Claudia Sarnthein

Claudia Sarnthein was born in Germany and lives and works in London. She studied Art History and Design in Vienna and Hamburg and graduated from the Royal College of Art, London with an MA/Fine Art in 2004.
Her work has been exhibited internationally, most recently in The Familiar Unfamiliar, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart (2010), The London Art Book Fair, Whitechapel Gallery/Domobaal, London (2010), with/drawn The Drawing Room HU, Budapest (2010), Time is a Sausage DomoBaal, London (2009), Schafskopf BOX, Berlin (2008), An Jacob BOX, Berlin (2007), Preview Berlin DomoBaal, Berlin (2006), Art Rotterdam DomoBaal, Rotterdam (2006), 40 Artists-40 Drawings The Drawing Gallery, London (2006), The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2005 Jerwood Space, London (2005), Slow Forming Blyth Gallery, London (2005), and 13+ DomoBaal, London (2005).
Publications include An Jacob (2007), Lache Nicht Weine Nicht…(2007), Mutter Seelen Allein (2005) and On Fragments (2004). Her work is held at the Victoria & Albert Museum Collection and the Royal College of Art Collection in London as well as in private collections in the UK and Europe. She has been lecturing at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford since 2005.

Installation view Sunday Best 2011

According to an old English proverb the devil divides the world between atheism and superstition. The devil is hoofed and often depicted as cloven-footed, sporting a hoof split into two toes – almost a visual metaphor for the above divide.
In Claudia Sarnthein´s work Sunday Best, the devil´s hoof enters in the Teutonic disguise of a rather solid and carefully crafted horse’s foot (German: Pferdefuß).
If something has a Pferdefuß, it means in a transferred sense there is a catch, a snag, some kind of drawback. It indicates a devilish feature of the thing: something that is foul – even if we cover it up with Sunday best clothes.
In folklore Satan´s hoof is sometimes seen as even more mischievous than the devil himself. Seen from close up, its image functions like a partial meaning that maps itself onto the contextual body – identifying it either as part of a horse or the devil. It depends on our belief system.
The Pferdefuß is only one visual trope that could come to mind when unravelling the different elements of Claudia Sarnthein´s multi-medial body of work. Partly shown as table installations, which suggest meanings rather than directly identifying content, her altar-like arrangements ask us to connect fragments and follow associative trails that lead toward narrative intersections between various elements dis-playing private codes we can merely sense rather than properly undo. These things do not come together if we only take them at face value: to a certain extend we need to follow a rather devilish superstition to knit together these non-linear triggers into an opaque, only ever momentary belief system.

Wiebke Leister

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