Phillips Gallery, The Brewhouse Theatre
Taunton, May / June 1998
of Paintings by Karen Lixenberg
The brochure promised a
"dynamic visual experience" which proved to be no
exaggeration. Vivid reds and blues make much of her abstract
work breathtaking; triangles and circles of colour that draw
the observer into the piece at the same time as appearing to
jut out into the room, making it seem an incredibly
interactive affair. There is much use of a grid-work
superimposed over the cloudlike swirls of pastel hues in other
pieces, which left me with the impression that I was peering
through a bizarre set of gateways into alternate
Karen is also a talented
figurative artist and much of her early work reflects this. In
several pieces the subject of the painting is connected to
masks, my favourite in this vein being the clown-child who is
juggling the theatrical masks of joy and sorrow. All very
symbolic, I muttered to myself hoping to seem like I knew what
I was on about.
There was another painting that
particularly put my grey-matter into gear: 'Crucifixion'. This
depicts two naked forms, one male, one female. The woman is
leaning back onto the man, with her arms stretched out. Ah, I
self-consciously asked myself, is her crucifixion the act of
surrendering to the male, or surrendering to love itself?
It was then that I decided I was
taking my role far too seriously and that I should let Karen's
powerful images speak for themselves ... it is clear that they
are extremely capable of doing so.
Spike, Art Scene,
There has been some difficulty in
getting suitable work to fit the dimensions of the Phillips
Gallery but Karen Lixenberg's work in scale at least fits the
Karen, a figurative artist, has in
the past drifted, she says in her catalogue, towards amore
abstract approach. Why an artist moves in a certain direction
can be known to them, but evolution is always a healthy sign,
a part of the perpetual discontent that compels the best
Karen Lixenberg's exhibition is a
thoughtful one and is divided into the figurative and the
abstract. The abstract forms she chooses are mainly geometric
and the more fiercely they adhere to this the better they are.
'Mandala' and 'Crack' are lucid in their form with 'Horizons'
showing strength in the receding use of imagery that provides
a treble think on the subject that is immediate and
self-explanatory. 'Elemental Shift' maintains this high
standard whilst 'The Balloon' is an extremely original angle
on what could be a mundane subject. yet in the midst of this
splendid hard edge work 'Musical Score' and 'Day On the Beach'
fall into the snare that waits for many abstract artists with
work that ends up looking like textile design.
'Kaleidoscope' and 'Curved World'
are a return to top form, yet inter-spaced with this is the
figurative work, none of which has the same bite. In fact this
almost seems to be the product of another artistic life,
'Drummers' and 'Holding the Universe' only going to prove that
modern versions of mythology and religion fail to tap into the
latent power that produces a Sistine ceiling.
The subject matter and treatment
of such subjects has a strong folksy feel that nevertheless
has the grim undertones where the real and unreal meet. 'The
Mask Sings', 'The Juggler', and 'The Family' all have a
self-preoccupation within the frame that makes them aloof and
sinister as though they have existence and purpose totally
unconnected with our own. The subject matter overcomes the
brownness of the treatments yet if there is a lack in the
exhibition it is the colour. There is a preponderance of the
same brown, Indian red and lots of blue. This, not Madonna
blue, not technicolour blue, or even sky blue but a colour
that heads towards turquoise, making it less than friendly to
Yet Lixenberg skates over this
problem via her content and precision; should the colour in
her abstract begin to sing, she could then become a very
formidable artist indeed.
Somerset County Gazette, May 29, 1998