powerful role. It is precisely there that the foreign is the object of desire. Mayer's pictures deliberately dedicate themselves to this spectrum of such secret or taboo classifications, right up to the fear of the "black man," especially among refugees, who is considered wild, instinctive, and brutal. In "Mit rotem Tuch" the artist adds her typical red as a distinctive colour. It comes to an intense glow in combination with the dark body and the almost black background. The additional colour awakens widely different considerations: one can think of a halo nestling around the beautiful woman's head or of blood running down with all its associations such as life, but also injury or violence. Perhaps we can find here a reference to the past of the artist, who was a master student of the Austrian Happening artist Hermann Nitsch. She has been participating in his "Orgies and Mysteries Theatre" for years, even though her own artistic development has taken a completely different path.


    In his famous film epic "Three Colours: Blue, White and Red", the Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski assigned symbolic meanings to the colours. Those in the Tricolore stand for the catchwords of the French Revolution: freedom, equality and brotherhood. Corinna Mayer is not interested in such a symbolic charge. Although we can discover different functions of the individual colours, such as the openness of red, the distancing alienation of blue or the specific subject-matter of dark brown nuances, there are works that play with these different effects. In this way, the artist emphasises the similarities for her pictorial intentions. In one of the main works, the party picture "Dance into the sky", all colours meet under the guidance of red. As a symbiosis, the picture unites the artistic insights of recent years: the combination of the old and the new, the found and the imagined, the combination of more realistic and more abstract elements. ?In such a painting one is confronted with an abundance of possible stories, about the course of which one can speculate without getting any closer to clarity. Corinna Mayer, the master of allusion and alienation, reminds us in her often puzzling paintings about the complexity of human relationships, which can never be understood only externally. They are always also a reflection of the inner processes of the human being, both of the viewer, as the exhibition title "Inside of you" implies, and of the creator of the works. This is shown above all by the expressive faces. The eyes with their intense gaze directed at the viewer appear as if the people depicted were thereby granting an insight into their emotional world or even their soul. We suspect the figures are closely connected to the artist without her accepting them as "doppelgängers". By expressing various emotional dispositions through her protagonists, Corinna Mayer raises questions about her own identity in this world.

Ulrike Kuschel 2019