Thomas W. Kuhn

Light is needed to see anything with the eyes: natural or artificial light that illuminates it before the eyes to create its image in the brain. It is not just the light source itself, however; the light shines on the things which appear illuminated before our eyes. Over the centuries, the practitioners of representational painting have found ways not only to represent objects but also their illumination. Light, in reality as in pictures, transports a whole host of properties: an object’s colours and surface properties, the accompanying dull or gleaming reflections, even its physicality and plasticity. Moreover, light creates atmosphere independent of the objects, contributing to the peaceful or dramatic mood of a situation and making objects seem cold or warm. The physical and psychological effect of light also appears united and inseparable; however, usually indirectly through the illuminated. Since prehistory, at the latest, it is religious and spiritual subjects in which light itself becomes a subject: from Stonehenge to the ancient Egyptian sun god Ra, to the Greek god Apollo, to the “overlit” divine light of Christian icon paintings.

After the break between the Byzantine influence of the art of Eastern Christianity and that of the West, it was, above all, in the architecture of the Occident that the spiritual use of light continued: whether it was in that of Suger de Saint-Denis-inspired divine architecture of the Heavenly Jerusalem or in the dramatic baroque of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who envisioned the history of salvation with light direction in church architecture.

In contrast, painting, since Cavallini and Giotto in around 1300, increasingly strove towards the realism of the time. Here the function and appearance of light were increasingly objectified, apart from occasionally wondrous but illustrative uses of light. It was only with William Turner and impressionists like Claude Monet that light again gained a special, if profane, value in its own right. Light, and with it colour, successively released itself from the object, until the non-representational and transcendental art of Kandinsky. As is known, the Upper Bavarian, light-drenched stained glass of the local folk art played a not insignificant role here. However, whereas Kandinsky, under the influence of constructivism, swiftly geometrically consolidated his non-representational compositions and withdrew from light as a force penetrating forth from objects, after World War II, Mark Rothko, Rupprecht Geiger and others broke open this geometric consolidation again and let light once more shine through colour to become a new discrete strength: no object other than the painting itself, to which the light binds itself. Rothko, in particular, also found it difficult to deny a spiritual dimension of light, which also became relevant for Yves Klein and the ZERO art group a few years later.

For Irina and Marina Fabrizius, light was also bound to the objects in their pictures for a long time. Step by step they have detached themselves from this bond. This gradual and unstoppable dissolution can be followed over a series of pictures. Landscapes guide them along the path to the light. There follows matter shone through with light: ice, water and glass. However, here the viewer still runs the risk of suspecting solely a striving towards flawless photorealism therein and losing sight of the painters’ actual interest. Only in the horizontal colour gradients and centred colour spaces is the significance of light unmissable in the pictures of Irina and Marina Fabrizius. Their pictures shine light not only for reflection: it actively pulses throughout their paintings. Slender colour zones radiate out at the lower edge, illuminating the entire picture. Above all, the horizontal transitions of colour are faintly reminiscent of landscapes, invoking the tradition of the endless skies of Jan van Goyen as much as the airspace over the treeless steppe of Kazakhstan, the country of their childhood.

Multiple layers of colour applied in oil by both of them over weeks make this astounding effect possible – an effect which is also reminiscent of the light installations of James Turrell. Each layer of colour lets a part of the incident light through and reflects the others so that each layer contributes a new nuance to the impression made on the eye. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that over time only a few pictures have resulted from this elaborate process. With the possibilities of the representation of light – or more precisely: the pictorial activation of light – discovered in these non-representational pictures, Irina and Marina Fabrizius once again turn to representational objects and examine the materiality of interior and exterior spaces with regard to the luminosity. Trained by the non-representational “light pictures”, the viewer can now also discover more in these pictures than the linguistically often all too easily named object, whose naming alone still fails to guarantee sufficient recognition in the light of painting.