Analysis of Image

Flow and Arrest of Thoughts – A Critical Review

Flow and arrest of thoughts - Kartscher

Flow and arrest of thoughts - Kartscher

In this short essay I shall analyze a piece of work that was displayed in Leeds City Art Gallery. The piece I have chosen was part of the Cult Fiction exhibition that ran between September 27th & November 11th 2007. The work is titled “Flow and Arrest of Thoughts”, produced in 2001 by Kerstin Kartscher, a German artist born in 1966.

Firstly a quote that sums up the exhibition in which this work was displayed as part of,
“Liz Craft, Kerstin Kartscher and Paul McDevitt employ graphic elements from comic book imagery to create works that suggest narrative without using words” ( To elaborate on this the exhibition explores the relationship between comics and art, attempting to reaffirm comic art & graphic novels as viable art forms. It shows how the medium has influenced many contemporary artists and also includes works produced in this genre by known fine artists. The exhibition shows what an important a role comic art plays and how social, political and controversial issues can be aired in democratic yet frank visual ways.

Now more specifically to the work itself, it is produced using ink on paper. Kartscher users magic markers and highlighter pens to create an image that could be easily viewed as a simple doodle but also possesses incredible artistic detail and illustrative interpretation of real characters and object forms. The artist noticeably takes pleasure in exploring the possibilities of line art, including repetitive practically obsessive elements that give the traditionally produced image an almost digital quality.

There are only a few obvious elements to the picture, the most prominent and perhaps the focus is the woman clad in a long gown. She sits in an antique chair in the lower right corner of the image, strumming guitar with a vacant yet mysterious look on her face, giving away no emotions and seemingly oblivious to the turmoil around her. She almost has a superimposed quality in the ways she remains undisturbed and distanced from the rest of the image, possibly an embodiment of deep thought itself.

The woman is surrounded by a turbulent red sea consisting of sharp waves and crashing tides, nearly the entire left side of the image is taken up by a giant black chain falling from the skies and disappearing into the waves where it meets the sea. Between the sea and the chain appears a guesser erupting from colorless rocks spurting neon yellow birdhouses in a most abstract way. The sky is black, constant line art broken only buy the white clouds formed by negative space.

Two main colours in the image are black and red. Red is often associated with energy, strength and determination, black can symbolize power, elegance, formality, death and mystery. The combination of these two colours is also traditionally linked to danger or despair. The only other colour in the image is the yellow highlighter used on the birdhouses perhaps to attract attention and emphasize their meaning.

Now in terms of analysis and semiology what could the elements in this image mean? As previously mentioned the woman seems to be the focus, as an individual however she is understated and average, she has youth and beauty but her attire is neither seductive nor unflattering. She signifies women in general, her prominence and thoughtful yet unafraid demeanor symbolize their empowerment and her strumming of the guitar indicates control. Behind her is the sea, turbulent with crashing waves, suggestive of a battle or conflict. The chains usually symbolize enslavement and captivity; due to the size of the chains there is also a significant degree of dominance implied. The guesser that spurts birdhouses has connotations of escape & bursting free, the use of birdhouses possibly symbolizing the role of the housewife. Finally the black sky, this is the future the unknown. The Image as a whole also has a surrealist quality this could be suggesting we are not seeing a landscape but are in fact viewing the thoughts and dreams of the woman.

So to conclude this picture has many levels of appreciation. As comic art it is captivating, as a doodle it is fascinatingly detailed yet as controversial thought provoking art it also possesses incredible depth and meaning.

Kerstin Kartscher
Flow and arrest of thoughts, 2001
© the artist 2007
Courtesy Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin