About a year ago, I asked the painter Louise Fishman to recommend one painting in her hometown and she told me to go see Rogier van der Weyden’s Crucifixion in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I had been thinking about her work – about brush marks and geometries and feminist painters productively messing with Modernist legacies that pitch ‘the grid’ against embodied gestures. In Van der Weyden’s The Crucifixion, with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning, right angles abound: in the framing, the cross, the brick wall and the creases in the red cloth backdrops. These grids are multiple and, rather than being in opposition to the highly expressive bodies, they are essential to their formation. Textiles are a site of mediation: the expressive folds of garments and loin cloth are most legible against the orderly creases in the red hangings, and both are the result of human action: the act of folding laundry, the act of hands being clenched in despair. The other striking thing here is the refusal of perspective, which, after all, was the hot technology of the day. This painting presents a wall and not a window: the scene pushes up against the space of the viewer and belongs to no world but this one.
Ulrike Müller lives in New York, USA. Her work is currently on view in the Whitney Biennial in New York, and at Rodeo, London, UK.