Helene Appel removes familiar things from their domestic environment and places natural phenomena like water puddles at the center of her paintings. In her first solo exhibition at Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, she presents textiles, potato peels, wheat grains, refuse, soapsuds, and pieces of raw meat in oil and acrylic paint on linen. In various formats ranging from small to large, the works appear so tangible and real that one cannot help but be pulled in by their presence.
While it only takes a brief moment until soapsuds have dissolved in the dishwater, we all know the way these foaming water bubbles look and feel in our hands - and this is exactly what determines Helene Appel’s seemingly illusionist paintings on raw, untreated linen: They put the beholder in familiar, everyday, and often random situations related to touch, smell, or taste, thus creating immediate associations with the object. The works’ haptic quality even tempts beholders to touch them, so improbable is it that what they are looking at is actually paint on canvas.
The potato peels or the pieces of raw meat in other works look as if placed on chopping boards; the refuse arranged as if randomly swept together. Yet each object is portrayed as detached from its spatial surrounding, which draws all the attention to the details.
The curator and author Anna-Catharina Gebbers noted in the exhibition catalogue of Helene Appel’s first institutional solo exhibition at the art museum in Goslar, which was put on as part of her 2011 Kaiserring scholarship, that the talented painter does not treat things like objects in her artistic practice, but uses them to create a parliamentary collective of the human and the non-human - taking a cue from Bruno Latour’s theory of the shift “from Realpolitik to Dingpolitik,” from pragmatic to object-oriented politics.
Helene Appel (b. 1976 in Karlsruhe) studied painting at the University of Fine Arts Hamburg and the Royal College of Art in London. She lives and works in Berlin. Her works are exhibited internationally and are currently on view at the La Gaia Collection in Busca, Italy, the Moenchehaus Museum Goslar, and the Olbricht Collection in Berlin.