Shefolk Interview 2016

Arianne Keegan: “Interview with Artist Marie Irmgard Birkedal” SheFolk, 1 October 2016.

Marie Irmgard Birkedal is a Danish artist, born in Copenhagen, who currently resides and works in Berlin. She has shown widely throughout her home country as well as in the US, Portugal Sweden, and Norway. Her work is impactful, the opposite of subtle - bewitching - at times, unsettling in a series called New Mexico 17 Years After she juxtaposes visceral abstract paintings with seemingly mundane photos, zoom-ins in on corners of spaces - unkempt edges of existence. Her paintings, simultaneously abstract and representative, allow the viewer to explore the between - on unruly state of sensation knowingly just above the firm grounds of reality. Her current studio is in the formerly demarcated East Berlin where she says there are still many abandoned buildings in different stages of decay. “There is for instance an old East-German shopping center half burned down where there are no walls left – so it's like looking into a very messed up large scale doll-house.” Much of Marie's art evokes the feelings one would have traversing through a very messed up large dollhouse - feelings of trepidation and enchantment synthesized.

New Mexico 17 Years After, Installation, 2010

Your artist statement is very unique: a list of 27 statements that must allude to your vision. Can you expound on a few of these statements: 2. I live half of my life in passive astonishment; 8. I believe Nike's slogan to be today's most relevant philosophy; and 15. I think about Thoreau almost daily?

Passive astonishment is one of the ways Andy Warhol described himself and it fits half of me so well (the other is half is probably a knotted-up Pollock). I love Andy Warhol's work but for all the wrong reasons. I am not interested in his conceptual framework, the consumerism, the overproduction, the stale silver. What gets me is the astonishment that always comes through in his work and to me overrules the apparent cynicism. There is a wide-eyedness in his work that I recognize in myself - being quietly stunned. I share Warhol's fascination of the dollar bills but not his other subjects, or fixations.

To me passive astonishment is a transcendentalist's outlook. I see Warhol as someone that saw consumer objects with a transcendentalist's eyes. Most of my subject matter is much more classical than his, but the way of looking is the same. I look a lot at nature's "visual design“ – the outlines of dog paws, horses' canon bones, cat skulls and bird feathers never lose their fascination to me. The same goes for some foods - a broken egg, a mango cut in half and an eggplant - to me there's everything in that. I can look and look and I still don't quite get it – but I  don't mind that I don't get it - as long as I can keep looking, there is no frustration in that look. It's very much about being in a state where not understanding, or ever expecting to understand but just observing and admiring, is okay.

I believe Nike's slogan to be today's most relevant philosophy.

Before art school I studied English, and I learned a lot from that, which I use in my practice. But the close-minded referential tendency there can be in some parts of academia; academics writing papers for other academics commenting on the theory about the theory's theory made me claustrophobic. In art school I felt a bit the same. The statement is linked to one of the other statements; irony is good in humor sometimes, mostly it is not good in art. What I mean is the snarky irony where artists make clever art for other artist and hide behind it. That snarky irony that says: "Oh well if they don't like it, it's okay because as you can see I didn't really mean it anyway."

I feel if you don't really mean it. I don't really care. I love Asger Jorn, Jackson Pollock, and Kazuo Shiraga - and of course that was not so passable in art school. For me it's irrelevant what body part Shiroga painted a piece with - it's the energy that it transcends that matters - he just “did it”  and that shows in his work. It takes courage to make a work "real" because it is so easy to attack. Real is a vulnerable position, but also the only one I think anything interesting can come from. I root for and admire people that do things, risk looking foolish. It's the difference between doing or decontextualizing. I like work-horses, people with blinders who just do their own thing, completely regardless. The statement is also very much a reminder to myself, in the sense that I have definitely not always followed it, though I became better at it.

I was once asked to write a text for a drawing/painting class I was teaching and I called it “to walk after the sound”, and the text is about walking blindfolded in a dark forest with only a weak sound signal to direct you out of the forest, and sometimes you will become so lost that you can't hear the signal so you have to stop and listen, try to walk, and catch the signal again. You can just walk after the sound – that’s all you can really do.

I think about Thoreau almost daily.

