In exhibition ›Wunderwelten‹, the artist Justine Otto, who is represented in renowned museums and collections, presents a series of portraits. In some cases the portraits appears surprisingly mimetic in the distant view, but by approaching you recognise that they are abstractly broken by drastic and wild brushwork in the vicinity. As protagonist, the artworks repeatedly show the same girl.
The art form of the portrait has accompanied Justine Otto in her artistic development for over ten years. After a shift of emphasis to scenic subjects, she returns to this form of representation with the series presented here, which was created at the beginning of 2016. Here, a new approach in the artist's work is evident; while the focus of older portraits was on the closeness to reality and the elaboration of the incarnation, colorfulness and the style itself are much more important today. The chosen substrate, in contrast to the canvas, offers the prerequisite of an unyielding material, which resists the tool sufficiently to create structures and gradients in a different way and to create shades by removing or loosening paint. Painting on a smooth background places colour and its composition at the centre of attention, also the element of chance gains importance in the process; the application of color is freer and serves not so much to reinforce the motif's content, but rather to celebrate its own pictorial variants.
In about half of the portraits, a clearly visible ductus as well as watery streaks of colour, drops and cracks decoratively adorn the girl's skin, whereby the colour always exists within a real body shape and thus constitutes it in a natural way.
In three other works of the series, colour is explosively liberated from its form; the borders from head to neck and shoulders can be seen only vaguely through the colour curtain. The brushwork is raw, experimental and playful, the colours form circles, pale, semi-transparent streaks and intensely covering fields — everything naturally takes place next to each other and merges into a unit.
The connection between the girl's expression and the world of colours and forms she consists of or dissolves into remains open. Does the girl carry her inner self to the outside and therefore her feelings visible for everyone on her skin? Dreams and desires but also doubts and insecurity in the girl's emotional world on her way to becoming a woman are reflected in the versatile colours and structures.
Or are these human traits just a variety of wild colours?
Justine Otto never finishes telling the stories, but she manages to capture a fascinating liveliness and gripping emotionality, both in the eyes of the young faces — whose magical gaze captivates because he is expressive and clear, but nevertheless completely mysterious — as well as in the abstract passages.
The series of portraits, in which colour celebrates itself represents the transition from figurative to abstract painting, marking a striking turning point in Justine Otto's oeuvre.
— Christina Wigger