Psyche and Eros

Commentary on the works of Larissa Strunova-Lübke

Dr. Stefan Scholz

The works of Larissa Strunova-Lübke need space. Not only because they are large canvasses, but also because of their strong colours and the intrinsic tension between contemplation and the ecstatic movement of her figures. They demand time and an alert eye. Only after the second or third look one can discover the colours and lines representing faces and fragmentary figures hidden from the observer at the first cursory glance. Woman, Man - Man, Woman - Man, Woman - Woman, Man; Larissa Strunova-Lübke's important theme is the human being, not only in its gender-specific individuality but also in relation to an opposite number, whichever gender this may be. The artist thinks and feels in colours. The arbitrary placement of these colours on the canvas gradually becomes an artistic expression derived from intuition which eventually tracks down what Man is. Larissa Strunova-Lübke meets the task of sounding out the depth of human identity using artistic means, knowing that one will never come to an end. One and the same motif always finds a new and different graphical realisation. A mere repetition of spiritual, religious or philosophical traditions, not to forget art history is not enough when it comes to the existential confrontation of Man with himself. It demands an individual expression.
Ancient Greek philosophy understands this confrontation as the concept of body and soul. Greek mythology describes the relationship of the sexes in e.g. the myths about Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who weds Ares, the god of war. Their mutual son ist Eros. As well as arousing the desire for self-abandon he is able to drag down or to raise Man into a whirl of desire and lust. Aphrodite owes her birth to the fall and castration of Uranos by his son Kronos. The sperm of Uranos' cut-off organ spills into the uterus of the sea and forms the body of the new goddess. From an act of violent revolt comes love into being. In Aphrodite's entourage there are gods and demigods. Their opposing influences make love a fulfilling as well as an estranging element for gods and men. Eros awakens the want to surrender. Himeros lights the fire of desire, the Charites embody the virtues and the grace of love. Peitho, the goddess of persuasion, on the other hand, leads people into liaisons often having a tragic ending. The horae control everything. As they have control over time they try to bring the opposing forces of love into a sensible heavenly order. Her choice of husbands is baffling. In the first marriage Aphrodite offered herself to Hephaistos. In the middle of the earth he worked with fire to melt bronze. In the heavenly world Hephaistos embodied the rough doer type without much of a sense of passion. This insensitivity may have eventually driven Aphrodite into the arms of Ares. Ares liked war for war's sake and so was looked at with mistrust and hatred by the gods on Mount Olympus. He was tolerated by the higher gods rather out of obligation than out of love. Perhaps they hoped his destructive temperament might be softened by Aphrodite's pleasant nature. Fighting, terror and fear, the chaotic driving forces of battle and the deamons of death served him in his art of war. The myths are always about men and women and their developing personal dramas, up to the point where a yearning fulfills itself in one of the lovers. This fulfillment tragically transforms itself into boredom, jealousy and violence, until this excessiveness leads to a feeling of emptiness and expresses itself in new desires, hoping that the circle of searching closes itself in one person and ends there.
Eros leaps out of Larissa Strunova-Lübke's paintings as the graceful seducer, as a lascivious gesture, a rape-like appropriation, an ecstatic resolution, a reserved self-abandon, wrestling with himself and an opposite number.
Centrifugal and centripedal forces in love's wake seem rather to tear Man apart than to bring him to himself. How can one speak of human identity with a view to those diametral driving forces of Eros. In ancient Greek philosophy psyche describes the nature of mankind. The philosophers were kept busy with finding out how body relates with Eros and psyche relates with Nous, which embodies reason. Plato only saw a loose connection between the two. The best thing would be if Man lost his corpus as soon as possible, because desire gives birth to passions, which lead to disappointment and suffering, and war. Reason, on the other hand, looks to avoid suffering and to put itself into the world of ethereal ideas and to find fulfilment there.
Reason, based on philosophical principles, is like an experienced charioteer, leading the noble impetus of Man and his dangerous animalistic passions, like two horses pulling the chariot, onto the cultured trail of spiritualisation.
The body and its forces destroy the human being. The body is a prison for that which defines the nature of Man; the psyche.
Aristotle saw Man as a unity of body and soul. The psyche is the shaping force which leads the human body to its goal. The soul has no need to reside indefinitely in the body as it expects that it will move on as soon as possible. The psyche has an affect on the whole body. It forms the human body and is present in every aspect. Although body and soul can be recognised as separate entities, they are inseparable.
The influence of the philosophical anthropologies of Plato and Aristotle with their different ways of looking at humankind can be found in the western ethic.
Larissa Strunova-Lübke aligns herself more with the thinking of Aristotle in her art. Without taboos and prejudice she delves into the secrect of mankind, of body and soul, of Eros and Nous. She makes her very paintings into a secret, withholding herself from the violent regard of a consumer or a voyeur, who thinks everything can be taken in at one glance. Contemplation is present before, during and after each act of love. Man needs time to become Man, freedom to express his passions, a conscience for his own secrets and those of his partner, and the ability to reflect on the universe of his feeling and thinking - and artists like Larissa Strunova-Lübke, who have the gift to find an expression for all this, which itself becomes an act of love.

Dr. Stefan Scholz

Translation from German to English by
Robert Johnston Brown M.Sc. and
Beate Ruther-Gottwald M.A.


Art historian Jens Martin Neumann
Opening, Heide Art Association, 6/7/2007.

"A Painting", as defined, Constant, Amsterdam, member of the COBRA group, once his term picture, "is an animal, a night, a scream, a human being." Art should therefore set the whole life into the picture - free of counterfeit intellectual calculation, the expression directly effective, uninhibited and direct. I think this evening we take on such images.

