On the opening of the exhibition „Holy Temptation“in the gallery Havelspitze by Rainer Milzkott
“I don´t even want to get to know them”, Julia Hürter says toward the end of our talk in her studio, which occupies the 3 upper floors of a new Berlin “townhouse” type building. The house sits on the Rummelsburger Bay, in the other “water city”, four kilometers up the river Spree from Alexanderplatz.
“Them” are those whose portraits she has painted and hung on her walls. The paintings are packed together and are waiting for exhibitions or collectors. They fill a little archive in the cellar, where we want to see more and more paintings. “Their” names are Naomi, Cindy, Kate, Angelina or Heidi. Yes, these very same women that we know from the newspapers, the magazines and the glossy magazines, the “models”, model women, saints of the late 20th and early 21st century. Julia Hürter knows them well, their poses, and their blank stares. She has been studying them for years, seeing them in newspapers and glossy magazines. At the moment, “Gala” is giving her the best impetus. Magazines are piled up in her studio. Julia Hürter looks for pictures where the models look “kind of delicious”, because it is not about superficial criticism. She is highly fascinated by the world of glamour, “because this world is wonderfully unattainable, because it has little to do with reality.”
The “glamour” comes from the Scottish word “grammar”, which refers to the rules of Catholic scholasticism, before it acquired the meaning of magic and conjuring in the Protestant interpretation during the 16th century. The Latin “Clamor” means uproar and conflict; even “Glimmer” and “Glitz” are included in the lengthy discourses about the word glamour by English linguists. There is also something fake and fragile hidden behind the word, and it contains rules, holding it together, making it perceptible for everyone.
Glamour is made for us, for the people who believe in it and work and consume. We are supposed to believe that a dress we wear will make us as otherworldly as the model in the photo. It is a guide, a se-duction, to a longed-for happiness.
The rules of Glamour always include the same expressions. Julia Hürter´s paintings reach iconographic qualities by putting the reduced poses on a radical detail and through matching coloring to pure flatness. The icon, Greek “Eikona”, means the picture, the true image. (In contrast to Idolo, the fake image or vision). The icon becomes the conceptual idea for religious symbols of the Byzantine church. The purpose of the icon is to inspire awe and to be an existential link between the observer and the subject portrayed; indirectly also between the observer and god. In the Orthodox Church, icons were not regarded as either objects of art or decorations. An iconolatry of all subjects and types was dictated; only in this way could it create the desired effect on the people.
In his discourse on artwork in the era of technical reproducibility, Walter Benjamin spoke of an “aura”, concerning the specific features of art that stands out for its uniqueness. He defines the aura as a “unique vision of distance, no matter how close it seems to be. „He sites as an example about the feelings an observer gets by gazing at mountains on a summer day. The feeling of this moment is not reproducible, because this exact historical moment will never be repeated again. For him, the inaccessibility is a curious feature of the artwork and can be explained by the fact that art evolved from magic - and later - religious rituals.
So, are we dealing with a double aura, when we see the paintings done by Julia Hürter? In a way, yes. Icons and glamour together are a powerful combination. “There are no uncertainties”, Julia Hürter realizes and she finds herself in front of a wall of meaning that no one has ever surmounted. She was led to this boundary by the painter Ben Willikens, with whom she studied at the HBK Braunschweig. She followed him to the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and became his master student. Willikens creates paintings of perfect spaces that are devoid of people. He became famous for his painting of the Last Supper, using Leonardo’s fresco as an example, and erasing all human traces.
For Julia Hürter, from time to time these mountains of meaning build up a kind of suffering that impel her to unmask the glamour by putting quotes on it, making it appear absurd. She perceives the writing as liberation from minimalism. She even takes one step further, and writes on paintings in many layers. “Secrets”, as she calls them, until the writing dissolves “in a longing for painting.” Julia Hürter’s liberation in some pictures is demonstrated by the running make-up that she applies with relish to some paintings, to deconstruct our knowledge about everlasting beauty: Anarchy – the absence of power, the power of icons, the temptation by saints, through holy temptation. “I don´t even want to get to know them”, Julia Hürter says about Naomi, Cindy, Kate, Angelina or Heidi. Heidi Klum “is the ultimate, even though her bottom teeth are crooked.”
Rainer Milzkott, November 2008
When Julia Hürter chooses the exhibition title „Glossy“, she reveals her very personal fascination with a contemporary phenomenon, and that is the technically perfect, demanding and highly aesthetic self-glorification and presentation of posing and stylized people.
In no way does she elevate herself above the hollowness of soulless media-frenzy. She borrows, from the objective distance the life-style magazines, that special image that, among other things, bears in mind the development of photo technology and film and print media, as well as the advertising industry, and, over the long term, is one of the things that will define the character of art of the 20th and 21st century.
It is out of this typical characteristic of this image that the artist develops her very concise language of forms. In her portraits, full-body portraits and silhouettes, certain models, actors, athletes and so on, some of them in extreme poses, are portrayed on canvas mostly in individual images. The gesture is frequently exaggerated; the facial expression is seldom relaxed, but rather frozen in a laughing mask. Julia Hürter picks up the plane aesthetic of print and transforms it into painted canvas skin. Thus, poses and masks are given new expressions as signs of transformation and estrangement, and the sensual act of painting gives back a piece of a living face. Nevertheless, her head and body portraits remain stereotypes of stiffness and reduction. We encounter surfaces without sensuality, laughing without expression, facades without emotion. Every picture is actually a claim, every face an empty promise.
Her works are her offerings to our fantasy, to our taste and judgment. They move in a formal area of conflict between objective distance and sympathetic approachability; ornamental coolness and contemporary expressions of one´s emotions; show and living physicality; temptation and denial; stylization and individualization; artificiality and naturalness.
In her ornamental and decorative paintings, Julia Hürter shows that beauty is nothing but an idea by creating a distance to her subject figures through her unusually cool, often glittering colors and her plane way of painting.
Dörte Lammel, 2006