OUT OF THE DELUGE 
(Dr. Emmanuel Mir, 2014)

The flood snakes and fluctuates; it flows through all terrains, through all tides, and carries away everything that fails to resist. Objects drift in this current, images and concepts that have passed through thousands of transformations. Some of these lie stranded at our feet. We pick them up and study them as if they were messages from another world. We believe we are holding something authentic, primal and true in our hands and overlook all their many previous transformations. The stream of ideas and motifs leaves a rich, heterogeneous and somewhat bizarre deposit behind, which is what Katharina Maderthaner adopts as the basis for her work.
The sculptor fills her installations, images and objects with references that themselves refer back to other references. A long genealogy of taste is revealed to the viewers of her art. Thus the real plant in Interkontinental is an allusion to all artificial plants found in the musty rooms of accessibility-trained officials, artificial greenery that refers to actually bred plants that in turn refer to a natural habitat. In this circularity, you at one time or other lose sight of the original source. The table patterns of Ritmi Latini, for their part, relate to printing attempts that photoshop-neophytes could have cobbled together to announce or represent a yard sale, the menu of an Italian-Indian takeout, an avant-garde textile design, neo-retro wallpaper or folk art. All of which triggers an uneasy déjà-vu, somewhere between daily making-do and genius phantasms, between masterpiece and mass production, design and disaster.
Maderthaner’s works, whether two- or three-dimensional, evolve according to a two-cycle logic: first synthesize, then sublimate. What the artist unearths in her environs—forms, textures, patterns and outer surfaces—are at first reduced, condensed and boiled down to the bone. DIY markets, allotment gardens, amateur-styled websites and laymendesigned flyers are her sources of inspiration, among others. This visual ornamentation is then, in a second phase, enriched with elements of minimalist sculpture or abstract graphics—whereby it is more a question of the codes of minimalist codes—a phase that undergoes further disassociation. Beyond all deconstructivist assertions or postmodern posturing, Maderthaner’s works are manifestly serious and autonomous with a touch of irritating matter-of-factness.
This well-dished out and over-the-top aesthetics takes viewers to their limit. Well meant—perhaps even well done? Where then, please, are the custodians of the good, the beautiful and the true? Where have all the taste-police gone? In a world in which the instruments of design, individualization and prettification have been democratized, in a world of universal do-your-own-thing, of hysterical pressure to self express, of hobby kits, art camps and creative workshops, in a world in which everyone is an artist and villages enter beauty contests, a moral and aesthetic authority is sorely missed. But Katharina Maderthaner refuses to think this way. Her impish attitude is free of any socially critical impetus or know-it-all irony. “Ornament is a pledge,” the artist once said. And she meant it. But, wait, wasn’t there a twinkle in her eye?
The flood is serpentine and irregular, but what goes around comes around. It eventually returns to the place where it had once begun to gush. Katharina Maderthaner stands on a beach and bends down. She picks up a skin-like structure in black-and-white. It had once been the finest marble for a princely palace, then become stucco marble for a bourgeois interior, and now is a print on inexpensive foil for the counter of a sun studio. She smiles roguishly and adds the piece to her collection.