Petra Keinhorst

The same is not the same.

An approach by Danièle Perrier.

While she was staying at the Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral, Petra Keinhorst developed a group of life-sized wax sculptures, which, because of their anonymity, are spontaneously associated with the white plaster figures by George Segal. Both treat the figures schematically by leaving out details which might create any expression of individuality. They are lonely figures, people without characteristics.

Despite these superficial analogies, the works of both arise from diametrically opposed intentions. Segal uses plaster of Paris, a material that is commonly used as a binder, cover, wrap, or as an application. It is used as a protection around injured parts of the body, and limits its flexibility to a specific posture. The plaster figures by Segal, which are cast from living models, appear stiff and motionless. Be they pop star, electrician, or housewife: they are tight in a corset of social customs, live their daily lives, adapt to convention, and display their social function like a business card.
The individual remains hidden behind the appearance, with hardly any characteristic shining through. Finally, only a shell remains of the living models, bereft of content.

Petra Keinhorst uses hard paraffin wax, a material that is soft and can be shaped similarly to plaster of Paris, yet it is not applied but poured. When it is warm, it smoothly flows to fill the hollow form. The hollow shape becomes the positive, the mass. Yet Keinhorst does not gain the shape of the figure through the design of a mould – which is a wooden box in her case – but by chiselling it laboriously, as a sculptor, from a block of wax. Thus she combines the uniqueness of a creative act of carving with the transience of the artwork. Little schematic sketches of her concept
merely suggest general postures. She feels her way into an inner view – which she intuits rather than knows – discarding everything imperfect. Any wrong decision or movement, and she will melt down the unfinished work to start again.

She treats her figures schematically. Their features are suggested rather than defined with characteristics. Their clothes show no reference to their social position or profession. These are anonymous, lonely beings, living inside their own selves. There is something unspoiled about them. Light partly diffuses within them, partly reflects of them; this is a metaphor for the translucency of these serene beings, who seem to be waiting for something, which does not seem to come. This is not about the exposure of societal mechanisms, but about a human plan, a wish for completion and actual communication instead. The three figures are posed as a group. They relate to each other and integrate into the spatial situation, yet they do not communicate with each other. Thus they give expression to a longing for something unachievable.

Because they depend on the specific situation, the groups of figures by Keinhorst are unique, with a limited life-span, and remain only in the form of large photographs. Usually, the figures are destroyed after the exhibition or placed within a new context. New figures are created from melted down ones and will form other groupings.


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