The gallery Art Forum Ute Barth in Zurich, Switzerland is currently exhibiting its second show of works by the American–Swiss artist Judith Trepp, presenting new, large-sized paintings, works on paper and prints. Trepp is a wonderful painter. She is mid-career, with many shows and sales, yet I would assert that she is still under-exposed — the quality of her paintings should be far more widely known and discussed.
Trepp’s techniques are a fusion of modern and traditional craftsmanship combined with eastern and western methodology. In the works on linen she creates a surface with egg tempera and charcoal or with egg tempera and oil. For her works on paper, Trepp uses an extremely fine Indian handmade paper that creates a lively surface and compliments the extenuated form executed in black ink. The pared-down images, in both works on paper and works on canvas emit a singularly clear, yet intense mood.
The artwork was predominantly created between 2005 and 2006. In each piece Trepp appears to ask herself, “How far can I reduce the line or image and yet retain a compelling visual, aesthetic and emotional impact— how minimal can action painting be?” The paintings generally feature a quasi-monochrome, yet highly atmospheric background, upon which a single variegated stroke sits. The imagery suggests a dance; but a slow, edgy, dance stripped of time.
Trepp regards the surfaces upon which she works as walls. The artist has travelled considerably throughout India during the past ten years, as well as in Japan. Both countries have offered her artistic insights and technical information which are clearly reflected in her paintings. According to the painter, in India the tribal people showed her new ways of looking at colour and texture; the walls of their houses are often painted in simple geometric shapes in natural tints. After the walls are dry, the women rub each section until it glows. Trepp has employed this technique in her paintings. Sections of the opaquely painted angular surfaces are burnished until the gouache or oil paint softly shines. Although egg tempera is a mineral paint composed with little oil, the viewer's eye is drawn into what seems to be a yawning well of pigmentation. Her oil paintings all have an underpainting of at least 5-6 layers of egg tempera that impart to the finished painting an unexpected glow, reflecting light in a unique fashion through the oil layers. The fragile strength of these subtly moving surfaces support and compliment the energized compactness of the visual images.
Trepp interest in wall painting has caused her to create site- specific works for inner and out space. In 2004 she completed her largest piece: a four-story high wall painting for outside space in Switzerland
Trepp has coined the term “Expressive Minimalism” to define her artwork. Clearly, her terminology is a reference to Abstract Expressionism (not German or Neo- Ex) and to Minimalism, two historic movements important to her work.
I once wrote of Trepp's paintings in London's The Art Book, that they present a plaidoyer for the rich artistic and intellectual possibilities available when a creator has a sense for and experiences of a cosmopolitan, intercultural global community. Aesthetic elements discovered in India, Japan, Switzerland, Italy and the US have been internalised and harmonized in Trepp’s painting, fused into quiet personal ruminations which joyfully invite viewers’ own broad associations.
In the newest works this ever more powerfully achieved. Trepp’s paintings, on whatever surface, are quietly rebellious. They unite ostensibly opposite concerns in a dance of beauty.
Galerie Art Forum Ute Barth.