The Contemporary Art Society has acquired four works on paper by the German artist Elvira Bach for the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Based in Berlin, Bach works primarily in painting, drawing, printing and sculpture. A recurring motif in her work is figurative representations of women using a hyper-expressive style to deconstruct conventional depictions of femininity. Bach was an important figure in the Neo-Expressionist movement in the 1980s and 90s and is especially associated with the ‘Neue Wilde’ generation of artists. Like the work of her Neo-Expressionist contemporaries, Bach’s practice is characterised by vivid, flamboyant colours and a strong, gestural style that stood in opposition to the dominant trends of conceptual and minimalist art.
The works acquired by the CAS are unique watercolour and crayon works on paper that complement a print by Bach already in the Ashmolean’s collection, providing an understanding of her work in different media. These early pieces exemplify her expressive, figurative language and deployment of colour often involving her own life and representing herself. A work from 1980 depicts a period of lovesickness, showing the artist lounging on a bed next to a bright red heart. Another work is an image of celebration featuring glasses of red wine and strawberries strewn on the floor between her legs. A third work from 1981 shows the artist at home amongst various domestic items; a bright red telephone, a television and a potted palm tree. The dynamic A3 work from 1982 was made during a residency in the Dominican Republic. It can be interpreted as a depiction of herself again, dancing with her partner against a deep blue night sky. The motifs and the artistic language are typical of Bach appearing in many of her later drawings and paintings.
The Ashmolean’s collection of works on paper includes a group of German Neo-Expressionist prints by artists such as Georg Baselitz, A.R. Penck, Markus Lüpertz, and artists of the next generation. Bach has been represented through one untitled screen print from 1983. The collection features major ‘Neo-Expressionist’ works, however there are gaps and women artists are particularly underrepresented. This acquisition will assist in creating representative and inclusive narratives of Neo-Expressionism at the Ashmolean.
Elvira Bach (b.1951, Hesse, Germany) has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Ottobeuren (2015), Historic Town Hall, Limburg an der Lahn (2013), Gallery Art350, Istanbul (2013), Gallery Anne Moerchen, Hamburg (2012) and Galerie Jaeschke, Brunswick (2011).