Press and Media

 

The Phillips Gallery, The Brewhouse Theatre
Taunton, May / June 1998


Exhibition 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 dimensions.   

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, May 1998


Compelling Discontent

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 bill.

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 artists onward.

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 the eye.

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.

Robert Parker, Somerset County Gazette, May 29, 1998

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