Doris Ziegler - Das Passagen-Werk. Paintings - at the gallery rooms of Döbele Kunst Mannheim at Leibnizstraße 26

14.04. - 27.05.2023

Melancholy and World Theater
The newly discovered Passagen-Werk of the celebrated Leipzig painter Doris Ziegler between agony, departure and transition.

The gallery exhibition runs parallel to the first museum exposition of the Leipzig painter in Doris Ziegler's home region. With great success, paintings from the years 1977 to 2016 are shown at the Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle (Saale) until May 21, 2023. The title of the solo show there is the 1988 main work "Ich bin Du!" - a self-portrait in nude androgynous double form, provocative at the time of its creation, which is offered by Döbele Kunst Mannheim. The public and the press were unanimously enthusiastic about the unexpected new discovery of this artist: In March 2023, the reviewer of the Berliner Zeitung, Ingeborg Ruthe, wrote with fascination how masterfully and authentically Doris Ziegler succeeded in reporting "in an austere style on the struggle of human existence between political storms and self-assertion.

While the cabinet exhibition in Halle (Saale) features excerpts from the complete works of the artist represented by Döbele, the focus in the gallery is pointedly on the "Passagen-Werk" created between 1988 and 1994. This cycle of paintings is undoubtedly the main artistic achievement of the painter, who was born in Weimar in 1949, studied with Werner Tübke and Wolfgang Mattheuer at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig in the 1960s, and later became a professor herself at this singular "Leipzig School." In Mannheim, eight paintings from the "Passagen-Werk" are now on offer, which is already a novelty given the art historical significance of these paintings. Moreover, all the paintings come directly from Doris Ziegler's artist's studio in Leipzig's district of Plagwitz, where they have survived the political upheavals and art-historical reassessments, completely unnoticed by the public.

With all caution against superlatives, in this rare case one can speak without exaggeration of a real discovery, which can currently be traced in Mannheim and Halle (Saale) due to the dedicated cooperation between the Döbele Gallery and the painter Doris Ziegler in front of the paintings. In the works of the offered cycle it is the artist herself who lives through the turbulent scenes in the German-German contemporary events as in a world theater, mostly as a skeptical marginal figure in a seemingly foreign-determined staging. Doris Ziegler's Passages cycle thereby bundles the experience of a social transformation without historical parallel. In it, snapshots condense into an artistic panorama of "turnaround," upheaval, and radical new beginnings.

Her monumental painting "Große Passage" (1988/89) - also for sale at the gallery, but because of its size present as a photograph in the rooms in Leibnizstraße - concentrates this process in a frozen moment:
The personnel of the revolution appears on a bridge: integrated and apocalyptic, children and dissidents, Rosa Luxemburg and file-carrying secret service men. In the center, however, next to the artist with her son, are three people - a youth holding the candle, symbol of the Peaceful Revolution, in his left hand, and two lovers who both take their masks off their faces, still unsure whether they will not need them again.

The authenticity of the experience of this immediate upheaval, which is pictorially depicted within the Passages work, develops an aesthetic pull that is hard to resist. The quality of the paintings contributes significantly to this: Ziegler's paintings are all done in mixed media borrowed from the old masters, the layered painting with resin oil glazes over a tempera underpainting that was perfected in Leipzig, especially in the circle around Werner Tübke, and that the painter has used since her student days.

The two paintings in the cycle ("Ich bin Du!", 1988 and "Große Passage", 1988-1989), which were created during the GDR era, are juxtaposed with six works created in the first months and years after the Peaceful Revolution and the beginning of a radical transformation. In them, the individual biography of artistic obstinacy - but also facets of betrayal, condemnation, and tragic displays of loss ("Das Konzert," 1990; "Kreuzabnahme," 1992; "Absturz," 1993) - becomes at the same time part of an overarching urban and social history. If in the GDR one could long for an "elsewhere" in the still remaining splendor of the old trade fair palaces and the covered rows of stores, the place in the social upheaval became for the artist the exemplary cabinet of a human revolution and restoration comedy - in which the masks fell and, like in a panopticon, unfamiliar character roles forced their way onto the public stages.

The passage system of Leipzig's inner city, saved over time, thus became a symbol of radically turned conditions after 1989. This becomes noticeable in the works "Musikanten" (1993), "Hansahaus I" (1994) and "Hansahaus II" (1994), which are grouped into a trilogy in the cycle. They show how everyone and everything had to realign themselves. Those who already seemed to have fallen out of time and who now, in the transitional society, likewise do not feel called to the euphoric affirmation of new statehood, remained on the sidelines. "In the half-ruins," Doris Ziegler recalls of the time when these impressive images were created, "the human flotsam of this transitional period was stranded, driven by the insecure hope of finding a place in a society that was reforming itself."

Dr. Paul Kaiser

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