African Landscape III, 1993

African Landscape III, 1993
Oil on cardboard, 137 x 98 cm

The composition of the work African Landscape III is exceptional due to its dramatically sharpened composition and is able to present the ambivalent human-nature relationship like no other painting of Ruth Baumgarte’s Africa cycle.

Originating from the border of the painting, spiral-like rock faces twist towards the centre of the image, pulling the viewer’s gaze deeply into the spatial depth of the painting. In the process, the rocks create a nature-built window that directs the gaze toward two figures: On the left, a female figure places her arms over her covered head. Next to her (directly next to her in the painting, but spatially distant), a male nearly nude figure reaches his hands up in the air, as if pausing in the middle of a ritual. This human couple is exposed to the extreme elements of nature and reacts to its desert-like environment – that is expressively rising in yellow, red, and turquoise colours – by performing protective, beseeching gestures.

This impressive work, at first glance, simply presents a couple in inhospitable land. Yet, the intensification of the artistic contrasts of close and distant, woman and man, warm and cold colours, reveals a much more fundamental meaning of African Landscape: a primal scene of human existence that mirrors life in nature in all its contradictions.