Two bodies are drowing into the darkness of an ocean, probably a mother with her child. Miriam Cahan with her abstract painting tries to represent the vulnerability of man through his body which almost dematerializes and deforms, thus losing the elements of singularity and reaching a new degree of universality and identification. Miriam Chan’s painting is characterized by the inclusion of anthropomorphic figures in which the anatomical features disappear to favor, through shades of color, images of indefinite and therefore less characterized humans. Often the artist’s subjects are placed in shady and dark contexts, a magma of colored backgrounds that increases the feeling of being inside a dreamlike setting, where everything is blur and hard to grasp.

The Swiss artist during the 1960s had abandoned painting as a reaction to a mainly male current to devote herself to drawing and the performing arts, but starting from the 1990s she returned to this language by building her own solid style and practice. Miriam Cahn, contrary to a traditional conception, sees pictorial representation as a tool for reflecting on the contemporary conditions of society and of the human being, which is always taken up in its most fragile and vulnerable sphere. The body and its trespassing into forms bordering on the abstract becomes the founding element of Chan’s practice, who on the occasion of the Biennale 2022, within the exhibition the milk of dreams, exhibits a series of 28 paintings of different formats, which represent an attempt to classify and represent the most delicate and critical aspects of gender diversity and the condition of women.

Unser süden sommer (2021) is the attempt to translate emotions into pictorial language: in one last summer a child and a mother get lost in an ocean that seems to erase any recognizable trait to make bodies simple bodies without identity. A pure and simple manifestation of life and death: a contrast that bounces in constant references to femininity and fecundity like water or the pregnant belly of the mother. Without the intention of wanting to moralize or dramatize, Cahn is able with this work to bring out precisely the critical issues of the role of mother which in recent decades has undergone great changes but also achieved numerous achievements. The artist seems to suggest the constant precariousness of the human being: what does it mean to be a mother? But perhaps even more deeply, what does it mean to be human?


Miriam Cahn
unser süden sommer, 2021, room installation composed of 28 paintings and works on paper, Mixed techniques, Dimensions variable, © 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, Photo by Marco Cappelletti