Constraint as a permanent state – the heroines in Caro Suerkemper’s pictures master this situation with patience and acrobatic use of their bodies: they persevere through ritualised bindings in bandages or bodices. Yet the stripped women, appearing as cleverly stringed packages, only seem to represent a different world to that of the swathed bodice-wearers refined into folkloric gems. Chaste or disreputable, strident or restrained – ultimately, all her figures remain bound into a snare of regiments and conventions; even the most extravagant self-presentation harbours heteronymous role-play. Many figures reveal this dichotomy though a distracting distance to the roles they embody. They often seem like amateur performers in professional photos: caught out, uncomfortable and awkward. Distrustful looks under starched caps or shameful eyes in shameless poses betray their lack of orientation in their coded corsages. Usually alone and exposed, Suerkemper’s figures ensnare the viewers in their deeds, binding them with questions as to the mechanisms of seduction and submissiveness, lust and control, power and powerlessness.
Caro Suerkemper formulates her interest in rules, laws and orders with wit, bite and a sense of scurrility. Again and again, she seeks out clumsy gestures and slipped expressions, gives her protagonists the wide eyes and balloon-like breasts of comic characters. Suerkemper combines the exercises in servitude her figures absolve with a liberty of colour; they gain a vibrant life of their own while bidding farewell to the servile function of formal description. Pale or bright, prismatic or cloudy, the colours suggest mood spaces or desired worlds, raising the suspense of the moments fixed by refusing to provide explanatory background information. Thus, many scenes remain placeless and timeless phenomena on the white of the paper or porcelain.
Caro Suerkemper has only recently discovered porcelain as a medium. But she has long been extending her artistic confrontation with standardised worlds – for example in the presentation of her watercolours and gouaches: Suerkemper lovingly integrates them into dolls’ houses fitted out in old-fashioned style or arranges them on elaborately worked dressers, familiar from rustic kitchens. Fascinated by the reserves of conservative homeliness and monarchs of the glen, she is now penetrating the treasure chambers of petty bourgeois ideology and conquering its crown jewels: collectors’ cups and saucers, biscuit barrels and confectionary bowls. As an arena for Caro Suerkemper’s acrobats, nuns and nurses, for her surly bodiced madams and shy porn queens, grandmother’s decorative plate becomes a burning-glass for cutting-edge tensions. In colourful glaze, Suerkemper’s faiences whet the viewers’ appetites – leaving them in lustful doubt as to quite what is being served up.