I am a painter, I work with painting. My work is about color and surface. And in that is everything else.
Marie Irmgard Birkedal works with materiality and the contemporary sublime. She makes visceral haptic works exploring the materiality of paint. The work borrows from ancient and modern sources alike and combines seemingly contradictions.
Throughout MIB’s two-decade practice, she has treated painting with an On Kawara’ish investigative level of intensity and devotion. MIB works in flux between control and loss of control. When the paint behaves unexpectedly, she is open to follow the unexpected and the new direction the work is taking, as opposed to dominatingly insisting on her original intention for the work.
This is openness is not the same as working purely 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. Her process is constantly interchanging between the wordless intuitive state and linguistic and formalistic considerations.
The paint is thinned to the point where it develops through evaporation and leaves dust-like traces rather than directly applied color. This technique makes the materials unpredictably mercury’ish and creates mistakes. MIB looks at these accidents from the work's point of view and evaluates if they will be right for the painting or not. This openness to the unexpected is not to be mistaken with the postmodern notion of “anything goes”. MIB is conscious of postmodernist thought and integrates it in her work, but she also includes the sincerity of modernism, thereby working within metamodernism.
The receptiveness to the unexpected and uncontrollable requires confidence but where previous generations of 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 to materials. She does not view her materials as mere tools but as active collaborators. Each component is important and she rejects the Cartesian notion of separation.
MIB’s works include time as a part of them; time is as much a material of the paintings as the paint, canvas, paper, stretches, and gesso. 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 waiting and looking, where she is not actively painting. These time periods are encapsulated in the works and as much a part of the paintings, as the time spent actively painting.
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