10 – 29 September, 2016
Wagner Contemporary, Hampden St, Paddington NSW
In this new body of work Dagmar Cyrulla continues her ongoing exploration into the private lives of individuals played out behind closed doors. Cyrulla’s anonymous female figures take centre stage in these artfully constructed mise-en-scènes, and drive the ambiguous narratives that take place. Often depicted naked and engaged in various scenarios, the female body becomes a vessel for the artist’s enquiry into the many roles, public pressures, and private pleasures that occupy women in the domestic space.
These paintings are steeped in colour, and Cyrulla’s use of it is rich and skillful. Colours are often associated with emotions, as they reflect and influence different emotional states. In this exhibition Cyrulla wields colour as an instrument of mood and atmosphere. Through it she seeks to immediately engage the viewer and encourage a connection with her paintings. In exploring the realm of intimate personal relationships where emotions reign supreme, the artist taps into the ability of colour to stir up otherwise hidden landscapes of feeling and unspoken desires.
In each painting Cyrulla restricts her palette to a set of typically 6 or 7 colours that can alter dramatically between works. Yet within this overarching chromatic control, the artist is driven by a largely intuitive approach. She describes the act of painting as a wrestle with the medium to achieve a certain feeling, while also convincingly capturing other essential elements such as space, light and form. It’s a struggle Cyrulla is clearly winning if these current paintings are any indication, as they reveal a new level of creative maturity honed over many years of dedication to her practice.
In this exhibition Cyrulla paints some of the multifaceted public and private roles that women inhabit in contemporary life. Her Amour series show a nude couple in physically intimate scenarios. Within these more sexually charged works, it is always the woman who appears in control of the situation, advancing upon the more passive male. Flipping gender stereotypes on their head, empowered sexuality emanates from the action of the nude woman who unlike her male counterpart, is rendered in convincing three-dimensional form. Conversely her consort is loosely sketched into the picture plane and almost dissolves into his surrounds, cementing the fact that these pictures are firmly centred on the feminine experience.
In some works Cyrulla considers the pressures placed on women to meet social conventions of female attractiveness. In her Doing what a girl has to series, women are depicted in front of the bathroom mirror in their underwear, or shaving their legs in the bath – always applying a scrutinizing gaze to their own bodies. These works are executed with a cool analytical light in icy greens and blues – a marked contrast to the golden ambers and fiery reds of Cyrulla’s Amour series, and its theme of passionate abandon.
The sense of exposed human vulnerability contained in the Doing what a girl has to paintings culminate in Cyrulla’s series of small self-portraits. In our age of endless filtered selfies that aim to present the perfect self-image, the unflinching honesty conveyed in these paintings is arresting. Turning her gaze back onto herself, the results are raw and profoundly moving, as though through searching brushstrokes the artist interrogates more than just her physical reflection.
Finding the poetry in otherwise passing moments, Cyrulla disarms her viewer with the honesty imbued in these paintings. She has created a body of work that is difficult to forget.