The Year and Its Fifty-TwoWeeks

Between heaven and earth there is nothing that we don’t know. Or so we think. But is there really nothing that we haven’t explored yet? Surely, there must be some things left to be discovered. Cornelia Mohr has set off in search of what we don’t yet know. For the artist, this quest is a humorous yet serious game of observation, experience and perception. She has embarked on a search for time and has chosen the year.

A year is made up of three hundred and sixty-five days, twelve months and fifty-two weeks. What are these fifty-two weeks telling us? What do we experience during this period? What changes in the course of a year, starting with the first of January and ending on the thirty-first of December, not only in general terms but especially in terms of our own personal actions? Every year follows the same cycle, the same rhythm of seasons: while we look forward in winter to spring with its awakening nature, singing birds and blossoming trees, we look forward equally to summer with its sunshine and bathing fun; in the autumn we are enchanted by the colourful woods and the fruits of nature, and understand winter as a time of silence and calm. Not only nature is resting – we should rest too.

However, we have forgotten how to critically observe and analyse our behaviour during those four seasons and how to let ourselves be governed by the principles of nature. We spend the beautiful summer months driving around in cars, substitute the lacking daylight in winter with electricity and replace this season’s calm with hectic shopping and hurried activity. These more or less abstract deliberations provide the point of departure for Cornelia Mohr’s pictures. Every week she tells a story of nature. For her, nature is made up of everything that bustles about on this planet, of everything that was created, by whomever, within six days. (The seventh day of rest we have already abolished amidst our restlessness and thirst for life.)

It is exactly this exciting question about the principles of nature, about how we treat nature, harness or abuse it, that Cornelia Mohr has asked herself and has chosen to answer in her way, by means of her pictures. She has transformed the 52 weeks of the year into 52 works. They tell all sorts of stories that the artist offers to the beholders. They can then continue these stories using their own imagination, for the stories are never finished and the artist always leaves some things open – perhaps in keeping with the motto: “I want freedom and I expect the same from my beholders. They can add to my stories by telling their own”. Everyone arrives at their own interpretations anyway. One and the same picture might look like a love story to someone, while somebody else might see it as a fight. In another picture, some might only see a meadow full of flowers, while others might discern the vole in it. Cornelia Mohr gives her beholders an open invitation to perceive the world, offering them aesthetic pleasure, but perhaps also confusing them. However, the artist believes that her works don’t need to have a message. Rather, she “delivers basic points” that she means to plant in the minds of the beholders. Let them do with it what they will! A sort of humorous-ironic brainwashing, perhaps?

Cornelia Mohr’s work constitutes not only an offer to the beholders of her art but is initially a sort of dialogue with the piece of paper, the colours and the themes. She starts anywhere, with an observation, a figure, an animal, a memory, a dream, a longing, and then she adds to it a second and a third, the work becomes ever denser and the story ever more intense until eventually a week has been told. The story contains things that might have actually happened, but more importantly it features fantasies that seem to take shape almost of their own accord during the act of drawing and painting and that want to be told, not only week after week but also day by day. The ideas are queuing up, so to speak, and want to be incorporated into the rendering – not only the figures and animals but also the plants, leaves and blossoms, the shrubs, in short, everything that forms part of these buoyant, humorous and yet perfectly serious stories. The artist feels that her works “are meant to be mischievous” and a spark lights up in her beautiful eyes. She further thinks that “the small, natural things are simply great”.

How are her figures and their surroundings created? “Through the space that is available”. Cornelia Mohr says this as if she was speaking of something foreign, although it is in fact her who determines the space. Or is it? Perhaps not, for there is a subconscious element to painting, it becomes a sort of meditative act that eludes the conscious mind, for the work of art often assumes a life of its own. This is indeed the inherent magic of any artistic work – the fact that the artist communicates with the sheet of paper or the canvas. With Cornelia Mohr’s works one gets the impression that the artist asks and the paper answers. No concept, no sketches hinder the composition, for, as she puts it, she is “merely” expressing an idea. Sometimes her works are based on a picture or a photograph that she collages before hunting for other elements to accompany it. Cornelia Mohr finds inspiration in her own notebooks, but especially in museums like the Museum of Art History and the Museum of Natural History. She also takes a keen interest in biology and zoology, and indeed in anything vegetative, from fish to primeval forests. The Weeklies are created through this conglomerate of interests. They have no thematic direction or message. Rather, they are part of a whole that becomes apparent when looking through the individual works that make up this cycle.

And as if the multitude of shapes, figures and bright colours manifesting in the works weren’t enough, the artist supplements them with texts. Often they are hardly legible and it takes some effort to decipher their content and meaning. While she claims that she takes writing seriously and that it is important for her works, she also concedes that it plays a “subordinate role” and assumes a sort of “background function”. But it might be that she is simply being “mischievous” again – an adjective that she likes to use to describe herself and her works. She does not let us into all the secrets of her wondrous world; some things have to be guessed by the beholders. They have to open themselves up to these fifty-two weeks with their colourful bustle of animals, figures and plants, “snazzy sayings” and “light-footed statements”. If they do, a magical world full of boisterous imagination and witty observation will be revealed to them.

Prof. Angelica Bäumer
Author and Culture Journalist
Vienna, 2014

Text als Download: Prof. Angelica Bäumer