Judith Mall
*1983, is an artist based in Hamburg, Germany

2004 - 2010 University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg
since 2016 State Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe
2012 DAAD scholarship for a residence in Kyoto, Japan
since 2012 drawing instructor


"Ich bin hier viel zu selten", 2008, Hamburg
"Secret Volume", 2010, Hamburg
"Linoleum Thrills", Textem, 2015, Hamburg
"Beyond Halfway Beach", Adverse, 2016, Paris


+49 - (0)1522 - 877 1 322


by Benjamin Maack

A laboratory. Yellowy tiles on surgery-green walls. In front of one of the walls there is black dust. Above, an ocean surface explodes, an island arises. It's just one in a large number of drawings. A series of pictures is hanging on the wall. Moments of seething water and spat out ashes, studies of the volcanic island above and under water. Some of the images could be illustrations from scientific books, others allow us to almost see the artist's train of thought, to discern the way she relives the phenomenon with her charcoal on paper. In former times, biologists used to work in this room. Now it functions as Judith Mall's studio.
Why are science and fine art so often so strictly separated? Judith Mall's works raise this question. Not only because islands emerge on her walls and she is working in a studio with surgery walls.
Of course, Judith Mall approaches her subjects with different devices than, for instance, a biologist: instead of undertaking long journeys and dispatching diving robots worth millions in great depths, she researches with her hand and a piece of charcoal on paper. Instead of turning up the ocean floor with streams of data and a robot's claw, Judith Mall discovers moments of haunting subjectivity, she draws dozens of moments, evaluates, lays void sheets aside or discards them. Thus, experiments still take place today in the laboratory room on the top floor of the contorted brick building: narrative experiments. For Judith Mall's work is not just about the emergence of an island, a closed traveling bag or the fringes of a sofa – two drawings from her other series – but the composition of moments.
Occasionally, single pictures in Judith Mall's work seem almost banal. Many of her drawings are as detailed, seem as accurately observed, as unemotionally displayed, as a photograph in a catalogue of goods. They seem as innocent as the drawings in a children's book. But something is wrong with this banality, something seems to vibrate under its surface. As though the world depicted in it was just a thin membrane behind which something different is hiding. The attention to detail itself upsets the depicted and flips it back and forth like a flip image, revealing a second subject to the viewer who changes his perspective. The rough carpet in a living room turns into a lawn, then into a carpet, then back into a lawn… The holes of a wall socket become abysses, become holes, become abysses…
Only rarely do Judith Mall's pictures show persons and when they do, the depicted subjects have difficulty asserting themselves next to the objects. In one of the images of the series "Sleep Easy", men in black suits stand uniformly and equal next to the cabinets of a datacenter behind armoured glass. The presence of persons is more palpable in Mall's work when they are absent. Who left the impression on the pillow on the empty bed, who tipped over the water bottle? Whom does the vacant air mattress in the swimming pool belong to?
The single picture however is just the nucleus of each narration. The narrative strength of Judith Mall's work finds its complete expression in the series of drawings that the artist assembles. Thus, the series "Aqua" shows the work in a laboratory: hands on a keyboard, plugs in sockets, a petri dish with an ominous object, a sweat stain on the back of a man, the shape of which seems to emulate the shape of the creature in the petri dish. And in between, quite suddenly: three images of sloshing ocean.
Seen individually, each picture seems to be a random instant in an endless series of moments. Seen together however, they narrate a place and an event. The assembly of images fills each single picture with poetry and challenges the viewer to become narrator and detective, to review and modify the order of the drawings, to keep reassessing and questioning the individual pictures.
In this respect, "Beyond Halfway Beach" may present the greatest challenge to the viewer. In this work, Judith Mall has laid out 30 single drawings in a narrative chequered pattern. Here, time and space are being manipulated optionally, shapes resemble each other, objects are being mirrored, places being repeated and displayed at different times. A chance to let the gaze wander on the images with the precision of a chess player and to influence, upset and reinvent the course of the story with each move.
The fact that Judith Mall exclusively allows the colors black and white (the black of the charcoal and the white of the paper) in her works is a limitation that fits wonderfully into her work. Drawings often dominated by dark grey and deep black with only few pure white patches set the tone of her narrations and remind the viewer of film noir storyboards – except that Mall's work in fact does not lay out evidence that simply wants to be recounted. Quite to the contrary, it seems as though the images do not want to retain their meaning at all. It trickles down from them just like the black dust that keeps falling on the floor of Judith Mall's studio with each stroke of the charcoal pencil.