Contemporary Fine Arts is pleased to present rarely shown works from Ottinger’s early years in Paris in their new gallery space in Basel. These are not only stunning works of her own pictorial language, they also foreshadow Ottinger’s later cinematic idiom, which launched her on an impressive worldwide career as a film artist.
These powerful early works speak of Ottinger’s early interest in the then still young discipline of cybernetics. In La Vie Quotidienne, for example, a three-part painting laid out like an altar, a person appears in profile when unfolded, depicted as a sign and integrated into an interweaving system of technical ciphers. In addition to molecular entities, hearts are powered by batteries and ampoules are being filled. The morning coffee is transformed into energy that makes one reach for the telephone receiver, and funnels fill vein-like structures that feed anonymous persons. Below this man-machine scene, a motorcade is passing by.
While the inside of the triptych surveys the intertwined levels of everyday life, the closed version, “the everyday side,” as it is also called in the Christian context, shows a man walking almost stoically to work with his briefcase. The whole life – an interplay of signs and levels.
The artistic principle of montage and assemblage, which would later also characterize her film language, is already visible in very early works such as Montagne Magique, Ludwig II and L’ancêtre disparu. It can be assumed that working in layers also found its way into her visual worlds through her training in printmaking. The different, warmer coloration of the early works, which later gives way to a richer and more garish coloration, also feeds from printmaking.
[ . . . ]