“IN THE FLOW

Witten Town Departments of Works, Witten (Germany), 2001
Opening Speech

We are standing in front of the paintings of Lisa Lyskava. If we only went by what we see, we would have to talk of the terrific gales raging across the canvasses; we would have to talk about the towering clouds of red and blue, and of huge green and purple fields. We would talk about soft hills and razor-sharp stone ridges, about golden palaces and sun-temples in which we are strolling about like dreaming idlers. We would see ourselves surrounded by glistening light and pitch-black darkness, and images and experiences would come back to our memory which we believed forgotten. And we would – maybe – be taken back to our childhood; our memory would play a trick on us, one déja-vu would follow the other, and in endless waves, like spray and water so to speak, we would be drowned in an ocean of color. – All these conditionals make it clear: It would be possible, it might happen! The first thing to stand out is the particularly distinct materiality of the color – one might even say: its almost physical presence. In Lisa Lyskava’s works, color is indeed matter, does not appear as an only shaped varnish, a soulless coat. Actually it is an independent object. Lisa Lyskava may paint a painting and work on it, yet the canvas does not produce the effect of having been painted on. Rather one has the feeling to stand in front of powerful, colored masses, in front of semi-transparent color paths which have been interwoven with each other and produced this painting only in their cooperation. Like an open window, the painting permits the outlook and the path into another space, another freedom, another time. Insofar to me, Lisa Lyskava’s works are not reproductions of anything, they do not depict anything concrete Odors and sounds, notes and picture-memories, philosophies and lyric verses, riddles and truths, music and silence.

Indeed, the viewer is received by a symphony, by a whole carpet of sounds and rhythms, harmonies and dissonances. On the surface of some of the pictures appear staccato-like repetitions, not unlike deposits of the wind and of the oceans, particles that have been washed ashore by eternally accreting waters. In the paintings, they consist of pigments and materials, wafer-thin layers of silk paper, sand or remains of plants. Lisa Lyskava’s paintings thereby gain a disturbing, harsh, impetuous note (Mussorgskij would be very pleased, I think!). On the surface, lines and movements of the color masses are breaking. The dammed sinks to the ground only to rise again one ridge further, like Phoenix, and to break off and fall down once more. The impression of the up and down makes clear the individual rhythm underlying and going through a work. There are paintings which are fast, which so to speak are sucking everything. Others flow slowly, almost in a shallow manner. Some are blinding, others absorb all light.

It is true: to Lisa Lyskava, music is an important means, is a clue (not a cause). Jazz appeals to her. Instinctively (for she does not paint according to music, she paints while listening to it), correspondences develop between the piece listened to and the process on the canvas. The rhythm is not only present on the surface; a rhythmic procedure underlies the whole painting process by repeatedly applying and removing layers of color which always leave only a hint on the painting ground. This lengthy ‘treatment’ of a painting literally leaves behind its traces; out of these, the most magnificent compositions develop, with diverse paths of pigments running through them and with light put underneath. Like in a canon, the same tones and sounds appear repeatedly, so to speak chasing each other across the painting from the depth of the imaginary, imagined space to the immediately visible surface and seemingly even beyond, till they reach us who are standing in quite some distance in front of these pictures looking at and experiencing them in amazement.

Paintings by Lisa Lyskava are like pieces of music or, better: they are like concerts. They contain the whole range of sensations and emotions that we believe to know. We might make the preferred music responsible for the absolute freedom of her composition, for the nonconformist, unrestrained, joyful-gaudy, colorful outer appearance, coming along at the top of its voice, for the missing construction, in short: for the abstractness of her paintings. We would be wrong in doing so, however. William Turner did not have a chance of listening to jazz. He only had nature and a, let’s say, different sort of music. Fate did not grant him the freedom of sounds (in regard to music). Nevertheless, his emphatic ocean paintings fill us with enthusiasm, almost strike us with their threatening, fateful force. Nevertheless we believe to hear a warning clarinet run wild or the hammering touch on a piano. He saw. He saw the glowing towering clouds in an approaching gale, saw the glistening spray and water that was boiling, saw the wind, the horizontal rain. He saw the elements.

In Lisa Lyskava’s paintings, too, there are these elements, yet perhaps in a lot more original way. And what seems to be similar and leads us to our memories is not the clarity of the structures or even their concreteness; what reminds us and makes us think of landscapes or an ocean painting, of architectures or cities rather is the capacity of the artist to shape the elements…

The decisive factor is what one sees. Some of Lisa Lyskava’s paintings leave everything open. Others quote themselves and their kind by using parts of previous works as settings that are integrated into the composition of a new piece. Using the collage – in the sense of her paintings, I would like to call it the ‘getting back’ – aside from the application and removal of color is one of her most important work processes. It is by this means of the collage that the artist produces the excitement inherent in a work. In doing so, age and state of the related former parts play an interesting role. They give experience to the new painting as well as something of the character of the previous one. They give it a further motive; they are like a new idea within an existing thought, like a different way of looking at it. Essentially, paintings are homogenous designs or at least concepts; they work as a whole. If this is not the case, the viewer experiences a noticeable resistance. By her elements of collage, Lisa Lyskava increases this inner unity of her works …

Stefan Skowron, art historian, Witten (Germany), 2001