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Janaina Tschäpe
Born in Munich, Germany, 1973.
Lives and works in New York.

A figure suspended from life inhabits a public space; a fictional creature of latex and inflatables dwells in a botanical milieu; an earthly haven of biomorphic patches loosely appears between streaming plant life. Janaina Tschäpe’s work, from her photographs and video work, to her paintings and cutouts, expresses a flourishing creativity attune to earthly landscapes, ethereal female forms as well as aqueous tones and biological forms. Indeed, Tschäpe is a wonderfully diverse artist, whose work spans across multiple mediums and amalgamates a sensibility towards nature, an inquisitive flare into mythology and has a deeply imbedded mnemonic quality.

Of Brazilian and German descent, Tschäpe commenced her artistic career by completing a Fine Arts degree in Hamburg, Germany and a residency programme in Salvador, Brazil before moving to New York for her Masters of Fine Arts in 1997, where she currently partially works and resides. Over the past decade and a half, Tschäpe has held exhibitions all over the world, from her native Brazil and Germany to South Africa, Japan, Ireland, France and Denmark, to name a few locations. Her practice has undoubtedly developed, too, from an emphasis on performance, photography and moving image-driven work to vivid painterly and drawing-based renditions. A matter of evolution rather than sharp transformation, Tschäpe’s work echoes her subjects by being in itself organic, an organism that grows and shifts in form over intervals of time.

At the core of Tschäpe’s practice is a blossoming association with the landscape. In her early photographic work, such as the series 100 Little Deaths (1996 – 2002), Tschäpe cast herself as the protagonist, lying amidst destinations she had once travelled to, from the Basque Country to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Physical transmutations rather than holiday mementos, these photographs or performances marked the start of an artistic process based upon building and inserting objects into landscapes[1]. From the ordinary to the fantastically outworldly, the insertions in Tschäpe’s subsequent series’ gained in amorphous quality; in After the Rain (2003) as well as The Moat and the Moon (2003), her objects - always her own self - appear cocooned in layers of fabricated costumes, morphing her into a bulbous white creature that inhabits its own fictitious botanic milieu.

From Tschäpe’s discreet to overt insertion of fantastical elements stemmed a more focused exploration of mythology. In Blood, Sea (2004), she was cast as a white or black-clad siren and captured herself in a state of underwater suspended animation. At once dark yet light, seemingly lifeless yet in ‘her’ element, Tschäpe explored the duality of these creatures, associated with both Hans Christian Anderson innocence[2] and Ulyssean wickedness[3]. The landscape thus also became a narrative source, a space for fairytales and fables, burgeoning monstrosities and childhood wonders; an earthly haven for the luscious and the supernatural, a space where the whimsical and the actual coexist in an outworldly harmony.

Tschäpe’s paintings and drawings are wonderfully vivid creations as well as extrapolations from her performance and photographic work - colour and form spread across two-dimensional space, filling it with light, warmth and that microscopic flora which dampens bare earth. Tschäpe’s paintings, in particular, are incredibly attune with the aqueous garden landscape she once inhabited and evoke the natural process of blossoming, flourishing and decay. The bulbous shapes inserted amidst greenery in After the Rain (2003) and The Moat and the Moon (2003) reappear as biomorphic patches of white and red colour in Tadpoles (2008) and yet again in Undertow. Loosely engulfed by sinuous lines of plant life, in Lair Triptych (2007), the organisms mesh as composites of an articulated botanical vision, resembling in their density a luscious Victoria Regia, native to the shallow waters of the Amazon. Garden loci of marvel and delight, Tschäpe’s paintings abound in sensory enticement and share with viewers a secretive world filled with burgeoning flora and fauna. In a contemporary society where increasingly the concreted cosmopolitan is what dominates our views, Tschäpe builds an inimitable rapport with nature, presenting it in luscious proximity for one to revel in its abundantly burgeoning vitality and variety.

Janaina Tschäpe is a highly celebrated international artist who has held exhibitions of her work across different mediums in prestigious institutions around the world including IMMA, Dublin, Rubin Museum, New York, Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro and Jeu de Paume, Paris. Widely recognised for her exquisite interaction with nature and the landscape, Tschäpe’s work is held in multiple distinguished public collections, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria and the Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporânea, Minas Gerais, Brasil.


[1]Janaina Tschäpe, “The Radical Terrain: Janaina Tschäpe on Landscape”, Video, The Rubin Museum, November 30 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IR9i8OMHp
[2]Little Mermaid willing to give up the sea and her identity to gain the soul and heart of a human prince. Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid, 1836
[3]Sirens, dangerous and beautiful creatures who attempt to lure Ulysses with their enchanting voices with the aim of shipwrecking his boat on the rocky coast of their island. Homer, The Odyssey, Book 12