Larissa Strunowa-Lübke pursuing a gestural, very upbeat, even passionate troubled painting, focusing on figures of great physical presence. From complex, patchy swelling Farbteppichen or more nebulous, gossamer iridescent color clouds arise often life-extremely urgent Act and monumental women, men or children referred to the summary in flowing painting gesture, uneven handwriting, and bold colors with a few strongly held brush strokes, from tight, contours and vibrant color stains are formulated and pointedly set this light touch in every conceivable attitude, action or classic pose are captured. Right out of the act of painting created bleed, filling format single figures, couples or groups of figures in shorthand term designated color spaces whose juxtaposition material as a transparent overlay mirrored, graduation or continuous motion sequence is staged. In the faces are often wiped out, the Farbgeschehen summarized in individual "body Islands", realized the figure that is primarily in individual, of fine reductions suddenly bulging body parts - a hand, a leg or abdomen, which are then modeled more vivid. In concentrating on, in an image reduced color gamut, the facelessness of the characters and the place and timelessness of the color area revealed a calculated organization of the images, which breaks from the privacy of subjective setting out to more objective universality.

Larissa Strunowa painter through and through, their images are taken from the core values of painting, the light, the color, the painting process. Her works express the processual struggle for its own picturesque way through the recovery of human figures from the informal flow of color, and thus emerge from vigorous brush strokes and pure color samples shadowy, indistinct figure formations which are reinforced - just starting to form - be terminated immediately and thus remain exactly on the unstable boundary between amorphous and genetic gradient hardening, are recorded as if in the creative process of disappearance. The artist separates immediately at ease from the real human form, because she does only the two basic principles of body representation - said contour and color modeling - as its own, she turns but just beyond the figures on their colorful surroundings, an abstract graphical webs of line and stained to produce flat, are woven inextricably into which their protagonists. Under, over and beside the figures is thus partly a soft, sometimes aggressive haze of abstraction. The figures also conform to these non-representational composition at surface and vice versa will imagined corporeality color layering and lineation. Thus it is also usual figure-ground relationships moved completely into the Farbereignis, stylize the spatial swelling, shining through, smudging and vibrating. The naked body itself provide grounds for a beautiful piebald color painting which, while respecting light and shadow, eliminates real feel of skin and flesh, but for faster and colourist painting gesture Verflächigung. This conceptual similarity is important image substitutes: instead of illusionistic conventions across diverse, motivated purely picturesque merger, continuation and correspondence of a shape, color, or even on the line, seemingly closed field.

At the same time sensual and composed of a wide range of colors, figurative or realistic, yet free in characteristic style, created Larissa Strunowa the conciseness of her paintings in particular by strong painterly gesture. The artist applies paint in a billow of paths on the canvas, spread a lively staccato of nervous brushstrokes, whips color streaks on the surface, furrowed the thick paste and scribbles a graphic character, the color will thus allow an independent quality and substantial materiality, it helps to impressive effect. Her real subject is thus the painting itself, its primary bodies and conditions: picture carrier, color, surface, paint operations, movement and course texture. The canvas is the field of action, as it were begetting place painted bodies from the body of the artist; Malmotorik and image process form an indivisible unit, or simple talk: The image is found here right in the painting. And deliver the exported images in the visible dynamic Malspuren this impulsive Malgebärde to bring in their excited NCR various snapshots of their creation.

The free line settlement and dynamic Farbverdichtungen lead to very vital, very artistically exciting character formations, which are always at Larissa Strunowa content and free painting in one. Brush strokes and splashes of color have indeed collateral function and serve the picturesque narrative, but also the purpose of this painting from the review of its own foundations, that is, the means that lead to the painting and a picture are essential. On the one hand Larissa Strunowa explored in the picturesque volatilization of the figure, the ancient form of artistic design process, without a plan, but subconsciously controlled and mainly bound to happen, they also use these stylized figuration, with its quite obsessive gesture to their stories of human existence in the power structure of tell self, humanity and threat to all. It leaves the characters in the ambivalence between a picturesque design and its own narrative momentum. The violent means used images - bright colors, quick paint, clear handwriting and rough structures arise - a deeply beautiful principle, but also an offensive posture, back to those far from innocuous stories to his body. One might say with an old insight Francis Bacon, "the painting is desperate, perhaps more useful with it you will find a radical way to make a picture: you go then a greater risk."

This Strunowasche thinking about painting has thus far into the way of her story. Any formal decision is also a substantive and vice versa, for pictures of the people are always for "people pictures", figure and nude are just expression. Immediate access to the people allowed to look at the naked body, he is not only his clothes, but also the status of his social position offerings robbed. The naked body, this innermost material substance of the individual can, in its nature, posture and gesture to a wealth of expression, always reflected his inner life. The artist designs just by using the term chiffre formulated act most haunting images of human mental states. And that gets the picturesque resolution of the figures and their contextual significance, since only through this sketchy openness to the viewer a vast association space is opened and stylize the visual force suits metaphors can. Dissolving your body speak of transparency, fragility and vulnerability, especially in the vulnerability of young children, the powerful color and style of painting also impetuous violence, obsession and ecstasy. Always a peculiar form and content re-tension reigns between brash Flash directness and quiet mask-like statuary. It is in this type of figure painting simply about human emotions, about joy and sorrow, hope and longing, anger, doubt or intimate mood. With bolder course, offensive, honest and unsparing, this often provocative, documents the artist such sentiments, by finding translations of symbolic of this.

Larissa Strunowas work is based on an individual, very private and often draw on the subconscious mythology. It relies on a specific sampling of images and impressions of many guises and complex evocation, the association arranges a wide field, but blocked the last rational analysis, but spreads a highly idiosyncratic patterns of conceptual and artistic event.