Review: Pirouettes captured in ink

Swirling sketches of black ink sharply contrasting against the whiteness of paper are the first impressions that strikes visitors to the Christine Pillhofer art exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Centre in Bratislava's Old Town. Born in Vienna in 1954, self-taught artist Pillhofer presents exquisite drawings and sculptures that capture the movement and dynamism of dance and ballet.
After years of studying subjects varying from classical ballet to piano, ceramics to fashion, Pillhofer incorporated all these elements into her drawings and sculptures. Having exhibited her works in galleries in Vienna, Paris and Toronto, and having been awarded second prize in an international sculpture competition in Vienna-Oberlaa, her works are now being seen for the first time in Slovakia.


'Ballerina I' by self-taught artist Christine Pillhofer
photo: Courtesy of Autrian Cultural Centre

Exhibition of sketches and bronze sculptures

By: Christine Pillhofer
Admission: free.
Open: Monday-Thursday 10:00-18:00, Friday 10:00-16:00.
Where: The Austrian Cultural Centre, Zelená 7.
Tel: 5443 2985
Open: until March 31st.

Swirling sketches of black ink sharply contrasting against the whiteness of paper are the first impressions that strikes visitors to the Christine Pillhofer art exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Centre in Bratislava's Old Town. Born in Vienna in 1954, self-taught artist Pillhofer presents exquisite drawings and sculptures that capture the movement and dynamism of dance and ballet.

After years of studying subjects varying from classical ballet to piano, ceramics to fashion, Pillhofer incorporated all these elements into her drawings and sculptures. Having exhibited her works in galleries in Vienna, Paris and Toronto, and having been awarded second prize in an international sculpture competition in Vienna-Oberlaa, her works are now being seen for the first time in Slovakia.

The exhibition is divided into two rooms. In the first, drawings characterised by thin, delicate lines depict abstract, sketchy figures captured in movement. At first glance, the figures resemble birds - after momentarily gazing at the pictures, the viewer senses that the bird imagery is intentional, that Pillhofer is comparing the effortless flight of the bird to the equally graceful leaps and gravity-defying flights dancers themselves perform on stage.

The works in the second room present more distinct images of the swing and energy of dancing. With vivid, circular strokes, Pillhofer succeeds in capturing the vigour of this art of movement. In one drawing, as if the friction of the dancer's feet is setting the floor on fire, the swirling figure is beautifully suspended in the spin of a never-ending pirouette.

If Pillhofer's drawings capture movement, her sculptures depict the physical pain of ballet. The rigour of classical ballet is shown through emaciated, weakened bodies testifying to the brutal training dancers suffer to achieve the elegance viewers see on stage. Her sculptures are not of dancers in perfect and fixed positions; rather, they are beings who live for and through their art, never able to fully separate pain from joy. They are always intertwined, gaining enjoyment from suffering.

One of the bronze sculptures, "Ballerina I", shows a figure with her hands raised and her hip detached from her body, seemingly tied in a knot. The leg is disengaged from the symmetry of the rest of the body as if each limb lives a life of its own.

Another sculpture depicts a suffering, bent-over figure who still somehow looks elegant and graceful. Here too, the different parts of the body look worn out and detached from each other. Her head hangs low, slowly descending towards death, or liberation.

Pillhofer's work is moving and dynamic, remarkable for an autodidactic artist. It is proof that different art forms can intertwine and mutually nourish one another.

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