Hier sitz ich, forme Menschen
Text Susanne Neuburger
Translation: Lauren Cooke
Sustained by the intensity and impeccability of hyperrealistic painting, Julia Faber’s work often takes us into a grotesque and surreal world. However, perfection and discipline, pushing the limits of norms and taboos, are also Faber’s main theme, unless mythology or other historical hints play a vital role. These references are always balanced with the present, as generally a combination of old and new provides a kind of bracket for Faber’s work. This also includes the important element of drawing counteracting her often dense oil painting, as well as an archive of texts and documents which are not only important research material but also integrated into her works.
Through Eva, the Garden of Eden, or Prometheus human creation is addressed and mythological figures are reinterpreted by Faber anew. In “Eva/Prometheus,” this reinterpretation is expressed primarily by depicting a quasi “culinary” setting and secondly in an idiosyncratic experimental arrangement. In stark comparison to the color-accentuated elements in the painting, the “drawn” Garden of Eden in the background presents itself as distant backdrop to the foreground where a wide variety of things, animals, and props come together within one's reach. We are left in the dark about what happened, but perceive the half-eaten apples and the background as different temporal layers that suggest an action space. In this she often confronts her audience as a dubble protagonist, emphaticly and motivated, an audience she definitely knows how to win over for her issues with her glances and gestures.
Faber often plays out this dual role of writer and actress in a captious manner, such as in “Cyrogenic Afterlife” where she endures an icy beauty bath with closed eyes in a tub, keeping her cool. Not only does the artfully wrapped cloth seem to quote the old masters, but the whole scene evokes Jacques-Louis David’s “The Death of Marat,” an incunabulum of art history which Faber wittily and calmly reinterprets to a cyrogenic burn. She portrays herself as a female painter in contrast to male historical paintings or David's work. While in the upper part of the painting the clouds drawn on a neutral background contain little painterly information, the lower part, especially the area around the bath tub, with its reflections and shadows is richly painted. History painting, the highest regarded genre in the traditional hierarchy of painting, is not the reference here but rather the still life, which despite the insignificance of objects and its lack of historical dimension is regarded as a sphere of metapainting: often it is these still life elements that make Faber’s pictures shine and sparkle.
In her dual strategy of featuring as both author and protagonist, Faber faces the audience without shame. Being familiar with all breaches of norms, she turns common pictures into her own pictures and spaces of action. This also applies to her series of works in which she includes apparatuses and devices such as chastity belts, corsets, or contraptions for perfecting the body. Such gadgets have always fascinated artists and appear repeatedly in their works as reference models and prostheses. Faber uses them as historical references in her work and relates them to perfection and optimization, drawing on man as a biological technical hybrid “happily programs himself toward his own optimum” and thus, freed from the burden of imperfection, views himself as “creator and creature in one, an artist of his own self resting in finiteness.”1 Furthermore, Faber hints at the discourse of artifacts and prostheses defining the body that began with Freud, who spoke of a “prosthetic God.”He states in In his work: "Civilization and Its Discontents": "It is the bodies own logic, that generates the prosthesis. The body creates it's own technology."
Faber’s disciplining devices revolve around well-being through health and beauty and about prohibition and rules. Images like “Shape and Etiquette” refer to the material that the artist collected and on the one hand juxtaposes with her paintings and on the other incorporates in her work as quotes. Here again, the levels of painting and drawing play a role. Often resembling old engravings, the drawings emphasize the temporal character of the subject by sketching processes and point to the historical sources. The doubling or pairing of persons in her work are measures of urgency introducing a temporal dimension and bring the archival material to mind. In the presentation of her paintings, Faber frequently combines drawings and texts in this sense. These quotes often serve the artist as support for her issues. Making do with a few words, they provide a brief introduction or push the viewer, to see or interpret something. The search for perfection, which is generally played out as an option in the paintings, is an issue raised from various sides. Regardless of how Faber circles her subject by bringing up aspects for discussion, there is one thing that is out of the question: that, as concerns painting, perfection is always and at all times an absolute requirement.
1 Armin Grunwald and Justus von Hartlieb (eds), Ist Technik
die Zukunft der menschlichen Natur? (Hanover, 2012, 65:
Meik Bittkowski, “Faustischer Drang im Turing’schen Gewand.”