In conjunction with the exhibition”‘Women on View”, Chaussee 36 dedicates a solo exhibition to the Hamburg-based photographer Karin Székessy. Whilst the group exhibition ‘Women on View’ addresses ideals of beauty as depicted in advertising photography in which the portrayals of women are mainly shaped by the male gaze, Karin Székessy’s exhibition focuses on her nude photography, emphasising a completely different perception of the female body.
Karin Székessy is one of the most important women photographers in Europe since the 1960s. In collaboration with her husband, the painter, graphic designer and sculptor Paul Wunderlich, she developed a distinctive photographic style, deeply rooted in myth and the history of art. After her portraits, landscapes, still-lifes and photojournalism, it was Karin Székessy’s nude photographs in particular that brought her international repute, and these are the subject of her solo exhibition currently being shown at Chaussee 36.
It has been said of Karin Székessy’s nude photographs that she brings a woman’s eye to the subject. This makes such an attempt at a fresh view all the more compelling – especially against the backdrop of a perception of the female body still essentially masculine and the current reception and awareness of these attitudes. Székessy’s naked women seem less denuded and less voyeuristically charged. In the foreground of her nudes is a more self-confident woman’s perception. These women seem free, modest and almost unremarkable – they thereby become more untouchable, though this does not mean that Eros is absent, as was asserted at the time in the text accompanying her exhibition in Berlin’s Werner Kunze gallery.
Karin Székessy began taking photographs in 1954. She rapidly developed her own distinctive, surreal style in staged, photographic images with an air of mystery. Perhaps it is her sculptor’s eye that lends these bodies their self-assured presence. Karin Székessy’s photographs seem almost to have been carved by the camera. The play of light gives form to the mostly unclothed women’s bodies – outlines become sculptural shapes and generate a magical, surreal atmosphere. Székessy herself says about this: “It is important that the models understand the absurdity of my work.” At the very first glance, symbolic elements intensify enigmatic scenarios with masks and other cryptic props. She invents pictures and challenges us to think them out. Székessy’s pictorial metaphors are discreet and, in a distant, almost fleeting, yet highly personal way, evoke yearning and longings, but also ephemeral beauty. They are for the most part tranquil works, in which the relationship of the photographer to her models can be sensed. They do not have perfect bodies, so that their beauty is all the more natural. “I photograph women’s bodies and direct them so that they are beautiful,” says the photographer, adding that she also mirrors herself in them. These staged pictures become a species of self-portrait.
Staging is important to Karin Székessy. The artist has an eye for spatial composition and has mastered the techniques of photography. With her distinctive compositions of surreal picture puzzles, in which pieces of furniture take on the appearance of sculptural objects, well-nigh theatrical scenes come into being, leading us into unsuspected worlds where shape and form melt into the shadows and almost vanish. This moment of absence lends Székessy’s photographs a magical, even surreal, sensual feeling of hidden poetry.
Text Harald Theiss.
Translation Mark Harvey.
An exhibition organized by Alice Le Campion and Harald Theiss.
Karin Székessy – Sculptural / Surréel
April 12 – May 25, 2019
Chaussee 36 / Galerie 36