Jutta Koether - Seasons and Sacraments
Large-scale reimagining of Nicolas Poussin back catalogue
The back catalogue of 17th-century painter Nicolas Poussin isn’t the most obvious frame of reference for German iconoclast Jutta Koether, but when she was taken to see his The Seven Sacraments at the Scottish National Gallery, something clicked. The end result for Koether’s first major show in Scotland following an appearance at the DCA as part of the Altered States of Paint group show in 2008 is this large-scale, hopelessly devoted homage/reimagining of Poussin, rebranded and rewired for a postmodern 21st century pop age. The fact that Koether’s versions of Seasons, four paintings first shown at the Whitney Biennial in New York in 2012, and the more sculptural The Seven Sacraments, created in situ, feature bit-part players such as the Queen, philosopher Jacques Derrida and French racing driver and walking product placement Sebastian Vettel adds a playful wit to the pop classicist sheen.
There’s something Blakean about The Seasons, hung in mid-air and in the round on sheets of glass in such a way that the viewer moves anti-clockwise from ‘Winter’ onwards, with Vettel’s appearance alluding to seasons that are about more than just the weather. Vettel is present again in The Seven Sacraments, which are all too personal interpretations of Poussin, involving pearl necklaces and the keys of Koether’s own life and work as we move from ‘Baptism’ to ‘Eucharist’. Such totems that adorn the three large sheets of glass actually more resemble tributes left after a crucifixion than the ‘Confirmation’ it represents. In between the galleries, though only accessible from one, is ‘Extreme Unction’, a construction laid out in the shape of a number seven, and again laden with pop reference points. Rather than overloaded with scattershot free-associative detritus, Koether has meticulously plundered her sources to make a series of epic statements for a secular age.
Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, until Sun 21 Apr