Ulla Maibaum, o.T, Aquarell,
Paier, 64 x 80 cm, 2005

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Ulla Maibaum, München

09. September - 14. Oktober 2006

The Speed of Paint - Reflections on Ulla Maibaum’s watercolour series

Writing about the early work of Ulla Maibaum curator Andreas Bee says: “Nirgends ist etwas Spektakuläres auszumachen und dennoch liegt etwas Bedrohliches in der Luft. Die Idylle ist voller Spannung...” [Nowhere can anything spectacular be detected and nonetheless there’s something threatening in the air. The idyll is full of tension…] An “idyll full of tension” could be a description of the landscape in cinema. The landscape is where the story hides. Where the next thing happens. Maibaum’s early pictures which consisted of juxtaposed strips of images clearly referenced cinema. These later images can no longer be said to reference the cinema. They have become cinema. They make use of composition, shadow and bodies in space as a filmmaker does and they capture the extraordinary relationship the audience has with faces we see on the screen, who are at the same time more and less real than we are. They are characters in a John Ford movie, both of and distinct from the landscape they inhabit. The pictures have the dramatic quality and ephemeral nature of the cinema and yet they remain paintings, with all the accompanying materiality and physicality. It is as if one could peel a cinema screen and take it home.
The works are in watercolour on thin Japanese paper and their very materiality makes them fragile. But though the objects feel like gossamer, which could disappear in a breath of wind, the marks on this paper are bold, dynamic, cinematic. The paintings may be fragile, but the painting is not. The pictures have two subjects - a man and a woman. Are they hero and heroine? Subject and object? The other and the self? The woman is Maibaum herself.
Filmmaker Robert Bresson, originally a painter, spoke of his actors as models. The difference he described as “BEING (models) instead of SEEMING (actors)”. They are there, for light to fall on and thus to be seen. In this latest series of self-portraits Maibaum does not describe herself in a role or in a persona. She just is, both in the landscape and in the painting.
These self-portraits are a series of double projections - the image of the artist on the screen is also an image by the artist. But instead of making the journey from projector to screen in an instant the images reach the screen through the laborious and physical process of painting. As a result the images take on an extraordinary quality. They move from source to screen, not at the speed of light, but at the speed of paint. They aren`t measured in hundreds of thousands of kilometers per second but in millimeters per hour. And it is in this slowness that they develop a cinematic quality. For the final dimension of the cinema is time. These images are still moving until they reach the paper, and then they wait. Like a reaction shot in the cinema- and quite unlike a photograph - there is something about these images, which seems to continue to move. They have tension. They are waiting for something. They aren’t moments in time, they are moments of time. They are pure painting and pure cinema.

Adam Ganz - Filmmaker and Lecturer In Media Arts Royal Holloway University of London