Whitehot Magazine

Lesbian Jazz: Austrian Artist Anouk Lamm Anouk Encapsulating our Contemporary Moment

Portrait of Anouk Lamm Anouk in their studio by Léa Marijanovic  

By NADINE KHALIL October, 2022

Gstaad might be an unlikely place for a rising artist to have their solo. But for gallerist Patricia Low, who grew up between Paris and Gstaad, and established her gallery there in 2005, it made perfect sense. “It’s true this is a small village but it has a strong collecting community - international and discreet,” she tells me. “Although most began with aims of owning work by the big stars, my first collector was Charles Saatchi. I’ve sold YBAs by the truckload, and André  Butzer and Chiharu Shiota even before they became famous.”

Low, who works with heavyweights such as Butzer, Wim Delvoye and Antony Gormley, was raised in a house with a classical collection of Old Masters and modern paintings. “But I find it more exciting to be in the now,” she says.

If anyone encapsulates our contemporary moment, it is Austrian artist Anouk Lamm Anouk, who grew up with the internet, but at a time when the language for non-binary identities didn’t exist. An artist who embraces gender fluidity, Anouk makes work that calls attention to sensual vulnerability. In their current exhibition at Patricia Low Contemporary, Lesbian Jazz; meditating in the Alps (August 20 - October 14), a pair of pastel pink nipples barely touch in one canvas, (Lesbian Jazz No. 32), and in another, a woman bends over to reveal the details of her genitalia in the same pink, with her head hidden, buttocks exposed and a swirl of hair suspended in fine, wispy lines below her breasts (Lesbian Jazz No. 19). The series includes various postures of intimate coupling, but always with a subtle suggestiveness and the anonymity of faceless bodies.

Anouk Lamm Anouk, Lesbian Jazz N°19, 2022 acrylic on linen, 180 x 170 cm (70.9 x 66.9 in), Image courtesy of the artist

“Its not a specific body, it really could be anyone,” Anouk explains. “This is not homemade porn.” For Anouk, the work is about more than desire; it lends a certain visibility to love in queer communities. “Lesbian desire is an open term because it can include everything that is not cis-male, like non-binary lesbians or trans-women,” they add. 

For Anouk, who doesn’t identify as either male or female, sexual identities exist on a spectrum. “I grew up being assigned as a female but always felt androgynous. I was sexualized by the male gaze… and my body felt like a prison.” The impulse behind the white circles in their body of work, usually obscuring their subjects’ faces like Photoshop’s background eraser tool, starts to make sense. 

Anouk Lamm Anouk, Lesbian Jazz N°32, 2022 acrylic on linen, 66 x 61 cm (26 x 24 in), Image courtesy of the artist

2019 was a turning point in Anouk’s practice, where they developed the series post/pre and Lesbian Jazz simultaneously. In the former, floating circles took on a different symbolic value, like a portal to emptiness or what they term  ‘non-space’. These are made with a DIY compass: I use pastel pen with a thread that I stabilize in the center to make the circles. Then I add water to lose the thin line, which needs to dry before I can do another layer…The final work is a condensation that comes with a series of reductions.” 

Anouk Lamm Anouk, Lesbian Jazz N° 24, 2022 acrylic on linen, 140 x 120 cm (55.1 x 47.2 in)

As opposed between figuration and abstraction as the two series seem, there is a connection between them. “I created bodies for Lesbian Jazz in this idea of the non-space space that’s in post/pre, which is a non-body world but its so open that it can be everything,” they say.

But while post/pre has a cosmic feel, Lesbian Jazz seems very much of this world. “It’s about being present and coming into the moment by moving inside your body… Sexuality is universal; it’s the essence of everything, the most intimate and pure starting point.”

Installation view, "Lesbian Jazz", work by Anouk Lamm Anouk, courtesy of the artist and Patricia Low, Gstaad. 

There is a raw, minimal element to the unprimed canvas, but the works seem limited by the very bodies the artists wants to free, even if they are not always defined. It’s the abstract works that are more playful in their compositions, borders and relationships between positive and negative space. 

There’s a sequential arrangement that feels as if each painting begins when the other ends, perhaps like the call-and-response of musical improvisation. “It’s like transporting jazz into abstract painting,” Anouk says. In a way, one series serves as counterpoint to the other with Lesbian Jazz referencing fullness, unity and language/lyrics (such as in the painted words ETERNAL SPOT or SKIN TO SKIN) while post/pre marks a distillation of all narrative content. There, an ambiguity to the shadowy haze emerges from form rather than figure. 

Anouk Lamm Anouk, post/pre N° 20, 2022 Acrylic on Linen, 200 x 200 cm (78.7 x 78.7 in), Image courtesy of the artist

Having sold almost all exhibited works (6,000-18,000 Euros) during the first week of opening in the sleepy Alpine village, Anouk is doing very well. Their visibility inevitably extends to the digital sphere, where they show snippets of their studio practice amid status updates in their shared home with wife Marleen Roubik, a full-time lawyer as well as Anouk’s studio manager. The couple met online during the pandemic in 2020 and got married 10 months later.

Anouk Lamm Anouk, post/pre N° 22, 2022 Acrylic on Linen, 200 x 200 cm (78.7 x 78.7 in), Image courtesy of the artist

Anouk was recently picked up by the same modeling agency as superstar artist Anne Imhof’s partner, the painter and performance artist Eliza Douglas. The impact of their online presence points to a time when art does not stand on its own. And if the artist’s persona has something to do with it, then fluidity is hot right now.



Nadine Khalil

Nadine Khalil is an independent arts writer, researcher, curator and content specialist. After a decade-long stint in art publishing, she is currently advising art institutions such as the Ishara Art Foundation, Goethe and the NYUAD Arts Center in editorial strategy and content development.

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