Nives Widauer (born in Basel in 1965), who studied at the School of Design in Basel, has been living in Vienna for many years, and for the first time shows a comprehensive solo exhibition in Switzerland at the Kunsthaus Baselland. Since the early 90s, Widauer, also known for her video installations and lighting design for various theatres, works as a visual artist, which is the exclusive focus of the exhibition.
A part of her works consists of interventions with found materials. Photographs, postcards, texts or even sculptures that she found at flea markets or antique shops become part of her artistic reinterpretation. The artist also gained great prominence with a series of embroidery designs — minor catastrophes (2006 — today), in which Widauer supplements the original images of castles, animals, various portraits and the like with motifs that often re-interpret the original image. Thus the embroidered pattern with the motif of a horse gets an embroidered bone through the nostrils in the final version, an idyllic house on a lake bursts into embroidered flames. Widauer’s strategy of combining is closely related to the respective motif selection itself. Her interventions are also influenced by the source material, but she doesn't necessarily set out to search for predefined materials. She rather lets herself be guided by the emotional content inherent in old postcards, photographs, engravings, books, sculptures, embroidery patterns, etc. The finds are often stored in her archive for years, before the artist makes interventions on them. With her interest in old pictures and her ability to read these mostly historical images, she prepares the base for her later artistic interventions. The combination of old materials with new and/or other old materials also contains the interconnection with the temporal plane. The past, expressed through the historic image materials, is superimposed with ideas or possibilities of perceiving the present, which are then capable of spreading into the future each time.
These superimpositions are also noticeable in one of her most recent works. In Lora et ses amies (2011) the artist complements coloured prints of different parrots by Edward Lear (1812-1888). It is well-known that humans have a special fascination for parrots. They are said to have great intelligence, their life expectancy roughly coincides with that of humans, but it's the ability to imitate voices, to ‹speak›, which forms a mirror-image relationship to man. The artist takes the colourful plumage, or the ‹dress› of the depicted birds, as a starting point to extend the illustrations by adding individual human limbs herself. These are mostly water-colour female legs protruding from the body of parrots, which in each case get an individual shape. Nives Widauer gives the works female names from literature, friends, or just her imagination. In this way she combines the real with the fictitious and outer camouflage with emotional sensitivity.
Collected objects and materials also play a role in her — mostly expansive — installations. In Global Globes (2011) we look at the well-known schematic representation of the world map, where the individual continents are composed of numerous globes. Widauer's creative work is characterised by the general view from above, the questioning of the world and its relationships, as well as taking up multimedia expressions and a willingness to share these.
Another part of Widauer's work consists of video works. In the series of the so-called Symbioscreens (2005 — today) Widauer combines two different media: a video still, which in most cases takes up a section of a video work, is mounted on canvas or some other fixed form. The next step is to project the corresponding video and thereby align the video still with the ongoing video. Without projection, the ski jumper in Balanced (2003) is poised in a frozen jump. With the video projected on it, the jump is activated into motion, where the fixed image coincides with the moving image only at one point.
For the exhibition, the artist also designed Settle/Aufraum (2011) a bronze sculpture, into which numerous video tapes were cast. Here Widauer expresses considerations for the brevity of the medium of video. She transfers the original material of the hard-to-archive video tapes into a supposed ‹eternal› form: cast into a couch of bronze we can now rest on. What we once consumed on the couch has now itself become a material on which we can sit down and reflect.
Text by Sabine Schaschl