- Toby Ziegler, Failed Study for a Ouija Board, 2017
Failed study for a ouija board, 2017
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Most of Ziegler’s paintings are permeated by a sense of illusory familiarity. ‘Failed study for a ouija board’ makes no exception. Drawn from a limitless digital stream and placed onto an aluminium panel – as is Ziegler’s usual practice – Matisse’s paintings glimpse at the spectator from the background.
However, the sense of familiarity is almost immediately derailed by other elements in the composition. What does the ouija board in the title exactly stand for? Does it refer to an attempt to conjure Matisse’s or his dancers’ souls from the hereafter? Or, differently, does it indicate that we are looking at a séance, recalling the interpretation of Matisse’s La Danse as a dance macabre? Similarly, the meaning of the pink oblique stripes is also somewhat mysterious. They could evoke both the convulsive movements through which the ouija board supposedly speaks, or a pentimento of the artist, as well as the grid employed by some Renaissance painters in the preparatory stages of their artworks.
The questions are doomed to remain without an answer. Part of the reason is that Ziegler’s works are intentionally idiosyncratic. Though they aim at perfection, they never achieve it completely. And they are not ashamed of showing it, elevating erasures and pentimenti to integral elements of the composition.