Miriam Cahn began specialising in drawing from the outset of her career. The medium allowed her to break free from the purely technical skills she learned as a graphic design student in Basel from 1968 to 1973. Using chalk and charcoal meant she could work swiftly and freely, pouring her vital energy into works that she created with her entire body. Every detail of her hand movements was captured on the paper. Cahn created her first drawings on outsize sheets of paper, working on the floor, the walls of her studio, and in the street. In the 1980s she extended her creative practice to include painting and video, gradually bringing colour into her work. A degree of performativity remained a constant feature of her art. She overtly created her oeuvre from her own point of view – that of the female body that was her interface with the world, with its own sensory memory which she called on when creating.
Cahn’s women often express a highly animalistic nature. Some figures in the Morgen Grauen series are even somewhat zoomorphic, with small, bright eyes, webbed feet, and rudimentary arms tucked into the stubby torsos or hidden behind their backs. These women are part human, part bird. Depicted face-on or from a high angle, they seem to have been taken by surprise, gazing out at the viewer with terrified, crazy eyes. In German, the noun ‘Morgengrauen’ means ‘dawn’. Cahn has separated the word into two, ‘Morgen’ (morning) and ‘Grauen’ (horror), suggesting a gloomy, grim sunrise befitting the ‘Grau’ (grey) palette that dominates the series.
Miriam Cahn. zeichnen/drawing/dessiner, Fribourg, Modo, 2014.
Miriam Cahn. Arbeiten von 1976-1988, exh. cat. Hanovre, Kunstverein Hannover, Berlin, Haus am Waldsee, 1988.
Stiller Nachmittag. Aspekte Junger Schweizer Kunst, exh. cat. Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1987.