See Artist Claudia Comte’s Eye-Popping Wall Works
Two days before the opening of her exhibition at Gladstone Gallery on January 11, Swiss artist Claudia Comte emerges from the bustle (typical for one of her shows) of the ongoing installation, where cherry pickers, measuring tapes, and ladders are in situ. Untypical, however, is the clear absence of crates and boxes. For “The Morphing Scallops,” her second show in New York, Comte is showing her eye-popping wall paintings, each meticulously applied to gallery walls.
“I like this energy of team effort we are putting in here,” says the 35-year-old with a European ease, watching her team put final touches onto the walls that are standing in for canvases. “My work is always about the architecture of the space I take over, each painting responding to a specific wall.”
Here, Comte created each pattern to orchestrate an overall harmony of the concrete surfaces and to bring the visitors into a hallucinatory realm of curvy lines and geometric edges. She notes that patterns support and complete each other, but they can also exist individually, similar to pieces of a puzzle. However, don’t let the whimsical façade of her visuals overshadow the painstaking process. The conversation between sets of patterns stems from rigid mathematical measurements; negative spaces mirror one another and graphics morph between impeccable gaps. She leaves invisible blank frames surrounding the patterns; they’re measured and imagined.
The initial stage begins with Comte exploring her surroundings, followed by creating a sequence of forms on the software program Illustrator. Working with diligent precision, she perfects proportions, gaps, and fluctuation of her graphics. “Fifty percent of the show is prepared before we install the work,” says the artist, who splits her time between Berlin and her hometown, Morges, Switzerland.
Comte relies on a vinyl fabricator in Geneva to produce her cutouts, which blanket the gallery walls, before eventually being peeled off for the final work. “This show came to New York in enormous sheets of vinyl rolls!” she says.
But this process also leads to a general perception that her wall paintings are simply vinyl decals applied onto walls. The artist enjoys seeing the reaction on people’s faces after they learn the steps involved in creating this body of work. Applying and later peeling off the vinyl book ends the back-and-forth process of painting the wall black and white, eventually revealing sequences of diagrams, either starting with sharp geometric edges toward voluptuous serpentines or thin lines gradually gaining volume.
“The work is about acknowledging positivity and the moment of existence at a specific space and time,” says the artist about the unpretentious radiance her graphics convey. “There is no hierarchy between wall paintings’ audience or content. Whether old or young, art educated or not, anyone can get the best of them, depending on what they wish to see.”
The gallery’s back room is reserved for the exhibition’s only colorful painting, reminiscent of an explosion of a rainbow paired with an army of zigzags transforming into curvy waves. In order to create the burst of colors, the artist and her team mixed 12 hues and pursued an unforgiving process to place the shapes onto the box-shaped, “chapel-like” room from left to right.
Those following Comte’s work in sculpture are no stranger to her unabashed celebration of the whimsy embedded in the mundane through visual nuances. Her three-dimensional work similarly underlines the beauty in form and materials, blending the right doses of precision and chance, not unlike the balance that exists in nature. On her decision to deliver her first exhibition composed entirely of wall paintings, Comte says: “This is a good moment for me not to show two-dimensional work. I don’t see much difference between my wall paintings and sculptures, because I am always equally invested in having sharp edges or organic shapes.”
“Claudia Comte: The Morphing Scallops” is open at Gladstone Gallery until February 16.