The Stendhal Syndrome

October 21, 2014

The Stendhal Syndrome is probably the most artistically romantic illness there is. It is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and sometimes hallucination when an individual looks at an artwork.  The medical condition is named after the 19th Century French author Stendhal (Henri-Marie Beyle) who described the experience after a visit to the Basilica Santa Croce in Florence.

Deep in the contemplation of sublime beauty, I reached the emotional point where we experience heavenly sensations. When I left Santa Croce, I had heart palpitations. The life flowed out of me and I was afraid I would fall.“ - Stendhal

Circle Culture Gallery
Katrin Fridriks - White Stendhal Syndrome


The Icelandic conceptual painter Katrin Fridriks picks up on this theme for her latest exhibition at Circle Culture Gallery. The exhibition title Stendhal Syndrome derives from her installation Perception of the Stendhal Syndrome. The installation comprises of one large-scale painting from the series Gene and Ethics and a custom made sculptural magnifying glass that is suspended from the ceiling at the other end of the gallery. The magnifying glass, aimed directly at the painting, allows viewers to look at the most meticulous details of the work. Each viewer will be confronted with a unique perception of the artwork. The slightest move of the hanging installation or the observer creates an entirely new view on the painting. Perception of the Stendhal Syndrome provides an experience of Fridriks’ art that simultaneously allows for a macro and micro perspective of the painting. The dizzying and puzzling nature of this experience is the artist’s interpretation of the name giving Stendhal Syndrome.

Circle Culture Gallery
Katrin Fridriks - Stendhal Syndrome (detail)

Exhibited Works

Within the series “Gene & Ethics,” for example, Fridriks unites minimal and expressive gestures to create an explosive effect: The dichotomy of only white paint on black grounding paired with her genuine style provoke the impression of paint splashing and swirling over the edges of the canvas – and into the space of the beholder. Rather than capturing a moment in time, the painting epitomizes the moment of an eruption. On a more abstract level, this essentially relates to the evolution of the universe from a singularity, and the origin of all being: It is this mode of energy that the paintings convey. Fridriks has developed her specific technique, deriving from chemical and technical experiments with different qualities of paint and a choreographical act of painting. It is the interplay of the medium, the timing and the artists’ body moving around a canvas on the floor that encompasses the fluid and organic quality of her paintings. All the presented works have in common that they virtually capture the act of painting itself. A strategy that Fridriks refines in her series “Silver Awareness”, which includes a canvas as thick as 20 cm with a reflective silver grounding. The paint materializes before one’s eyes and the picture thus becomes an object: instead of simply hanging on the wall, it reaches out and into the room. Yet, although the paintings result from an abstract and intuitive process, they evoke associative images, such as wild creatures – or even the landscape of Fridriks’ native country, Iceland.

The exhibitions hosts its opening reception on November 21st and will be open to the public a day later until February 14th.

Circle Culture Gallery
Katrin Fridriks - Apocalypse from "Gene and Ethics"

This is Katrin Fridriks

Katrin Fridriks is a conceptual painter. She has been active in the art scene for about 10 years now and numerous gallery and museum shows, art fairs, grants and big commissions already proved her position in the contemporary art world. With architecture being her first true love as a way to express herself and canalize her creative energy, she ended up studying calligraphy which definitely influenced her characteristic work she became known for. Her young and energetic spirit, and wide influences from Pollock, Richter to Kapoor, seem to determine her work for recognition and success. Combining the almost surreal beauty and energy of her homeland, she creates impressive works on canvas that all carry a deeper meaning in them. Fridriks investigates the dichotomy between macro and micro, and the relationship between the world at large, and the one that stems from her paintbrushes. In her abstract works, paint maintains a liquid-like viscosity, applied in dynamic swirls and splatters.

Circle Culture Gallery
Katrin Fridriks

Circle Culture Gallery
Katrin Fridriks - Emotional Landscape

All images courtesy of Circle Culture Gallery

Follow These Artists

Follow These Galleries

Eternity Gallery Paris

Paris, France

Eternity Gallery Miami

Miami, United States of America

Read Other Interesting Stories

Installation view of Other Primary Structures at The Jewish Museum, New York. Credit- David Heald:The Jewish Museum
Art History   |   Elena Martinique

Introducing a new generation of artists and their radical visual aesthetics, the 1966 Primary Structures exhibition changed the course of contemporary art.

Katrin Fridriks - Athena
Exhibition Announcements   |   Balasz Takac

David Pluskwa gallery will host a solo exhibition of Icelandic artist Katrin Fridriks titled Supreme Goddesses by featuring her latest paintings.

Walking Through The City, acrylique sur toile, 2017
Exhibition Announcements   |   Elena Martinique

Gathered for the first time in one single exhibition, JonOne, Katrin Fridriks, Tanc and Tilt will explore the boundaries of contemporary abstraction.