Last week I went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) specifically to see Susanne Wawra’s paintings in the group show A Vague Anxiety but I must tell you first about her installation and sound piece entitled: Kinderkurheim (2019).
When she was growing up in Langenhain in what was then East Germany, she was a sickly child and she spent some time in a state sanatorium. It was a lonely time for her, away from her school friends, but she communicated with them by letter.
The installation is a curious collection of letters that she received back from her friends, the letters all repeating the same information and the same questions (probably instigated by their teacher) but together they create a lonely, nostalgic piece, made all the more poignant by a soundscape of children’s voices, intermittent keening and the sound of distant church bells from Langenhain.
Memories of childhood and home also feature in her large paintings and especially in Wenn der weiße Flieder wieder blüht (Where the white Lilacs bloom), seen at the top of this post. At the centre of this piece, you can see a black & white photo of Wawra’s grandparents on their wedding day – and the bride’s bouquet is a bunch of white lilacs. Arranged around this photo is a network of memories and references that pulsate with feeling and pathos.
The works are painted on domestic textiles such as patterned bedsheets. These are overlaid with transferred images from Wawra’s family photo album. They are then over-painted with further patterning and gestural brush marks to create complex and multi-layered compositions.
A Vague Anxiety was an exhibition of emerging artists, curated by Seán Kissane, examining issues such as Climate Crisis, the rise of far-right politics, homelessness and the fragmentation of identities.
Susanne Wawra is a member of the AGA Group at the Olivier Cornet Gallery and is also one of the artists involved in the ongoing art project Concerning the Other .