Grotesqueries and Caricature: An Interview with Ulrike Theusner
Berlin, Dec. 2013:Ulrike Theusner paints monsters, beasts and brutes that are most frightening for being familiar. Her luscious watercolors, ink drawings and oil paintings are juicy with pictorial depth and detail while her characters burst and bubble with energy. Yet, despite these surface delights, her content is serious, dark and timely. Theusner’s images recall Goya’s grotesqueries and Otto Dix’s brutally seductive social caricature. Many of her characters wear historical costume, like ghosts staging a play, but she also directs sharp attention towards today’s political and social inequalities. Using wit and beauty, her work highlights contemporary culture’s poisonous absurdity and underlying moments of horror. Here, she leads us through the worlds that she makes, which are disturbingly close to ours.
AFH: Your painting The Secret presents an Anonymous activist holding his finger to his lips. Are you simply fascinated by or do you support the hacktivist revolution?
UT: I can see a general querulousness when it comes to politics in my generation. People are focused on their own success, while predicting a dark future for society. There is not enough indignation. I only support the arising awareness of political issues. Assange provokes debates about issues that would otherwise remain unnoticed. A change can only take place if you know about the system. Maybe the time isn’t ripe yet, but the Occupy movement is a start towards forming a political consciousness that is missing in the land of plenty. I wouldn’t say that my art that is political. I am only reflecting on circumstances and conditions around me because I can’t do anything else.
The Thin White Duke was David Bowie's 1976 persona and character, primarily identified with his album Station to Station (released that year) and mentioned by name in the title track, although the ‘Duke’ persona had been adopted during the Young Americans tour and promotion. At this time in his life, he said that he lived on “red peppers, cocaine, and milk”.