WILD HEART: Lydia Maria Pfeffer



75002 PARIS


"The collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of preexistent forms, archetypes, which can only become secondarily conscious and give firmly delineated form to the contents of consciousness."(C. G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Olten et al., 1976, p.56). 


This quotation by the psychoanalyst C. G. Jung (1875 -1961) is not only the central starting point of his development of theory about the human psyche, but also an elementary foundation for the work of the Austrian American artist Lydia Maria Pfeffer (*1976). Jung assumes a collective memory of humanity, which, in contrast to individual memory, is prenatal. According to this, the human soul is not a tabula rasa, but always already pre-formed. Fantasy, perception, and thought are influenced by these innate principles of form - the collective unconscious. For Jung, archetypes are autonomous primordial images that exist preconsciously in the human psyche; they are in themselves unmanifest, but reveal themselves in myths, fairy tales, and dreams. According to Jung, archetypes in the form of religious ideas or primordial images slumber in all human beings, even if consciousness ignores them. In products of the imagination, however, in rituals and rites, they become visible.


Pfeffer's work plays with this psychoanalytic idea of a collective, unconscious human memory, and thus the artist’s depicted characters are reminiscent of beings from another world that would be found in mythological, fairy tales and fables. At times the beings wear costumes and thus find themselves in a meta-world between fiction and real references to the human world. In this in-between plane, the viewer always finds something familiar, a faint call of a memory or an experience. It is this safe space offered by traditional celebrations or rituals that interests Pfeffer. There, structures and behavior reveal themselves, handed down over millennia, which deliberately distance themselves from the actual reality of human beings. But which also reveal humanity's most primal needs for community, belonging, acceptance and love. "I like the idea of focusing on our commonalities, such as the basic desires and fears within the human experience. Especially in a time like ours, when governments tend to create discord and division rather than community and solidarity, it's important to remember that we are all human," she says.


Strong, female protagonists dominate the visual events of her canvas works and become metaphorical symbols of our contemporary times.  Pfeffer's narratives illustrate once again that history always means the present, fiction always means reality. Her works can be placed in the current cycle of a contemporary surrealism of female painters who use the language of invented worlds to code them anew for themselves.


Lydia Maria Pfeffer was born 1976 in Austria, lives and works in New York, USA. She received her BFA from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in 2013 and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016.