Karina Peisajovich

Foam II
By Christine Buhl Andersen

The Argentinean artist Karina Peisajovich started out as a classical painter, working primarily with painting on canvas throughout the early part of her career. In recent years she has expanded the field of her painting to installations thought for the particular architectonic space of her projects. This does not mean that she has put painting behind her, however. Her installations often consist of images painted on walls, extending across several surfaces, and they make use of the architecture to create spatial illusions by means of large, geometrical forms, lights and objects placed in the room. We are concerned here with painting in the expanded field .

The work Foam II , created for Vestsjællands Kunstmuseum, is exhibited in a dark room. After a while, different colored lights appear as projections on a dark grey, rectangular field painted on the curved wall of the exhibition space. They fluctuate between different color values and extremely low light intensities. The tempo of the intervals is quite slow, and the title Foam II is meant as a metaphor for the way light and dark behave when different, colored lights slide in over each other in a constant, flowing motion, 'foaming' during sequences of stronger light that crop up between sequences of near-dark. With these low intensities of light, bordering on darkness, it is up to the observer to determine whether there is any light there at all, or just darkness, for the eyes are subjected to only a minimum of the amount of light they are able to perceive.

Part of the work consists of a small table which holds the lamps and the timer, placed on the floor in front of the dark screen. This clearly visible set-up resembles that of a moviehouse where a film is projected onto a screen, only in reverse. Here the light is not projected onto a white screen, but onto a dark field that appears as a kind of negative of the normal film screen. This makes for a paradoxical reversal of the movie­house situation, with the screen seeming to swallow up the color and light projected onto it, rather than showing it. Instead of appearing, the picture disappears.

This is an important point to Karina Peisajovich who is not concerned with creating the illusion that her images are generated naturally; on the contrary, she wants honesty in regard to the situations she establishes. Therefore the table must be seen, and wires, lamps and timer must be visible. What interests her is the question of how pictures are generated, how illusions are created, and how our perception affects the creation of the images we see. For Peisajovich the opposition of light and darkness is not associated with anything metaphysical or religious, but with phenomena that belong here on earth: Light and shadow are materials which she as a painter can use, just as she uses drawing utensils and paint. Light contains all colors, and if photo-graphing means 'drawing with light' in a figurative sense, this act is given concrete form in Peisajovich's work, for that is what she does in projections where light-drawings replace brushstrokes. Here the white paper is replaced by a grey surface, a shadow that swallows the color instead of showing it.

You can choose to see Peisajovich's installations as visual zones or landscapes in which the simple operations she performs tend to dissolve the structure of space and place the observer in a state of fascination and confusion. In F oam II she does so by means of the curved wall and the darkness, creating a kind of eternity, or dark depth, from which color seems to be emitted. The fact that light is trans­mitted, projected and changed by means of a timer - and that change and movement consequently occur in the installation - means that a time dimension is at work. The art historian Rodolfo Biscia has said of Karina Peisajovich's expanded paintings or landscapes that they repre­sent a kind of cosmic system where images are generated on the basis of their own laws and rules, and that over time, as you watch them, they become a sort of cosmos of light and shadow, constructed by Peisajovich as a 'complex planetary system composed of temporal images.'

It can be said of the installation Foam II that the images arising in this miniature cosmos border on the origins of image and color, giving us a sense of images in their deepest primal state and letting us encounter color in its darkest shades. Here individual colors lose their distinc­tion; they become dusty and flow together in a mass of light, constantly fluctuating and moving over the surface as if on a primal soup of color. In this way Peisajovich comes close to the physicists' explanation of the nature of darkness, since absolute darkness is non-existent; rather, darkness is a state in constant motion. Here it is as if the light is dirty and the shadow clean. You can see the different colors as relics of light, seeming to come out of their own dark shades of color. Or you can see the dark surface as the source of light and color. You can also choose to look at Foam II as an abstraction of Plato's cave: Only here it is light itself that has turned into the shadows on the cave wall.

Text for the catalogue of the exhibition The Shadow,
Vestsjaelland Kunstmuseum, Søro, Denmark.
Denmark, 2005