Vagabondage En Rouge
Exhibition of New Works in Mixed Media
by Gertrude Degenhardt
30th August - 19th September 2002
Dedicated to the memory of Martin Degenhardt
Exhibition Notes by Antje Olivier
Vagabondage en Rouge - what a signifier is colour! If you wish to be exhilarated by the red, the swirling of skirts, the nimble throwing of legs, the skipping of feet, the singing mouth agape, the nudity of the woman player (which, surprisingly, is scarcely annoying at all), then do so undisturbed. But if you are looking for more than the red-headed wildness, the 'Irishness' in Degenhardt, you will find, at a second glance, the irrational, the dadaistic and the political, for instance in places where a red garment is transformed into the striped dress of prison clothing, where faces are no more feminine but turn androgynous and where two hands no longer suffice to beat the drum for justice. Or in the case of the musician who with her loud voice and red beret admonishes us 'to commemorate always'. And finally where the Zapatista, the Mexican revolutionary with the mentality of a Robin Hood, assumes a gentle Pied Piper attitude with her alluring flute playing. Gertrude Degenhardt teaches us to look carefully as to who it is we are following.
Here each musician is her own soloist, each of them has grown with her instrument into one, body and instrument have become inter-changeable. The instrument is an extension of the body.
It was in 1979 that the artist for the first time turned to the theme of women musicians. On the west coast of Ireland she spontaneously began to sketch a string quartet consisting of women who played together spiritedly in the evening light. This quartet - which since 1988 has adorned the first German-language dictionary of women composers - has long become an artistic and iconographic programme for Gertrude Degenhardt. Since then she has varied, enriched, coloured in, caricatured, politicised and 'instrumented' this theme a hundred times over. May I express the hope that she has not yet exhausted it, even after the cycle 'Vagabondage en Rouge' shown here?