Emerson and Thoreau are important to me. I think of self-reliance as one way out of conformism. It's about building your own world and that's where the pull of the canvas is for me - a space where I do exactly what I want. Somehow transcendentalism and those thoughts got tucked away before they became fully rooted and to me that's a shame because I think it's a much more interesting direction than what came after - I'll take Thoreau over Sartre any day. Donald Judd speaks about how they, for his sake, could flush the whole European tradition down the drain - it's a bit extreme, but I get where he comes from. I like Judd not Duchamp – that is really what that statement means.

You utilize both painting and photography in your work - can you tell us why these two mediums? Have you explored other mediums or do you wish to?

I don't consider myself a photographer but an artist that sometimes works with photography, a lot of my favorite contemporary artist are photographers i.e. Alessandra Sanguinetti and Lise Sarfati. Because I work in that flux intuitive process where I try to stay open, I have to work in different mediums because painting is good for some things but not for others. For instance, my most recent photo series wouldn't work at all if painted. Colors in a painting and in a photo are completely different. Another reason for working in different mediums is also purely practical because in my oil paintings I often use linseed oil as the only medium, and it is such a slow process that I need to be able to leave it and work on other things in the meantime, because the paintings can take years to dry. I would like to eventually work with video, site specific and build objects. There are so many mediums I would like to explore, but I am just not done at all enough with painting to get there, and I don't know if I will ever be. If you work with oil or acrylics or on primed or unprimed canvas, there is such a huge difference already in that, which I'm not at all done exploring.

Bumble Bees, Moonbeams and Molly, print, 2010

Can you tell us about some of the themes you explore in your work and your process?

I do not purposely explore certain predefined themes, if anything comes close it would be entropy but not entropy as just decay, more entropy as the constant transformation. I have a hard time with categories because the more you work with them, the more you realize most of them are artificial and were never really valid. A big part is an influx between chaos and control, so if I should label my process anything, I would call it "entropy interrupted" - when it really goes wrong, and it often does because it is such a free process. Then "interrupted entropy” when it goes right.

My process is hybrid in that I put things together that might be seen as being very different or even opposed, at least from a linear time perspective, but it is always things that for me fit together. Right now I am working on a Vanitas series with floral motives, I am looking at the Dutch painter Maria van Oosterwyck as a point of departure. She was active in the 1600s. But the spur came from an interview I read with Yoko Ono where she speaks about how she consciously made a switch from "seven sufferings and eight disasters" to "seven lots of luck and eight treasures.”

I don't think it is a theme per se, but for me, the make or break with my works is whether they breathe or not, if they are not alive, I discard them. It's important to me that my works seem edible, not as in delicious, but as in a presence that is real in the world. I want the work to give a tactile feeling, it has to give a bodily sensation that transcends language and the conscious mind. 
It's a thing that is hard to define because it is not about craftsmanship or tricks, because there are plenty of painters that use thick lustrous brushstrokes whose painting seems lifeless, and then there are painters who barely use any paint whose works vibrate.

That's one of the places where painting really becomes interesting to me, because there is something there that we cannot understand, or at least, we haven’t discovered it yet. I think there is a big difference between knowing and understanding. And I work with, am interested in the knowing – you can know a painting even though you might not understand it – but it’s the knowing that has the most value not the conscious understanding.

What formal and/or informal training helped shape you as an artist?

I worked primarily with narratology when I studied English. Narratology is the study of narratives and how narrative structures are constructed and how these structures influence and/or control our perception. It is an uncovering of, how the story is told, and that this "how" is as important as the story itself. I see so many parallels between narratology and painting – how a painting is painted determines how we perceive it. Narratology is a bit like archaeology applied to literature: you carefully inspect and brush off to see what is really there. And I was drawn to that field because it is so much what I am about - about stories and how they are told. It's how I work with painting, text, and photography. I apply, remove, rub off, over and over, endlessly - and usually what I remove is more important than what I apply.

Who are three women who inspire you creatively and/or otherwise in your life?

Uh, there is many, but the first must be: Yoko Ono, because she is a great artist in all mediums, and because she managed not to become insane and destructive when she was strung up by a world mob. She persevered and a bit became the saint for all the people who were judged really unjustly, and her music is amazing - New York Woman is one of my favorite songs.

Then Patti Smith for her work, the music and the novels and for doing her own thing – regardless, for being an example of creation rather than competition – she just does her work. And for losing the meanness when it was time for that, for stepping off stage when it was time for that, for getting back on stage when it was time for that.

