by Caroline Kading
The representation of interiors which show in their hermetic concentration views of a failed utopia is the primary pictorial subject matter in Daniela Gullotta’s work. The evidently abandoned rooms do not portend an optimistic paradisiacal dream world, but adhere mostly to somewhat dilapidated conditions.
Although they are modern rooms for the most part, they have a retrospective character as well; they are rooms from times past that are now unused. Devoid of people, they seem to bear testimony to various stages of decay.
The spacious industrial halls, sacral spaces, prison corridors as well as a few private rooms simultaneously develop a mysterious effect. A suite of rooms that opens up one behind the other leads into darkness.
Or doors that open up to the left and right of a corridor into small cabin-like rooms. And prison cells whose appearance however clearly indicates that in mates have not been jailed there for a long time.
The traces of persons who once existed in them suggest that these rooms were once inhabited. With only a few exceptions they are places which have been occupied by many persons; workers, church-goers, and museum visitors.
The architecture is now emptied of life and the rooms bring the goings-on that once dominated here back to mind despite their motion lessness and tranquillity. The atmosphere transmitted by these views is mysterious and occasionally even dismal. Aside from the rooms that are literally left to their own devices, this impression is strengthened by the works’ generally reserved colours.
Gullotta combines photography with painting in her works, where by the paintings comprise oil and acrylic paints, charcoal drawings, and occasionally also sand and textiles which are integrated into the compositions and reworked. Wood seryes as the support for all the works in this exhibition.
The artist employs a limited selection of already known self-photographed vìews of interiors as motifs which she varies in each restaged picture, where by she regularly expands her repertory of motifs through photographs of new places. The viewer’s glance continuously oscillates on the picture surface between the architecture’s enormous sharpness and depth.
This is brought about by the almost imperceptibly integrated photographs as well as the sketch-like sections which have been reworked by means of painting that remaìns vague in its haziness. Constitutive for the individual work is an evidently relatively long genesis which is a consequence of the collage technique she employs.
The compositions dominated by various hues of white, grey, and black increasingly grow more concentrated due to the gradual reworking, where by the artist works outwards from the middle and the density of each motif is relaxed from the centre towards the periphery . The substance of this pictorial invention comprises the fact that the use of painting alters the meaning of the underlying photographic imagery.
The painting transfers the architecture in the photographs into cultural spaces. ln the rhetoric that is the determining factor behind these rooms, Daniela Gullotta’s works by all means display parallels to Anselm Kiefer’s (b. 1945) early views of rooms. His compositions such asinnenraum,1981 or Sulamith,1983 – without individual s and closed towards to the outside – are similarly often arranged according to the principles of central perspective and are characterized by a comparably claustrophobic atmosphere.
A romantic effect that emanates from Kiefer’s early views of rooms is a further common feature. These works are not aimed at fixing s pecific topographies; they deal with the German past and for this reason they thus prove to be monuments to National Socialism’s failed arrogant and foul empire. The content of Daniela Gullotta’s views of museums, church interiors, or staircases tends to be universal.
They are monuments to Western culture. Monuments to an epoch that has lost its objective and hence its purpose; it is no longer necessary to expand its impulse. Her works can also be seen as relicts of particular cultural hopes that have not been fulfilled. The vacant factory and plant halls thus belong to the era of the lndustrial Revolution which began in the nineteenth century and which the pictures present as a failure.
ln their ruinous state and their abandonment they refer to a broken modernism. This is also figuratively expressed in the two media employed by the arist: in a certain sense photography stands for the industrial age and is super imposed by painting that symbolises the Western cultural tradition. That the views appear as if they were sealed airlight towards the outside can furthermore be traced back to painting. Nothing can escape.
But similarly, nothing can penetrate it from the outside. The emphasised materiality of the works runs analogue to the pictorial area that is evenly filled with detailed pictorial elements. Arranged mostly in accordance with central perspective, the compositions receive a strong pull towards the centre of the picture due to the extreme cascading of the axial alignments.
lt almost seems as if the opaque layers of paìnt are blocking the photographs’ illusionist depth and transparency. The three-dimensional views that in fact create an impression of depth by means of their cross-faded detailed structures are therefore ultimately shown to be inaccessible. Contrary to photography’s inherent character they prevent admittance and create dìstance.
Gullotta’s archìtectonic spaces receive a certain authority because they are based on recognisably tangible architecture. The works are never the less not empirical despite their authentic material. They do not illustrate reality. The neutrality of a specific place is cancelled out in favour of a rhetorical statement.
Some of Daniela Gullotta’s works, especially those wìth staircases and flights of winding stairs, recall the Carceri d’lnvenzione suite from 1745 by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720- 1778). He developed these engravings of putative prison views from the motifs of Roman industrial structures which he reassembled into surreal visions of rooms.
Like Gullotta, Piranesi connects solitude with monumentality in his romantic vedute. Piranesi recalled the grandiosity of the architecture of a past time in his compositions, ancient Rome’s engineering structures which he studied there. ln retrospect, his stand point proves to be unconventional and old-fashioned because the architectural theory of that time oriented itself on the classical ideal of the then recently rediscovered architecture of Ancient Greece.
Gullotta’s visions, although they are captured in an abandoned and destroyed state, paradoxically also seem to honour the architecture of the immediate past. Her interiors contain an exquisite component through their staged lighting and the sparing use of colour accents. Especially the views of industrial spaces are glorifying and idealise the architecture as monuments.
At the same time she does not employ her pictures rhetoric silently and unnoticeably. On the contrary – the monumental compositions with their extreme use of perspective seem bombastic and grandiose. What is more, the fictional spaces do not manifest an ironic dealing with culture; rather the works are characterized by a sincere seriousness.