Patricia Waller - Guten Appetit!
18 Sep – 24 Oct 2021
The exhibition Guten Appetit at Leo Gallery in Shanghai presents Patricia Waller's provocative playfulness combined with absurdity. Her crochet work expresses the dark humor of the modern avant-garde.
Saturday, September 18th 2021, 4-6 pm
With her native Germanic reflective nature, Patricia Waller is regarded as the first artist in the history of European art to use crochet work to express the dark humor of the modern avant-garde. Beneath the seemingly innocuous surface of her crocheted works lurks a surprising richness of metaphor. From the disjunction of form and content, the counterpoint between kitsch and elegance, to the collision between innocence and violence, "inappropriateness" could be considered a fitting label for Waller's works. The contrasting layers in Waller's works give voice to a grotesque but fascinating polyphony.
Patricia Waller's adoption of needle and thread began during her studies at The State Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe. At the time, Waller was looking for materials not yet established in the arts, and wanted to become independent from the restrains of the industrial world and its machines. Wool, cotton and yarn, materials traditionally considered 'domestic' and 'typically feminine' in terms of gender perception, as was the 'anachronistic' craft of knitting, were seen as having no connection to high art. As the artist herself stated, "we women artists who work with it do so to reflect our status in art, culture, and society, using a material and method that one can call genuinely feminine." This becomes the first layer of contention in Waller's works, using forms disregarded by the mainstream view in order to challenge conventions and expand discursive boundaries.
Waller's works often involve innocent children, cute animals or famous television characters. However, the bright-colored, cartoon-like style often reveals a surprising undercurrent of violence. The gory elements rooted in popular culture added to Waller's 'childlike' subjects produces a sense of comedic absurdity. Although the artist has cunningly and with great skill constructed a facade of 'innocence', Waller's works are the recreation of real nightmares - they have never been innocent. These works are suffused with wry irony and acerbic criticism, almost immediately provoking shock and unease in the viewer, even if just subliminally. Wool is supposed to be a familiar, useful material that provides protection and warmth, but here it is used as a means of ensnaring or beguiling its objects. In the way Waller handles her works, we can see how human society deals with various forms of violence and the growing acceptance of brutality.
It is the precise portraying of the mental state of our times in Waller's works that makes their 'inappropriateness' appropriate. She wanders between the worlds of the mundane crafts and high art, effortlessly building an intellectual cultural maze. As the artist herself stated: "Through a provocative playfulness, I combine absurdity and oddity with a careful insight into everyday life and an eternal curiosity about human nature."