With her latest works Eternal Sadness / Sorrow, Tina once more shows what she does best: all the loathing of the world wrapped in the most perfect appearance.
Tina Winkhaus’ work “Eternal Sadness” (2009) considers themes ranging from a little girl’s dream of becoming a princess to competitive beauty, as well as the senselessness of pure representation. The images, which show children transformed into mini-models, are imbued with a sense of sadness and loneliness. Seeming more dead than alive – the small children are squeezed into a superficial shell of the adult world like vacant-looking dolls, completed with glamorous dresses, hairspray, and make-up.
Posed as if shot at one of the numerous child beauty pageants, which became not only popular but also a lucrative business in the United States in the 1960s, the images are portraits of adult impersonations, children lost in a world they neither fit into nor understand. The girls' dresses appear more like costumes, their heavily made-up faces resemble artificial masks.
What is not illustrated here are the responsible authorities, the parents whose presence one senses in every scene. It is they who are using these children as representations of their own image of perfection, it is their ideal of beauty which is being presented and it is their unquestioning ethics of which one is aware when considering these children presented in such circumstances before us.
The last seven or perhaps five years of Tina Winkhaus’ art are, actually clear only in outline. They present a broad pattern, but we are no longer able to plot her evolution month by month, grasping what came after what and seeing the reason. What can certainly be said is that her art is no longer just a diary of a singular eye. In two distinct ways Tina has struggled to amplify its content – a struggle that her natural restlessness, her dissatisfaction with continuing to do something that she can (as saying goes) do only too well, as well as her curiosity about the resources of art that she has left untried, have sometimes helped, sometimes hindered… The two ways in which Tina has tried to extend her art are these: she has tried to enrich the visual findings of the eye with a depth of feeling to which she couldn’t reach as a younger woman, and she has also tried to implicate the eye, thus enriched, into the very scene that it seems to record. At times the two aims pull apart. For instance, Tina’s most impressive attempt to increase the expressive power of her work is undoubtedly the Little Red Riding Hood, which she executed in early 2004. What the technique of this series in effect amounted to is that the figures, the props and the backgrounds were shot separately and the whole image brought into existence within a projective system other than linear perspective. The series has an extraordinary emotional charge.
But the emotions are solitary emotions: they are loneliness, hopelessness and anxiety. In this respect, the Little Red Riding Hood (along with Mensch-Maschine, Self-portrait and Heroes series) form a path that leads away from the more involved, the more participatory, art that Tina was simultaneously trying to construct. One of the most touching works of the latter is Disparates – a free form improvisation upon Goya’s Cappriccios, bold, dark, nearly monochrome five-piece series which definitely represents Tina as someone trying to learn from life. Learning, where this includes wanting to learn, not being afraid to learn, not being afraid to show that one has something to learn, is anyway a big theme in Tina’s work. Learning appears as a way of staying young, staying in the scene, perhaps of staying alive, and also as a way of growing up, perhaps of facing misery and death. Logically evolving from that point the latest series Hope/Urban Melancholy has reached the level of expression, which blends optimism and desperation in such a concoction, that it almost hurts. If she has not seen Paula Rego’s The Barn, is virtually an answer to it, the reccurence of the motif must be a sign that there is an alternative symbolic structure appropriate to the self-defying female (as distinct to feminine) imagination.
By entering into the imagery of the bestiary of childhood, Tina discovered a new language in which to express her own status as unrepentant outsider and finally once and for all overcame the eclecticism of her artistic beginning, becoming virtually incapable of an ugly line or an inelegant juxtaposition and too sane to work at the obsessive space-filling that is typical of most outsider art. Since late 2004 Francisco Goya remains the major conscious source for Tina’s work. And for this too there are reasons. After all there are still several strong links that bind Goya and Tina together. In the first place Goya too has been someone for whom his life has been the chosen content of his art: and in this case, too, life has been given a broad reading so as to encompass the trivialities, the quirks, the little tricks, of existence. Secondly, Francisco Goya and Tina Winkhaus, whatever either may say, have both been artists for whom the represented figure has always been more significant than the space, or even the representation of the space, in which it stands.
And thirdly – and the links are mixing bag – both artists have injected into their works a powerful, ambiguous sense of death. In Tina’s art there is none of the omnipotence that Goya’s work exudes, and instead there is a sensibility close to Millais’ in which trivial suddenly, abruptly, but still abjuring solemnity, stands for the transient. It is not often given to women to recognize themselves in pictures, still less to see their private world, their dreams, the insides of their heads, projected on such a scale and so immodestly, with such depth and craft. After the violation of Balthus’ keyhole vision, feminists hardly dared to hope that a woman artist could reassert woman’s mystery and restore her intactness. Tina Winkhaus’ pictures are full of merciless kids, humorous animals and vessels of ambiguous content. Her art quiver with an anger and compassion of which we have sore need. Now that she has hit her stride, let us hope that she will run and run.
place & year of birth
Galerie Lichtpunkt, München
Bayerische Staatslehranstalt für Photography, München
Years of study in New York City & London
lives and works in Berlin
Contemporary Art Ruhr, ‘New Romantic’, Galerie Art Affair, Regensburg
Hope, Galerie Lichtpunkt, Munich
Hope, Galerie Tristesse, Berlin
Disparates, inspired by Goya, Galerie Kunstagenten, Berlin
Disparates, inspired by Goya, Apartment, Berlin
Feedback, Moussonturm, Frankfurt am Main
Beat Me with Your Love, Grazer Kunstverein, Regensburg
Feedback, Galerie Neurotitan, Berlin
Betriebstemperatur, Gruppenausstellung Grazer Kunstverein, Regensburg
Perspektiven_oder Mythos wird mit ue geschrieben, Galerie Engler, Berlin
Berliner, Magazine for 'Urbanity, Culture, Politics;
De:Bug, Magazine for Music, Medien, fashion and art
Revista Metal, Lifestyle & Art, Barcelona
Booklet, Photographic Brainstorm
Style , Magazin für Music, Fashion, Culture
Winner of the International Portrait Photography Award APPI
Nominated for ‘The Annual Photography Awards 2007’ in fine arts