über die werke von Ruth Senn

Contemplation and Play


The latest paintings by Ruth Senn, who works in the Dischma Valley near Davos, form a series: its eighteen generally horizontal parts in 100 x 140cm format are painted in acrylic on cotton, mounted on sheets of aluminium and hung at a slight distance from the wall. Each work has its own colouration – grey, blue, green, mauve or yellow – and is built up of horizontal, sometimes vertical, occasionally also diagonal stripes that make up a fine network. The paintings initially appear to be monochrome, but a closer look reveals a wealth of nuances and their clear flatness opens up deep chromatic spaces.   


Ruth Senn prepares the white ground herself, organises the composition with adhesive tape of varying widths and then adds the highly diluted paint, which she applies with a roller in numerous layers, sometimes up to sixty. She only paints the pale tones; the parallel or intersecting dark stripes are brought about as the work proceeds through the technique of masking. This gives the translucent painting a graphic quality, and painting refers to drawing.  


Ruth Senn decided on her subdued colouration – for soft colours, as a work from 1988 is entitled – early on. She also usually chooses cold tones, which she appreciates for their unobtrusive qualities. Allusion and reticence allow the colours to have an even stronger effect, and the artist’s work has always been concerned with the effect of colour and with exact perception. Her distinctively slow and searching way of working urges us to linger before her paintings and really to see.


She prefers the ‘dormant’ horizontal to the active-seeming vertical format, and the distance of her paintings from the wall additionally gives them a sense of hovering. For her the horizontal means an expanding and opening up of the pictorial space, but it also refers to the horizon. With diluted paint and a scaled-down formal language, Ruth Senn reduces nature into the work: obliquely falling rain, light wind, hazy fog, mountain verticals and riverine horizontals are merged within her visual atmospheres.  


Artistic exactness, geometry and strict grids may indicate an interest in perfection, but Ruth Senn always allows for emotion and chance: in the brown-blue group of paintings entitled Tunesien [Tunisia] (08/2011 and 04/2011) the visual format was calculated as an ideal relationship, but the ornament-like diagonals were developed from a feeling and the carefully applied paint is invigoratingly disturbed by flaws in the fabric. Ruth Senn imposes restrictions on herself in order to work against them. Within the strict form her colours flow freely, vibrantly occupying the space.    


Theory is not her thing, says the artist; it doesn’t help with the work. Into her calculation she deliberately implants freedom, the open search, inquisitive play: with colour and form, with perception and perceptibility.


Karin Schick

Kirchner Museum Davos / Hamburger Kunsthalle