Click here for article published in Ham & High, March 2008

Separation of individuals in crowds emphasised as much as what connects them.

“Vibrant, alive and so convincing” was the immediate response of Shamineh Ali Kahn founder of the New End Gallery, to Johanna Freudenberg’s paintings. And she has made Freudenberg’s work the third exhibition at this welcome recent addition to Hampstead’s gallery scene. Using oil crayon, acrylic and paper collage, Freudenberg creates anecdotal pictures whose subject matter connects with personal or social issues that resonate with her.

Sometimes exuberant, sometimes soulful, they are contemporary images in a distinct style.

“The Urban Fox (pictured) is set around the corner from my home in Kilburn”, she says. “At night, the streets are claimed by foxes whose raucous shrieking and shadowy scavenging parallel the lives of humans who inhabit the night.” Her husband Chris, a cameraman, is seen crouching by the dustbins, filming for a TV documentary.

Freudenberg was born in New York. She has lived in London for 40 years and tries to visually reflect the human diversity of life of both great cities. “Groups of people in close proximity – whether at a football match, dancing in a club or sitting crowded together on a train – confirm their separation from one another as emphatically as that which connects them”, she says.

The exhibition also includes Freudenberg’s still lifes from an earlier period. They combine birds, animals and plants with domestic trivia in homage to the chaotic still lifes painted in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Although these paintings may seem at first sight to be celebratory and optimistic, her intention is to strike a sombre note. “They demonstrate the natural world to be as ephemeral as the lifetime of a vase of flowers or of a pair of shoes and catalogue losses to come”.

ART with Alison Oldham