Anna Oppermann: Cotoneaster Horizontalis
Stunning installation in Dundee is first ever UK retrospective of the late German artist
An ‘ensemble’ is the name given by the late German artist Anna Oppermann to, in her words, ‘the documentation of a particular method during perception and / or awareness exercises’. What this means in practice is a large installation-cum-artwork-cum-schematic which represents every artistic expression of her thinking around a single subject, often one which appears more or less trivial. People, events and utterances could all be co-opted as the basis for an ensemble, but in this instance it’s the shrub of the title – and to a certain extent Oppermann’s own dissatisfaction with her work in academia at the time of its creation around 1982–84, for the piece is subtitled ‘Anticommunication Design’.
Ensconced in one corner of the large Cooper Gallery, ‘Cotoneaster Horizontalis’ looks almost diminutive in the large space. Despite the size of the piece, its component parts are intended to be viewed in miniature, it seems, with every detail skimmed over to create an overriding impression of the work. Mounted on wooden board and with a plinth in the centre containing the shrub of the title, it bears photographs of people and the work itself in progress, sketches of ideas and seemingly reproduced scenes, newspaper cuttings, written text (both largely in German) and little model furniture designs.
As a representation of Oppermann’s thoughts and a manifestation of the process of creativity it’s an intriguing work, although some may feel unsatisfied by the very true-feeling notion that creativity is not a pristine, structured process, rather an assemblage of scraps and half-thought ideas which somehow fuse together. As the first ever solo UK retrospective of this important European artist, however, it’s as compelling for the glimpse into her life and practice provided by the comprehensive ancillary materials, an ‘ensemble’ of its own about an artist who much preferred talking of ‘shortcomings, complaints and hindrances’ in her work.
Cooper Gallery, Dundee, until Sat 13 Dec.