Susanne Kühn

Works on Paper

Room with a view: On the Art of Susanne Kühn
by Felicity Lunn (in: Susanne Kühn, Hatje Cantz Verlag 2007)

Susanne Kühn's paintings are composed of all the elements of a traditional landscape or interior: dense forests, detailed undergrowth, shimmering waterfalls, intense moonlight, and walkers in the former; windows, columns, stairways, and seating arrangements in the latter. It quickly becomes obvious, however, that these places, whether interior or exterior, are charged with an unpredictable energy that sets the entire scene in permanent motion. Trees come crashing down on each other, parts of doors or walls float by, and lone figures watch as day turns to night in disjointed, dreamlike environments. Although Kühn's primary painterly style is realistic, we are definitely not looking at the depiction of a real forest or room. Though highly constructed and artificial, these paintings are too complex to be translatable into stage sets; hinting strongly at narrative, they are more like contemporary fantasies in which elements from different times and cultures have been magically transported to the same place.
Several features of Kühn's paintings confront the viewer immediately: the strong, clear palette; emphatic contrasts of light and shadow; and the juxtaposition of generic, almost archetypal elements with objects that appear to be drawn from a more personal history. However, all these serve the artist's primary goal of constructing a spatial experience that is as exhilarating as it is bewildering. As viewers, we are given the impression that we have walked by chance into the painting, as if through Alice's looking glass, and are not able to leave until we have explored each crag and tree trunk, peered behind curtains, and oriented ourselves within rooms. Indeed the sense of moving within the work, rather than merely occupying it, is reinforced by the motion of water, the presence of indefinable floating structures (that could be slabs of concrete, table tops, or cardboard), and the impression that the plant life is permanently sprouting forth. In this way, Kühn's landscapes are highly contemporary, stealing the sublime gloss of Romanticism to lend atmosphere to visual experiences that are closer to the virtual space of computer games. As in these, the sense of mobility in her work is the result of the multiple perspectives in the composition, particularly in the most recent interiors. I n works such as Melanie-Melancholy (fig. p. 51), the basic architectural structure is taken directly from the Renaissance painter Fra Filippo Lippi's Madonna and Child with Stories of the Life of Sf. Anne (1452). The distortion is created by the disparate objects, such as the heart-shaped chair, the two-dimensional paper cutout lampshade, and plaster moulding, each of which has its own perspective. Having painstakingly reconstructed the proportions of Filippo Lippi's room, Kühn discovered that his measurements were in fact incorrect. This discovery, together with her fascination for the medieval artistic convention of reflecting a figure's importance via its scale, has influenced the degree to which the artist takes liberty in presenting in a single painting a variety of objects that are each seen from varying angles. ...
Susanne Kühn's relationship to her work-her desire for control, her need to refer to things that have personal significance, the humor, as well as her sheer joy concerning painting-is exuded through each subject in the work and every brushstroke with which the subject is made material. Nothing is what it seems at first sight and everything exists in a fluid, open movement between styles, genres, and techniques that acknowledges tradition before moving beyond it to a spatial reality that is entirely Kühn's. Although each work is composed of an eclectic selection of objects, forms, and painterly processes, these components remain autonomous while nevertheless harmonizing as an image with its own internal logic. These paintings are also informed by an intrinsic honesty, for Kühn acknowledges their ultimate status as just paint on canvas; she unabashedly paints things that relate to her as a female artist and explores what interests her rather than adhering to the mainstream.


1995 Master of Painting and Graphic Art, Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig
1995-1996 Postgraduate Grant of the DAAD at the School of Visual Arts and Hunter College, New York
2001-2002 Radcliffe Fellowship Grant, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Cambridge (USA)
1995-2002 work and studies in New York and Boston
since 2015 professorship for paintng, Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg (Germany)
lives and works in Freiburg (Germany)

Solo shows

  • 2017 Walks and other Stories, Augustinermuseum, Freiburg
  • 2016 Susanne Kühn, OMI International Arts Center, Ghent, New York (USA)
    2015 Bank, Gallery Kleindienst, Leipzig
    2014 World of wild animals, Beck&Eggeling, Düsseldorf
    2012 Works on Paper, Sala Uno, Contemporary Arts Center, Rome
    Städtische Gallery Offenburg (Germany)
    2011 Garden Eden, Haunch of Venison, London
    2010 Susanne Kühn, Kunstverein Lippe (Germany)
    Study of Landscape, Robert Goff Gallery, New York
    2009 Susanne Kühn, Forum Kunst, Rottweil (Germany)
    2008 Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (USA)
    Goff+Rosenthal Berlin
    2007 Susanne Kühn, Kunstverein Freiburg (Germany)
    New Paintings, Goff+Rosenthal, New York
    Drawings, Fred (London) Ltd, Leipzig
    2006 Paintings, Gallery Echolot, Berlin
    2005 Fred (London) Ltd, London
    Goff+Rosenthal, New York
    2004 Gallery Echolot, Berlin
    Painting and Drawing, Gallery Kleindienst, Leipzig
    2003 Works on Paper, Bill Maynes Gallery, New York
    2002 Journey, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge
    2001 Recent Works, Bill Maynes Gallery, New York
    2000 Drawings, Bill Maynes Gallery, New York
    Recent Paintings, Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pa. (USA)
    Drawings, German Consulate House, New York
    1999 Paintings, Bill Maynes Gallery, New York
    1997 Landschaften, Beck & Eggeling, Leipzig

