Skiing

Oct 16 - Dec 12, 2015
Galerie Jérôme Pauchant, Paris

Skiing takes a cue from Werner Herzog's 1974 documentary The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner, positing the act of ski jumping (or sky flying) as perhaps the purest form of artistic expression. In her installation, Wendy White installs a multiple-canvas painting of Japanese champion Sara Takanashi on one wall, at the top of the canvas and mid-flight, opposite a portrait of Russian skier Ernest Yahin at the floor line, in the midst of a wipeout. The standoff suggests the triumph of women athletes and abject failure of their counterparts. In a concurrent series of Corporate Dream Catchers, White pairs brightly-hued tondos with custom plexiglas frames, adorned with the logos and brands of ski sponsors. Set off by deep teal carpeting that seems to flip snow and sky, the installation reflects on the sport of skiing as a death-defying glimpse of pure expression.

In these works, this immaterial moment is dilated, multiplied and separated from its athletic context, leading us to reflect on immediacy, on preparing the jump, and on pure action. These moments of glory are represented through two complementary frameworks: both with the images of skiers in action and through the logos of sports equipment brands. Symbols of movement and speed, mouthpiece of a glorious moment, these icons become paradoxically static when juxtaposed with the vibrating and gradient surface of the paintings which drip like melting medals. The result is a body of work that questions our relationship to media images and athletic performance through their "magic moments."

The theme of sports is not new in White’s work, which in recent years explores the frontier between the psychological aspects of athletics and its representation in contemporary society. The artist pays particular attention to the frontier between the work and the space it is presented in. Her large canvases are hung very close to the floor, completely absorbing the viewer. In addition, the floor of the gallery is completely covered with carpeting, softening the visitor’s steps like a subtle layer of snow. The lack of perspective and flattened horizon collapse and condense space, enveloping the viewer’s field of vision in a dichotomous tension between distance and proximity.

These works signal a condensation of controlled strength and softness, an attention to airiness and gravity, to rigor and letting go. When we observe the large surfaces of the works, painted with airbrush, we can almost hear the faint sound of paint being nebulized onto the canvas, a sound which in turn evokes the sliding and bouncing of skis on the snow. —text by Martina Sabbadini