Caroline Tschumi (b. 1983) has been obsessively producing drawings since she was a child. Following her studies at Geneva’s Haute École d’art et de design (HEAD), from which she graduated in 2018, Tschumi expanded the boundaries of her practice to include a variety of formats and media, including oil paintings and immersive installations. Nevertheless, drawing remains, on a daily basis, one of the artist’s central activities.
The pieces on display in the Graphic Arts Cabinet were produced during the past decade. They were chosen from the artist’s portfolios with the aim of displaying a broad array of her techniques (including pen, felt-tip, gouache, grease pencil, watercolor and so on), and they reveal the immediacy of her approach to drawing. As she describes it: “For me, it’s vital for drawing to remain a raw means of expression. I never make sketches or preparatory drawings. I just go straight to the paper and wait for something to unfold. We’re practically in the realm of automatic drawing here. Figures emerge through associations of ideas and incongruities.”
Her syncretic imagery includes mythological figures and characters from cartoons, graphic novels and medieval tales, all combined in scenes that are halfway between surrealist compositions and psychedelic hallucinations. Tschumi also has an unwavering devotion to 1960s music groups that inhabited a powerful visual world, such as the Beach Boys and Pink Floyd, to which she often listens while working. We find traces of this in the notebooks she has been filling since her teenage years. Shown here for the first time are two accordion books that she produced in 2016 and 2017. Their horizontal format emphasizes both their narrative and musical qualities. A single pattern is repeated, creating a unique rhythm.
Tschumi’s influences include Walt Disney and Naoko Takeuchi, the author of “Sailor Moon.” But these faux-naive images, whose violence is not immediately apparent, also evoke the drawings of Henry Darger on display at the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne. Like Darger’s, Tschumi’s works trawl the depths of the adolescent and adult subconscious to produce a world of puerile imagination with heightened morbid, scatological and sexual associations.
The show, curated by Paul Bernard, was on display in the Graphic Arts Room, a temporary exhibition space created with support from the Leenaards Foundation