Perceiving together – by Camila McHugh

Perceiving together

by Camila McHugh

on the occasion of the exhibition „Grids of Sensation“ at Knust Kunz Gallery Editions, Munich 2023


There is something synesthetic about Franziska Goes’s painting. Synesthesia describes the rare condition of experiencing one sense through another – connecting, for instance, colors to sounds or tastes to words. Or perhaps grids to sensation. The word has Greek roots that literally translate to “perceiving together”, which is also an apt mode of describing the manifold juxtapositions that comprise Goes’s work. She positions the picture plane as an occasion to perceive how a range of textures, shapes and colors interact. As these forms coalesce into a composite of discordant parts, they enact a playful friction between fragment and whole. In works like warmer Schatten / Our Tools Shape Us, 2022, an array of shapes – a small rectangular band of yellow and blue with discernible brushstrokes, a hard-edged swathe of reddish pink applied with fastidious flatness, amorphous sections of mottled patterns, meandering lines that overlap all of this – puzzle together into an idiosyncratic constellation. Each aspect of the painting arises from a unique combination of technique, color and form, but is also contiguous to other dimensions of the painting, so each part is perceived in dialogue with another. Sometimes Goes’s works recall a sense of continents converging over some ancient sea. No one is an island.

While the Berlin-based artist’s visual vocabulary is resolutely abstract, affinities with the natural world and the realm of technology are also present throughout. She painted landscapes early in her career, and traces of this sensibility emerge as the expanse of a horizon, the slant of a mountain, the dense greenery of a forest come to the fore like formal memories. These are not abstracted landscapes, but rather abstract shapes that might contain the possibility of a landscape in the loose connection by which a cloud resembles an animal a glinting gaze can be found in the moon. A reflection on technology is also present in these hyper-flat, acrylic surfaces, as Goes often employs a screen-like blur as well as multicolored pixels. While she remains wholly committed to painting as a medium, she integrates a kind of digital imagining into her process by manipulating her sketches or photographs of her paintings in a program that allows her to try out new configurations. Her practice is, on the other hand, emphatically tactile, as she employs a wide range of brushes, rolls and tools to create her works’ wide medley of textures. It is telling that many of Goes’s titles are separated by a slash: In the Woods / Feeling Magenta, plus minus / blau gelb or botanische Ordnung / bräunliche Laubfarbe, as it’s often the tension of seeming opposition like that between nature and technology, contrasting colors or dissonant shapes, that drives her practice. The notion of a grid of sensation is another such dialectic.

She is also closely attuned to the great freedom that can accompany constraint, a seeming paradox that she accesses by limiting her colors for a painting (or group of paintings) to a preselected palette. By limiting herself to roughly half-a-dozen, often vibrant colors, she allows herself to run the full gamut of atmosphere and tone with a real experimental verve. Here, references from Cezanne’s trees, to Japanese graphic design, to the 1960s staircase of Goes’s west Berlin studio become building blocks that are jostled with a palpable delight in the endless possibilities of form. These paintings perceive all of this, from experience of the real world to the formal laboratory of the studio, together.