Marie Birkedal (1976) is a Copenhagen artist graduated from Funen Art Academy (2010 MFA) based in Berlin since 2013. Marie Birkedal works with materiality and entropic processes. She makes visceral haptic works exploring the essence of painting in a praxis she coined “empathy and alchemy” in 2011.

MB’s work borrows from ancient and modern sources alike combining seeming contradictions; she is equally inspired by Fayum mummy portraits and Robert Irwin. Throughout her two-decade practice, she has treated painting with an On Kawara like investigative intensity and devotion. She is asking questions, not giving definite answers.

The work comes about in a hyper-focused wordless state in a space between planning and process. Marie Birkedal thins her paints to the point where the binder breaks and only the pigment remains, which makes the paint so liquid it gives the painting a degree of autonomy. The paint develops through evaporation leaving dust-like traces, making the paintings seem evoked rather than made, and radiate an ephemeral presence, so the paintings seem to be breathing or beings, appearing like butterfly wings.

MB works in the space between control and loss of control. When the paint behaves unexpectedly, she is open to see and to be cooperative with the new direction the work is taking, as opposed to dominatingly insisting on her original intention for the work. However, it is not the same as a chance-based process - the set-up for the works is methodically organized in advance and there is a definite objective and a fixed color palette from the outset.

It is not chaos; it is not a dominant intension – it is something else.

This openness to the unexpected is not to be mistaken with the postmodern notion of “anything goes”.  MB is conscious of both modernist and postmodernist thought and integrates it in her work to an extent but is simultaneously questioning it and it´s implications.

M.B’s receptiveness to the unexpected requires security, but whereas some artists finds that security in confidence and ego “I made this so it is good”, she turns away from this notion that she equals to somewhat violence and anti-creation and instead finds that shelter in her cooperation with and trust in her materials. She does not view her paint and materials as mere tools but as active collaborators. Each component is important.

MB’s work encapsulate time as a material equally to paint and canvas. The works are not made alla prima; the translucent tactile thinned color requires that each layer is completely dry until the next. There are long periods of waiting and looking, where she is not actively painting.

These time periods are encapsulated in the works, and are as much a part of the paintings, as the time actively spent painting. Long periods where seemingly nothing happens, but really everything happens. Just as MB does not view negative space as a non-space in her works, she does not view waiting as non-time.

To Marie Birkedal the tactile haptic experience is an equally valid way of understanding and being in the world as words and language and she believes that there is an important code of communication and understanding that is visual and outside language.