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Miriam Schwedt, Installation view, Bonner Kunstverein, 2012. Photo: Simon Vogel

Peter Mertes Stipendium 2011: Lin May, Miriam Schwedt

In 1985 the Peter Mertes Wine Cellar in Bernkastel-Kues awarded their art grant for the first time, which has since become a recognized award in the Rhineland. The 2011 jury (Prof. Dr. Anne-Marie Bonnet, Dr. Gregor Jansen, Matti Braun, Christina Végh) chose Lin May (*1973 in Würzburg, lives in Berlin) and Miriam Schwedt (*1985 in Marktredwitz, lives in Düsseldorf), each of whose work is as different as it also stands on its own. While Schwedt’s photographs develop from a confrontation with the medium, May’s works evolve from an engaged outlook; both artists find their way to an analytical and, at the same time, a poetic pictorial vocabulary.

In her work—texts, drawings, sculptures and silhouettes—Lin May calls into question people’s dealings with each other and especially with animals. In Bonn, Tony Cragg’s master-class student shows—besides a relief of Styrofoam—lit-up silhouettes made of large sheets of black paper and colored transparent paper. In a playful way her motifs are woven into allegorical narratives that are marked by a critical view of civilization. Currency signs and exchange-rate diagrams in, for example, Nagheoleed (2010/11), flank the “Neolithic revolution” and link depictions reminiscent of cave paintings with system-critical discussions on the present. Concretely but also equally poetically, May’s engaged works shine light on the power structures and prompt the viewers to renew their thinking and actions. In her exhibition catalogue Recipes from Iraq, the artist does without photographs of her works and instead has vegan recipes printed.

And the works of the second fellowship winner is just as many-layered and reflected. Despite the number of photographic processes for generating pictures today, Miriam Schwedt concentrates on the possibilities offered by analog black-and-white photographs and produces her own prints in a lithoprint technique. The one-of-a-kind photos that emerge possess their own personal stillness: The finely shaded hills of the American landscape seem enticingly vast and eternal, and in the shots of a nightly construction site, the derricks seem to be performing a surreal dance. Besides these poetic characteristics, the works by Schwedt—who just finished her studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf with Christopher Williams—feature a conceptual interest. For example, by lighting up a group of trees in an extreme contrast or closeup, the branches turn into abstract ornaments, to fine lines or an allover structure. The idiosyncrasies that appear in the developing process tempt the viewer, while passing over the picture surface, to enter deeper into the small-scale works. In many ways Schwedt reflects on the parameters of early photography and formulates her own, anachronistic-contemporary moments of timelessness.