In tune
by Miriam Jessa

Bugge Wesseltoft’s piano tones (blue, bluegreen or yellow, after all?), tones like drops, resonate for a long time in the white studio; the classic violinist Henning Kraggerud plays his viola (earthy brown-green) legatissimo, the tone colors blur, melt, swash down the inclined plane, blossom, branch out.

Synchronously, Franziska Maderthaner lifts the wet canvas by its length and the colors there blur, melt, blossom, branch out—depending on where the artist raises and lowers the canvas or accentuates it with the brushes and brackets. Completely in tune, in harmony with the music, she moves in careful concentration, and the tones seem to steer the river of colors.

Impossible now to hear another piece of music to this. Even something similar will not do. In a mysterious way, this Norwegian chamber jazz, named after the mountain Blåmann, is a part of the pouring. But pourings are only the first layer in the palimpsests that constitute Maderthaner’s current works.

The meticulously planned and perfectly executed subjects that she composes in and on the pourings, using techniques of the Old Masters, naturally demand totally different pieces of music. Composition, form, precision. Improvised music does not fit here anymore. And music is for her an indispensible painting tool. Her musical knowledge and her extensive awareness of the most diverse genres always astonish me: blues singers of the 1920s and 1930s, Indie bands from Oslo, quirky Viennese songs, forgotten Bavarian tearjerkers—I could go on and on. In Franziska Maderthaner’s musical universe, you can lose and find yourself again, just like in her paintings. Only classical music does not seem to lend her wings. Maybe it is too complete in itself, exacting more than it encourages.

In some works a certain type of music, and the movement it evokes, are frozen, so to speak. In U.S. Archaeology, it is Benny Goodman’s famous version of Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing) as he played it in 1938 with the first swing band that ever played in the classically oriented venue Carnegie Hall. The pressure on Goodman was enormous. The prelude of the tom-tom drum created suspense, the horn section trumpeted like elephants and then everything took off in the highest perfection and vitality, true to Goodman’s motto: “It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing”. And everything in U.S. Archaeology is all about movement, rhythm and tone as well. Our perception loosens the rigidity of the images: the skirt flies, the man bends backwards, she dances towards him, he is luring her we know not where. Each detail is significant because it’s got that swing.

When viewing the work of Franziska Maderthaner I hear the music that she has concealed there for me. They aren’t specific pieces of music, but rhythm, intensifications, upturns and downswings, peaks and periods of rest, timbres, shades of color, percussion. Seldom a carpet of sound, her work is much too dynamic for that. Would she like what I’m listening to? Probably not. Her taste in music is delicate and particular, but that’s all right. Because now I’m in tune.