This new gallery season, we proudly present a series of new works by artist Alexandra Leykauf (1976, Nürnberg, DE). This exhibition introduces you not only to her ongoing series of silver gelatin emulsion paintings, but a new set of ethereal glass mirrors that reference ancient Germanic myths of creation. Leykauf draws from a vast collection of landscape paintings, having over time appropriated depictions of landscapes from books and magazines. The work begins when Leykauf experiences from such works a sense of being observed by them. Her process involves an active deployment of pareidolia - the tendency for the human mind to interpolate meaning in disjointed forms, in the work of Leykauf this takes the form of faces. Such faces are drawn out of the nebulous landscape to recreate and capture this sense of being observed, effectively reversing the relationship between human observer and landscape.
Using light-sensitive photographic emulsion within a darkroom, she captures the faces she witnesses within each work: visages predetermined by the landscape. In this way, we become the object of nature’s observation: as the emulsion is exposed the faces emerge to stare back at us. Leykauf argues that this ‘humanisation’ whilst seen as unscientific, forms the basis of an empathy towards the natural world - in contrast to an objectification that has caused so much ecological devastation. Leykauf’s work throughout her practice presents an effort to personalise the world around her, and in this way grant it human qualities: character and personality such that we might return to it our own sense of a right to agency.
Meanwhile, Leykauf’s ‘stick men’ are informed by rare examples of prehistoric Germanic and Celtic art. In the Germanic genesis story, the origin of humanity was thought to have begun when two tree trunks washed up on the shore and became the first human couple. As such, objects thought to represent Gods and Goddesses were made of roughly carved wood simply by adding a mouth or a face. The earliest of such artworks date back to 500 BC and the most recent were sculpted around 600 AD and are thought to have played an important role in the cultural rituals of the time. Each of these art objects have been recovered from history, having been preserved in deep bogs. The crudeness in their making is not thought to stem from a lack of skill - much work of the same period was highly elaborate - but instead, the ease with which the human mind can extract human forms from the non-human. This can be done with very little intervention (simply adding eyes or a mouth) and simultaneously allows us to project ourselves onto the forms. The mirrors, much like the ‘stick men’ themselves, provide both a literal and figurative opportunity to witness ourselves within the work. These idols, having been kept abstract - provide space for the imagination to invent.