Iris Schomaker: Between Abstraction and Figuration

Probing the boundary between abstraction and figuration, German born artist Iris Schomaker creates meditative portraits using little more than black and white. Depicting figures often lounging or sitting, Schomacker’s bold lines and geometric shapes contrast the relaxed nature of her subject. Seldom working from life, the artist compiles collages of photos, drawings and descriptions from magazines and music, which all contribute to the final, fragmented painting.

In Schomaker’s 2017 painting, Untitled, we are presented with a bird’s-eye view of her subject, who lounges across a rectangular shape resembling a sofa, while reading a book which the artist has left blank. The skirt worn by the figure is origami like in its fractured pleats, painted in Schomaker’s signature geometric style.

Her use of dense oil paint paired with pellucid watercolours, mirrors the tensions in her style of painting. Far from static, Schomaker employs the opposing paints in a way which allows the figure to appear softly in motion – gesturing at turning the page of a book, or perhaps shifting bodyweight from one arm to another. Untitled, sees Schomaker layer thin washes of watercolour to delicately offer a face to the figure. These layers of watercolour seem to mimic the effects of smudged charcoal, a subtle gesture which offsets the thick bold outline of the characters restrained body.

Schomaker describes the figures in her portraits as ‘in a moment of being sunken into themselves. There is no distraction’. Schomaker’s works evoke sensations of forgetting time and space, immersed in reading a book or daydreaming. Her paintings test the limits of figuration, exploring the amount of detail necessary to imply a gesture or create an atmosphere, simultaneously zoning in and out of the subject.

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