Group shows

  • 2016 Den Wald vor lauter Bäumen..., Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden
    Ein Baum ist ein Baum ist ein Baum, Beck & Eggeling, Düsseldorf
    2015 Die bessere Hälfte - Paintresses from Leipzig, Sparkasse Leipzig Art hall, Leipzig
    Autumn, Twilight, Dwelling among Mountains, Kemper Museum, Kansas City
    VOLTA 11, Markthalle, Basel
    2014 Drive the Chance, 100plus, Zurich (Switzerland)
    2013 Wahlverwandtschaften, Aktuelle Malerei und Zeichnung aus dem Museum Frieder Burda, Museum Franz Gertsch, Burgdorf (Switzerland)
    Wetterdämmerung - ein Blick zurück, group-show, Sammlung Alison und Peter W. Klein
    Inside, Merkur Art Gallery, Istanbul
    2012 Contemporary German Painting: The Future Lasts Forever, Interalia, Seoul (South Korea)
    Malerei der ungewissen Gegenden, Kunstverein Frankfurt
    The Observer, Haunch of Venison, London
    Das eigene Kind im Blick. Künstlerkinder von Runge bis Richter, von Dix bis Picasso, Kunsthalle Emden (Germany)
    salondergegenwart, Hamburg
    2011 Hello. Goodbye. Die Sammlung, Museum für Neue Kunst Freiburg
    The Big Reveal, Kemper Museum, Kansas City (USA)
    2010 Hängung #6, Sammlung Alison and Peter W. Klein, Eberdingen-Nussdorf (Germany)
    Die Bilder tun was mit mir - Einblicke in die Sammlung Frieder Burda, Kuratoren Patricia Kamp, Jean-Christophe Ammann
    2009 Carte Blanche IX, Museum of Contemporary Art, Leipzig
    2008 Future Tense: Reshaping the Landscape, Neuberger Museum of Art Purchase, New York
    Böhmen liegt am Meer, Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden (Germany)
    2007 House Trip, Special Exhibition Art Forum, Berlin
    Neue Malerei. Aus dem Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Museum im Prediger,Schwäbisch Gmünd
    2006 Inaugural Exhibition, Goff+Rosenthal, Berlin
    Neue Malerei: Erwerbungen 2002-2005, Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden
    Dragon Veins, University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, Fla.
    2005 International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Prague
    2004 EAST International, Norwich Gallery, Norwich (UK)
    Zweidimensionale 2004, Kunsthalle der Sparkasse Leipzig
    INdiVISIBLE SITlES, Bill Maynes Gallery, New York
    2002 Into the Woods, Julie Saul Gallery, New York
    Works on Paper, Bill Maynes Gallery, New York
    Curious Terrain, Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York
    Postmodern Pastoral, Judy Ann Goldman Fine Art, Boston
    2001 Wet!, Luise Ross Gallery, New York
    Chelsea Rising, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans
    Wonderland, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston
    2000 Bildwechsel, Kunstverein Freunde Aktueller Kunst, Städtisches Museum Zwickau
    Art on Paper Annual, Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, N. C. (USA)


  • 2013 Wahlverwandtschaften - Aktuelle Malerei und Zeichnung aus dem Museum Frieder Burda, Wienand
    2012 Susanne Kühn, WERKE/WORKS 2006 - 2012,
    The Future lasts Forever, Contemporary Paintings from Europe, Interalia
    2010 Die Bilder tun was mit mir..., Einblicke in die Sammlung Museum Frieder Burda, Hatje Cantz
    2009 Susanne Kühn, Malerei und Zeichnung, 2007-2009, modo Verlag
    2008 The Upset - Young Contemporary Art, Gestalten Verlag, Berlin
    Müller, Hans-Joachim. Künstler - Kritisches Lexikon der Gegenwartskunst, Zeitverlag
    2007 Dragon Veins, University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum
    2006 Neue Malerei, Erwerbungen 2002-2005, Museum Frieder Burda, Ostfildern
    2005 International Biennale of Contemporary Art, National Gallery, Prag
    2004 EAST International 2004, Norwich Gallery, Norwich School of Art and Design, Norwich
    2001 Chelsea Rising, Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans