Anouk Lamm Anouk’s Sensual and Meditative Paintings Transcend Biography
Anouk Lamm Anouk often wears stylish sleepwear with their Yorkshire terrier, Sirius Grace Anouk, perched tenderly in their arms. “Since I was younger, I’ve always felt more comfortable communicating with animals,” said the 29-year-old Austrian artist. “They are pure in their intentions.” The outlines of lambs, cats and teddy bears are the main subjects of Anouk’s early monochrome works on paper, an aesthetic that attracted the interest of institutions such as M+ in Hong Kong. “I now understand that it was related to my autism and the need for a quiet environment,” added Anouk, who was diagnosed with a neurological and developmental disorder earlier this year.
At Patricia Low Contemporary, the Gstaad-based gallery where Anouk’s solo exhibition “Lesbian Jazz: Meditating in the Alps” is on view until October 14, Anouk spoke with Artsy about their artistic practice and the fluidity of genres .. They first explored their non-binary identity in 2014 through photographic self-portraits which they sometimes modified, a form from which Anouk has since moved away completely. “My portraits helped me cope because I had the experience as a girl and a woman in society, but I never felt like one,” Anouk said. “When I was able to find my real body, I realized that I no longer needed to take pictures.” With a hysterectomy already completed and a mastectomy scheduled, Anouk is getting closer to showing on the outside what she feels on the inside.
It is this subtle, internal sense of being that Anouk instinctively projects into her work, particularly in the “Lesbian Jazz” series (2019-present), where female, hairless bodies are rendered in delicate lines, their nipples and powder pink genitalia on display in different states of arousal. Closer examination, however, reveals undefined bodies, such as a headless woman or a couple in erotic position with incomplete facial features. Painted on raw linen, which adds to the feeling of unfinished work, the figures are of textural quality.
Anouk has garnered increased attention in Austria in recent years. They received the Strabag Artaward International 2021, and for their subsequent exhibition, “Grace and Grave are only one Letter Apart”, Anouk created a life-size canvas horse and a pair of interlocking man-bear hybrids in gloss, quilted in tissue. Although soft sculptures are part of Anouk’s practice, their exhibition in Gstaad draws more attention to the space within the work rather than the way viewers move around it. .
In the “post/pre” abstract series (2019-present), there are empty circles and semi-circles, and elongated columns that fade and disappear. “I wanted to create a lot with minimal lines,” Anouk explained. “I found that the work becomes more complex this way.” Sometimes Anouk will incorporate a gold-filled sun, but mostly they suggest a sense of solidity in the void, a spherical unity that contrasts with gestural clouds, shadows, and watery strokes. There is an element of dreamy, meditative transcendence.
“The abstraction was always there with the void in everything that I don’t show,” Anouk said. “One day I had this image of light and mist that I wanted to create on canvas, which became my gateway into the world of abstraction.” While these thick, curvilinear lines contrast with the fainter evocations of Anouk’s figurative work, there is evidence of the abstract “post/pre” ethos in the shadow figures, halos, and chalky white globes. of “Lesbian Jazz”. The abstraction in this latter series could stem from a sense of restraint against the art of their lives. Anouk lives with their wife of two years and studio director, Marleen Roubik, and the artist’s work has been confused with the nature of this relationship.
“Post/pre” leaves more room for the spectator’s imagination, while the “Lesbian Jazz” series, by its title, narrows the notions of lesbian desire. Even if the latter is positioned within the framework of jazz as a fluid and improvised structure, the series seems to divert attention from alternative interpretations of eroticism. “I thought about nudes and lesbian identities, and from there I started combining and rearranging,” said the artist. “It’s freestyle in the sense that you don’t know what’s going to happen next.” Through these modular compositions, Anouk complicates the expressions of bodily desire. But all of the jazz-focused visual beats seem barely noticeable, drawing attention to the fact that naming the shape – in this case, jazz – doesn’t make it entirely visible.
However, the subject of the work sells. The paintings for “Lesbian Jazz: Meditating in the Alps” have already sold out – not bad for a debut in an alpine environment where the culture of art collecting is more focused on top notch artists and a few mega-galleries, namely Hauser & Wirth and Gagosian, the latter which just opened its outpost in Gstaad at the start of the year. With another solo show already scheduled for 2023 at Berlin’s powerhouse König Gallery, Anouk and their work are set to go even further.