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Come to the Edge by Iris Schomaker at Reflex Amsterdam

Next month, our colleagues of Reflex Amsterdam will present the first Benelux exhibition of Berlin-based artist Iris Schomaker. The German artist has garnered international acclaim for her expressive large-scale watercolour and oil works on paper featuring figures in various states of repose.

The show will consist purely of new works, ranging in size from pieces that are 2m40x1m60 to smaller works of around 40x30cm. Each of her paintings consists of an arresting close-up of a single figure, lying reading, resting, sitting curled up, unaware of the viewer’s gaze.

“My interest is in the private moment,” says Schomaker of the theme that has been preoccupying her. But this is not voyeurism, in the traditional sense – “It is more like a sudden glimpse – something unexpected. These figures do not offer contact. Their faces are blank, vanishing.” This blankness allows us to project on to the image, their very anonymity an invitation to the viewer to bring something of their own. Furthermore, the larger-than-life scale draws us in, enveloping us. Being in the room surrounded by these figures is a powerfully immersive, contemplative experience.

No longer entirely solitary, the figures in Schomaker’s newer works are often accompanied by a symbolic animal – a fox, for instance. They are more an idea, atmosphere, energy than a real animal. A spirit animal, there to bring a strange, irritating and inspiring energy. In muted shades of black and grey, with only the thinnest veil of oil wash in faded aquamarine or yellow, the overall impression of Schomaker’s palette is decidedly monochrome. Some of these new works, however, introduce dramatic notes of cadmium red, canary yellow.

The figures are resolutely not portraits. For the various poses she depicts, Schomaker avidly collects images of unknown people – photos, sketches, things ripped out from magazines – which she draws from and assimilates in her work.

The tension between the two-dimensionality of the paper and the three dimensions of her figures is cleverly wrought, evocative of Schomaker’s predominant influences – from classic Japanese and Chinese prints and paintings up to current graphic novels.

Iris Schomaker (Stade, 1973) has had solo exhibitions in Texas and in various galleries in Germany and Spain. She participated in group shows in Berlinische Galerie and at Frankfurter Kunstverein. In 2014 she was participant at the biennale in Posnan. Her works can be found in numerous public and private collections.

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