In 2014, she showed an outstanding exhibition at the famous Van Loon Museum in Amsterdam. The museum holds an historical collection of family portraits, spanning several centuries. The descendants, still owners and patrons, remain very involved in the contemporary art world, to which they dedicate temporary exhibitions. This time, they looked to push further, connecting the portraits collection with a large ensemble commissioned from Katinka Lampe. She worked on it for over two years. For the exhibit, she reshuffled the whole display in the museum, so that her portraits mirrored those of the collection, inside the rooms of this big XVIIth century bourgeois mansion, presented with their XVIIIth century furniture and setting. With over 35 000 visits, the exhibition was a resounding success, and resonated deeply with amateurs of both old and contemporary art.
Yet Katinka Lampe’s portraits of the van Loon family are decidedly modern since they mainly depict – as is customary for her – young people clothed with garments and accessories, verging on fantasy and masquerade rather than the protestant solemnity of the classical portraits. Lampe similarly twists the secular rules of subject posture by a striking framing choice, inspired by the way she shoots her models during the dressing up sessions she freely orchestrates with her characters. The frames, often close-ups, thicken the glow of strangeness surrounding a character, to sometimes form a grotesque, even grimacing figure – thus emphasizing the time discrepancy caused by the wig or mask it is wearing.
In her next step, Lampe draws inspiration from these pictures for the « painting phase » - without looking for carbon copies though. Unlike some contemporary painters – such as Gerard Richter – whose works stem directly from photographic technics, Katinka Lampe uses photography as an incubator for immersing the models in a phantasmagorical world and releasing their core energies, while allowing for the artist to capture their singularity.
At the same time the backgrounds are crafted like free zones: depending on the tones employed, the fullness of the monochromy either supports the power in the bodies volumes, or conversely lends a relative frailty to the character. The figurative lines leave the same unbridled autonomy to the colors. They often spread in slots dedicated to the motifs – which become props, defined only by an outline. Accessories, wigs, headdresses, masks, are now as many opportunities created to unleash paint through the smoothness of flat tints. Here, the density of matte color fully extends. To these abstract spaces respond, in the same pictorial space, subtle glazing. Its vibratory feel exquisitely conveys the delicate lightness of the skins, the evanescence of the veils and the crystalline sparkle in the jewels.
In another original exhibition at the Arnhem museum in 2015, Katinka Lampe partnered with a fellow painter, Marc Mulders, to create a contrasted scenography assembling their works, distant as they are. The abstract way of her Dutch counterpart is more specifically inspired by plants and its thick substance stands in stark contrast to the distinct smoothness of her own oils. Yet Mulders almost abstract strangeness starts a de facto dialog with Lampe's figurative world. For both, motifs are in fact subjected to their palette and vanish behind paint itself. As if they were not as many differences after all between each of their worlds. As if they managed to attest, through their plastic affinity, how the power of painting overwhelm all stylistic divides and stereotypes in which historians and critiques tend to confine painting.
This spring 2016, with Les filles du calvaire new exhibition and her solo show presented simultaneously at the Grand Palais for ART Paris, Katinka Lampe looks to once again shake up the art of portrait painting by creating two new collections. The solo show is presented as a series and draws inspiration from classical portraits as well as fashion or cinematographic imagery. As a whole it is designed like a theater set where mannerist icons emerge, their accessories (masks, tights or veils) connecting back to today’s everyday life. The experience offers surrealist reminiscences while some stylistic quirks remind of the whimsy in a certain chic and rock Anglo-Saxon culture, up to Alexander McQueen's punk ambivalence.
As for the gallery, the hanging here is different, more solemn, as it aspires to be a place for silence and contemplation before these troubled times. The painter gives us a portrait gallery, extremely refined in the precision of its lines as in the tones of its bodies, subtle and minimalist, resonating with contrasted backgrounds. Then like a neo-gothic homage, the paintings and their elegant density evoke the depth of the artist’s Flemish and Dutch art and culture. With her understated and empathic manner, this Dutch painter would like to evoke silence and to offer the audience a slight visual peace, as well as a spiritual relief. And throughout this remarkable collection, the artist explores a space-time in which her portraits rejoin that of History... Just for a moment.
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