Article written by Misha Capnist on August 13, 2021
I encountered the art of Antoinette von Saurma in a very delicate period for my country, Italy, which is being the port of call, in the last twenty years, of one of the largest, perhaps the only, wave of (illegal) immigration from the countries of the southern Mediterranean. Nowadays, weighed down by the infodemics that we undergo on a daily basis, we find ourselves knowing many details of the world around us, yet powerless in the face of the suffering of a global population that, in general, lives below the threshold of dignity that has been established by the conventions and treaties stipulated by the political world.
Antoinette von Saurma wisely communicates the hardships of the world, she does not judge them, she does not denounce them. She communicates them, illuminating them. The cleanliness of her works can be read from the lightness of the stroke, the fineness of the colors, the juxtaposition between the compositional weights of her drawings. She prepares her pens herself, to accept and claim her independence in her role as a painter. She traces, retracts, corrects and, if necessary, crumples the paper and starts again. She draws, paints, assembles collages with a conscious grace-strong from her studies - and it is in this search for cleanliness that the classical academic path is recognized, beginning with the National Diploma of Fine Art, Johannesburg and continuing at the Meisterstudium bei Jorinde Voigt, Akademie der Kunst, München, to conclude (but only temporarily), with the title of "Master student" of Professor Jorinde Voigt.
Antoinette von Saurma starts from the broad assumption that we are nothing in the presence of Nature. Or rather, we are a wheel in the gear that allows her to function, and The subjects of her works are not chosen, they present themselves to her.
She deals with an issue, distanced - contrary to what one might think - from any social-political position: her art conveys, through the production and its contemplative process, a sort of meditation, of concentration on a subject, resulting in an estrangement from heavy moods and disturbing emotions, dealing with them with a combination of benevolence, common sense and love.
The delicacy of the sound of her pen and inks flying across the paper is linked to von Saurma's high sensitivity and humanity, which is extremely lucid about the global socio-political-economic situation, but her work is not polemical, it is not linked to cultural protests or claims of any kind. von Saurma merely illuminates and communicates a reality. There are no rough edges or frictions in von Saurma's communication, but an interweaving of compassion, knowledge and awareness.
Like a mother, Antoinette von Saurma entrusts her works to the world.
Von Saurma's artistic journey is translated in the medium of the works she presents, which range from gouache to quill pen, from pastels to pure ink.
In the series 'How to Fall Gracefully into the Sea' (already the title declares the ironic and hopeful detachment of von Saurma), for example, she uses inks and soluble graphite on stone paper and then exposes the drawings to rain.
How to Graciously fall into the sea, Series, courtesy of the Artist
The result is profoundly poetic because the painted water, weighed down by bodies sinking gracefully into the sea, is mixed with water as an atmospheric phenomenon, creating shapes reminiscent of tears or sweat or even, pushing the tragedy further, one might think that some of these paintings were found on the bodies of shipwrecked people.
The Disaster series, describing the dramatic events of Fukushima manages, delineates and traces clear boundaries between space and nothingness, recalling the French furnishing fabrics born in Jouy (toile de Jouy) born in 1760. These famous linear sketches remain suspended in nothingness accentuating their meaning and uniqueness, floating in the void of the fabric to defend their independence and claiming their uniqueness and necessity.
Toile de Jouy
The Disaster Series, courtesy of the Artist
With elegant sobriety von Saurma draws and paints the facts of the world and of life, silently expressing her refined thought, expressed through a medium from which her deep love and ineffable trust in mankind shines through.
I invite readers to get to know the totality of her work, to immerse themselves in the deep professionalism of her work and to accept the invitation to analyze the intangibility of feelings and the dignity of silence. Antoinette von Saurma's poetics become more comprehensible once we come into contact (I'd like to say collide) with a very delicate project – For an empty Album – in which von Saurma deals with the theme of immigration, loneliness, emotional fragility, destruction (again), and communicates it with her refined art of drawing.
For an empty Album, courtesy of the Artist
Von Saurma’s own words:
My father was forced to migrate as a result of the war, and he suffered a lot from the loss/lack of pictures from his childhood or of his parents […].
I once found and bought an empty photo-album. There were only golden corners left in it. I began to draw pictures that could be placed in the album instead of pictures. The album thus acquired a story […].
Later I thought about the fact that my father had no album and I started to collect photographs from my relatives and analyzing them carefully to see whether I could recognize anybody. I made posthumous album for him.
[...]Hence why I deal with catastrophes in art. I need to reconstruct what was broken.
In fact, For an empty Album is a jewel of rare poetry in which are embedded gems von Saurma has never seen, which are the imagined faces of a grandfather, an aunt who spoils her nephews, a genial cousin, and her sullen – yet full of humor – sister.
These images and relatives are driven out from von Saurma’s desires and imagination, based on memories of never lived life and never known people, with the purpose to fill an unbridgeable gap caused by the escape and the loss of a tangible past in which, in moments of fragility, sometimes we need to rock.