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Markus Maria Saufhaus: A Gentler Approach to Expressionism

Written by: Wilson Wong

If every artist can be said to have had a formative experience which spurred the creative urge, for the German painter Markus Maria Saufhaus, it was seeing a photograph as a child of "The Tower of the Blue Horses," a painting by Franz Marc, a leading member of the Blaue Reiter group. Saufhaus has been painting ever since, and although she has evolved her own distinctive style, like Marc she still occasionally paints equine subjects, as seen in her luminous work in oil and gold leaf on canvas, "Wildhorse ¬ Triptych," in which the beautifully delineated horse's head has an ethereal, ghostly quality, appearing like a vision in a moonlit landscape. However, that Saufhaus has mastered a broad range of subject matter, most having to do with nature, will soon become obvious to anyone visiting her exhibition at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, from November 20 through December 11. (Reception Thursday, November 29, 6 to 8 PM.)

"My whole life I love the sky, the sea, and the rainbow," Saufhaus says. "These things make me warm in my heart and mostly I paint in these colors. And I know of no person who is not enthusiastic looking at a rainbow." Although Saufhaus is as genuine an Expressionist as can be found in contemporary art, her work also has elements of Orphism that come across in her intensely vibrant colors, which imbue her nature subjects with mystical auras. This can CIRCLE OF LIFE 5 - Acrylic on Canvas be seen with special clarity in paintings where the radiance emanates from lunar orbs, such as her "Circle of Life" series. In these luminous acrylics on canvas, the dominant form of a full moon glows through sinuous fronds that sway as if in a graceful windblown dance. Here, Saufhaus's color has the brilliance of Orphism and the related school called Synchronism. However she appears to have arrived at her chromatic discoveries intuitively, rather than through a calculated process, combining them with vigorous paint handling to forge her distinctive style.

All too often we have a tendency to associate the term "Expressionism" with turmoil and revolt; with gross distortion and a kind of willful, almost brutal primitivism. However, in Saufhaus's native Germany, where the movement originated and flowered, there has also always been an element of spiritual fervor as well. The latter tendency is more obvious in the Blaue Reiter branch of the movement (the one that initially attracted Saufhaus through the work of Franz Marc) than in Die Brucke, its more politically strident wing. Saufhaus reveals where her allegiances lie through her deliberate choice of uplifting subject matter, in "Miracle of Nature," where the composition verges on abstraction with its flowing linear strokes and fiery hues, which convey a sense of the cycles of natural birth and regeneration, as well as in "Caribbean Sea," with its brilliant blue saturations and overall atmosphere of serenity.

Markus Maria Saufhaus has stated her belief that through the contemplation of nature, we can find relief from the onslaught of negative news transmitted by the mass media and reduce some of the stress in our lives, and the sheer, unabashed beauty of her work seems to bear this out.

Image Credits: CIRCLE OF LIFE 5 - Acrylic on Canvas 31.5" x 31.5"

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