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Identikit children in search of their own childhoods line the walls. Children with shit stained hands booty dance through a splintered landscape. A werewolf girl goes for drinks in the night. A decapitated sheep foregrounds naughty children. Spliced elements of pre- and early modernism are layered atop each other. The symbols are shaped to emanate guilt and shame. The tradition of painting is a long history of fabricated images meant to crawl under our skin, and into our psyches.

Amelie von Wulffen’s paintings follow the collage principal of appropriation. If collage is a mirror that reflects a subject or world, assembled from different view points, von Wulffen suffuses this logic with painterly traditions of still life, landscape, and self-portraiture to conflate an abyss of collective history and personal stories into artificial, disconcerting montages of memory. Staged like isolated dolls before a portrait photographer, von Wulffen’s avatars bare the loneliness of children in old paintings and on milk cartons.

Televised warnings dramatized in the unsolved mysteries program “Aktenzeichene XY Ungelöst” leave their mark: Mushroom hunters discover corpses in Germany’s romantic forests. Forgoing nostalgia and reverence, von Wulffen densely melds childhood impressions with dismembered traces of Arnold Böcklin, Paul Cézanne, Giorgio de Chirico, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Hans von Marées, Jean-Antoine Watteau and anonymous hobbyists. Like Vladimir Nabokov’s observation in ‘Despair’ (1934) that Böcklin’s liberally reproduced landscape “Isle of the Dead”, was to be “found in every home in Berlin’, reproductions, like fear and guilt, procreate.

Formed of clay, the plight of fallen butterflies is borne by children.

 

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