Marie Birkedal makes visceral paintings exploring the essence of painting, her work borrows from ancient and modern sources alike and often combines seeming contradictions. Throughout MB’s two-decade practice, she has treated painting with an On Kawara’an investigative level of intensity and devotion. Birkedal works in flux between control and loss of control. When the paint behaves unexpectedly, she is open to following the direction the work is taking.
The openness is not the same as working solely from intuition; the set-up for the works is methodically organized in advance, there is a definite objective and a fixed color palette from the outset. The process is interchanging between a wordless hyper-present state and then linguistic and formalistic considerations enter closer to the end.
Birkedal thins her paints to the point where they develop through evaporation and leave dust-like traces rather than directly applied color, the paintings are evoked rather than made. This technique makes the paint unpredictable mercury’ish and by that gives the painting agency to create itself. She looks at these unplanned events and afterward evaluates if they are true or not, there is no go-back button, no overpainting option. Birkedal is a strict judge over her work and many do not make the final cut.
The receptiveness to the unexpected and uncontrollable requires confidence but where some previous generations of abstract artists found that in ego; “I made this so it is good”, she instead finds that security in technical mastery and in an innovative approach and trust in her materials. Marie Birkedal does not view her materials as mere tools but as active collaborators. Each component is important and she rejects the Cartesian notion of separation but believes in a different coexistence.
Birkedal’s works include time as a part of them; time is as much a material of the paintings as the paint and canvas. The works are not made alla prima; because her translucent tactile thinned colors, require that each layer is completely dry until the next. There are long periods of emptiness where seemingly nothing happens but really everything happens. These time-periods are encapsulated in the works and as much a part of the paintings, as the hyper-presence spent actively painting.