My Frame Your Frame
Leeahn Gallery Seoul presents "My Frame Your Frame”, a solo exhibition of the Dutch artist
Katinka Lampe (b.1963~), held from November 23, 2023, to January 10, 2024. This is her
third solo exhibition at Leeahn Gallery.
It is conspicuous that the exhibition title “My Frame Your Frame” repeats the word “frame”
twice. What is a frame? Before anything else, a frame is a constraint. It conditions how we
see things, forcing us to view a specific object in a specific way. Lampe's paintings are
characterized by bold croppings, unique angles, zoom-ins, and larger-than-life
representations, which are various ways of creating a frame.
Lampe does not conceal the fact that her paintings are "photography-based", which doesn't
mean that she uses photographs as mere references for her painting. It rather indicates that
the actual basis of her oil paintings is photography. Before picking up her brush, Lampe
starts by setting up scenes using models, props, and lighting and takes photographs. At the
end of this process, a “frame” is already created. In a sense, Lampe’s oil paintings are not
only ‘based’ on photography, but are, to an extent, photo stills in themselves. This is why her
works often imply a sense of (although ambiguous) dramatic context, despite her efforts to
eliminate narrative elements.
Katinka Lampe's artistic output tends to be associated with the great Dutch portrait painters
such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Hals. However, if we look closer, her way of working
appears to have more in common with the French Impressionist painters. As art historians
point out, 19th-century French painters discovered the charm of the "unexpected angle" and
the “fortuitous view” with the camera, and actively used photography in their work. When one
looks at Lampe's paintings, it is hard not to be reminded of Degas, the master of unusual
"Is this show Instagrammable?" has become the question we cannot ignore anymore in
today's art world. The fact that Lampe's first solo exhibition was held the same year (2010)
as the launch of Instagram might be symptomatic. However, whether Lampe's paintings are
"instagrammable" or not is not a pressing question. The crucial point is that Lampe's work
raises questions that so-called "Old Masters" couldn't possibly imagine. AI tools that allow us
to transform a photo into a painting and vice versa with a single click have become ordinary.
It is highly probable that Lampe’s slow and labor-intensive process of transforming a photo
into an oil painting can be digitally automated. Lampe’s practice reminds the viewer of the
self-evident, yet easily forgotten fact that making a meaningful statement in the form of a
painting requires time. With every layer added, Lampe’s frames become clearer.
There is no doubt that Katinka Lampe's paintings are representational paintings. It is difficult
to claim that Lampe’s depictions of human figures are abstract in any way. However, they
have a quality that seems to have not much to do with the fundamental task of
representation. There is something that remains to be interpreted by the viewer on the
non-representational, or even conceptual level. The peculiar ambiguity inherent in Lampe
paintings is reminiscent of the dizzying effect one might get from a ‘detail’ image of an
artwork. The ‘detail’ plate in art history books is obtained by cropping and enlarging a
specific part of an artwork. It can make the artwork feel more intimate and familiar, but at
times it turns the artwork into something completely foreign and uncanny. This is because a
‘detail’ is not meant for aesthetic appreciation, but rather encourages the reader to see the
artwork from a new perspective. Isolated from the whole, the detail gains a certain
autonomy, compelling the viewer to shift their perspective. The sweet Verfremdungseffekt
created by Lampe's paintings does exactly that. Her preference for the term "painted
construction" over "portrait" is to be understood in this context. By creating frames for the
viewer, Lampe invites the viewer to take a step back from the flood of images that surrounds
us, to notice unexpected details, and to reflect on our condition from a new perspective.