Modern Art and the Modern Power Frau in Berlin
A Sculpture can Populate an Oil
Another First for Women Power Artists.
Christine Knauber is the glue that brings her three amazing artists, under one roof – the Knauber Galerie in the Langenscheidt Strasse, Berlin. Her gallery serves artists, who have a space to display their work, and locals, who can experience the very best in modern art, free of charge.
Christine took three disparate artists, who work with different media, produce different artworks, and bound them together to an amazingly harmonic exhibition, which she calls Siesta. Her artists are:
- Heike Adner – sculptor - clay and bronze.
- Sibylle Prange – Oil paintings.
- Ursula Strozynski – etchings and collages.
And yet, these four women have something else which binds them.
They all spent their youth in the German Democratic Republic, usually referred to as the DDR or East Germany.
Christine, Heike and Sibylle began their studies under difficult conditions, shortly before and after the reunification of Germany in 1989. This brought a unique challenge. How do you study for a degree, when the school system that educated you has been demonised and dismantled? It meant, many rules they had learned in their teen years, were no longer useable.
Ursula had a more complicated path to tread. She had wanted to study fine arts. Under the DDR system one didn’t always get one’s first choice and she studied architecture and worked for several years as an architect. She had to put her artistic ambitions to one side and has asked herself ever since, “What would have become of my talent, had I been able to study art, experience various media, and mix daily with other artists?" She is obviously still bitter. She also relates that the courses in architecture, in the DDR, had the second highest suicide rate among students.
Perhaps this explains, why Ursula works in a medium that allowed her to progress without a well-equipped studio, and in the early days, with two small children to look after, life was anything but easy. Her world is of dry point prints, but very much using her own technique.
Ursula Strozynski's Lonely Deckchair
Ursula Strozynski Describes her Troubled Past
Minimalism as a Response to Oppression
Ursula scratches an acrylic sheet with a technique called Kaltnadel (cold needle). In English, this is "dry point." Her scratches are precise and minimalist – often just a thin line. Sometimes, she takes a larger area out, to give the object some substance, but often substance is created by empty whiteness.
I wonder if this technique is a sub-conscious throwback to her DDR youth. Her minimalism creates an aura of loneliness, but not quite despair. Her subjects are empty, but not dead. This point was nearly debated by Christine Knauber in her introduction speech. “A siesta is quiet, pensive, has an aura of sleepiness in the afternoon. A time to take time back.” I would add that a siesta is also full of unseen life - crickets scraping, water lapping, couples cuddling behind wooden shutters etc. Ursula captures that, too. Wherever we look, we ask what is happening behind the curtains, around the corner. A deserted beach, with a few empty deckchairs, means the users are somewhere else - doing what? Sleeping, Really? Or reading, cooking, doing homework, playing computer games, or most probably, just dreaming – of a lover, of a boy who hasn’t declared himself, or a girl of such beauty, she is surely, unobtainable. They are all somewhere, behind her bare buildings and streets.
She uses acrylic sheet, because she can look through the transparent material and see her creation, as it will print onto paper, not as a negative. After the needle has scratched, she covers the acrylic with ink, wipes off all but what is in the scratches, and uses courage, to place the paper on it. All artists have nervous moments.
A Happy Artist at the Opening.
Oil on Canvas Landscapes, in the Best Landscape Tradition
Sibylle Prange, like Ursula Strozinski, creates Siesta Landscapes. Sibylle’s are empty, too. Only the occasional boat on the water reminds us that there could be life somewhere, and yet we know, that the water, the bushes next to the road, are nature’s response, to our vandalism. There, where we humans can’t get, life goes on in a million ways. Just take a cup of pond water in summer and view a drop under a microscope. We are as nothing by comparison. While we take a siesta, mosquitos prepare for work.
Sibylle uses a more traditional medium – oil on canvas. Some scenes use vast panoramas, such as “The Red Boat.” Her much smaller “Kibbutz,” highlight the contradiction between human ingenuity in feeding and housing ourselves, and our effect on nature. The gas-guzzling irrigation hoses stand, forlorn and dismissed, in the landscape. They hang their heads in shame, at the destruction they cause, but know, that without them, Israel – and the rest of us – would starve. We know that next growing season, they will be out again and make crops where nature never intended.
Sibylle gets many of her ideas through travel. Why did she choose North Africa and the Middle East?
“I started there, because they were the destinations I could afford, back in the beginning,” was her honest answer.
Guilty Irrigation Hoses in Israel.
An Irresistible Face.
Heike Adner Working in Clay
Making a Landscape to a Portrait.
“We have two artists to supply the heat and emptiness for our siesta. Heike Adner has populated the empty vistas with her figures.”
This was Christine Knauber’s clever definition of her exhibition. Heike Adner’s figures, were for me, the most fascinating aspect of the exhibition, and the ones I would be least likely to own. The technique is a minefield. Her figures have exact human proportions, which means, the firing time for her clay is a work of art in itself. How to get relatively thin ankles and feet, to be correctly fired, without damage, in the presence of much more solid torsos, must be a nightmare. The high point of Heike’s art are the faces. They can look, at the first glance, like strict school teachers, who have caught the lads smoking behind the bike shed, but in discussion with another viewer, I realised that the faces are strict, (or are they emancipated), but retain a beautiful feeling of delicate femininity. Men and women, who love women, will know what I mean.
When asked, why she only made female figures, Heike answered, “My figures have to please me, have to provide me with an inner feeling of harmony with them.”
The implication is, if a male figure gave her this harmony, she would do men.
The woman with whom I discovered the inner meaning of Heike’s sculptured faces, is a close friend of the artist.
She told me, “There is only one way to decide if you should buy a work of art. Go up to it, put your fingertips a few centimetres from the object and wait for the tingling sensation. If it is there, buy! You are meant to have it.”
“That is all very well,” I answered, “but I will be bankrupt, before the end of the evening.”
Heike explained why she started to work with bronze. In our relatively small houses these days, clay is too delicate. She is often asked to undertake repair work, after unfortunate accidents. Bronze brings another set of problems. The sculptures are more likely to break a foot if they fall, than break themselves, but the process is so expensive, that unless she gets a commission, she can’t do anything big. That’s why there are some delightful tiny bronzes called Dance and Relaxation, and I think I spotted a male clay miniature, called “Little Ship.”
Is there hope for us guys?
Two Faces Dear to Heike Adner
Inspired Gallery Decisions Make Christine Knauber a Berlin Art-World Star
Christine Knauber’s role in this exhibition cannot be overstated. The skill, with which she has assembled the pieces, and intermixed them, is masterful. Three different media, become a symphony of interaction, in her hands.
Go on line and look at the many more pictures available, of the exhibits. Hold your fingers over the computer screen, wait for the tingle, get on the phone, any time of the day or night, and read Christine your long number. You won’t regret it.