Then Joyce Pensato. I love the feel of her work, unfortunately I only saw one of her paintings for real, but that one was breathing. I admire her for being truthful and stepping into her own and for the generosity that is in her work.

For all three women it also goes that I admire their style. Patti Smith is elegant like a Roman in a custom-made suit even in jeans and a flannel, and I love Yoko Ono's outfits especially the little grey high heeled suede boots, and Joyce Pensato looks so punk-rock and bursting happy at the same time.

What does feminism mean to you?

Freedom from conformity for both women and men, equality under the law, the right to choose and to live free of judgement and social control.

For example, in our present state, nurturing is devalued, it is used against women to belittle them and explain to them why they are where they are, sort of "if only they would care less they would be more successful, stronger, etc.", and at the same time it is driven out of men. We have too many men and women (!) explaining to women that it's their own fault they are not succeeding, and if only they would "be more like men”, then they would succeed, which looking at our current state of affairs (climate, armed conflict, misery) is absurd – the last thing we should do is eradicate those qualities typically seen as belonging to women.

As an artist, it has taken me a long time to really come into my own, and I wonder if it would have taken me as long if I were a man. Rothko was in his late 40s before he found his signature but still... For many years I wished I was more like Marlene Dumas or Sophie Calle – more controlled - less expressive. My very first paintings were drips and running paintings, but I took a long detour from that and worked much more conceptually and controlled - it was a valuable exploration, but it didn't need to take over a decade, and maybe it wouldn't have if there had been more Joyce Pensatos' and Anke Weyers' around to look to.

Link to artist statement 2010


Let everything that's been planned come true. Let them believe. And let them have a laugh at their passions. Because what they call passion actually is not some emotional energy, but just the friction between their souls and the outside world. And most important, let them believe in themselves. Let them be helpless like children, because weakness is a great thing, and strength is nothing. When a man is just born, he is weak and flexible. When he dies, he is hard and insensitive. When a tree is growing, it's tender and pliant. But when it's dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death's companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win.”

– Andrei Tarkovsky (The Stalker)

The exhibition consists of eight paper-works that have an apparent fragility but at the same time a very tangible presence. They are delicate, textured pieces made from prepared paper and then laid in color baths, rinsed off, and painted again. The contrast between the fragile nature of the works and their raw, almost brutal energy creates a mesmerizing tension. The works are process-based, created in an interaction between the intuitive and rigorous method. There is a fixed and set-up color pallete from the outset. So M.B does not work completely instinctively; the beginning of her process is wordless and unconscious, but the conscious formal considerations come into the process and eventually, language enters. Both the artist and the works themselves have a special insistence on materiality - the tactile as the most important. The works for the exhibition Hard Earned Innocence has been created in a chemical reaction over time and the paint's pigment settles as dust on top of the prepared paper and retains them in the present. They are suspended in time so that the materials can be allowed to retain their rawness, their life. The works are as much about the materials, as they are the inevitable, indirect artist self-portrait. The most important thing about the works is the works themselves, they are physical philosophy and they contain a reality that one does not have to understand through words or language. The tactile is prioritized over words, M.B does not have a distrust of language  but insists that the material experience is an equally valid method of understanding and being in the world. The paper-works give a bodily response, you can by looking at them almost physically feel how fragile they are. They are not a purely optical experience, they are real things in the world, and hopefully, the viewer absorbs themself in the materials and colors and so absorbs in a physical experience. The works have titles but the artist does not want to tell people through them what to experience or think. The works are made for people themselves and the experience and interpretation are theirs. And many things are best or only understood through the wordless, there is a code that is visual and that is outside language and that is just as important as words, if not more.


This catalog brings together a cross-section of positions that Galerie1214 has been able to give space to in recent years with installations in Berlin and Bad Dürrheim and that it is currently presenting. As artists have always done in previous exhibitions, we have also borrowed a title from a foreign territory for this presentation: "Tropismen".
As is so often the case, it can be precisely the remoteness of such a borrowing that takes the work into an open movement of thought: the term tropism is used in biology to describe the optimization movements of organisms with regard to light, warmth, and nutrients. What is meant is the constant fine "readjustment" of living beings in their respective environment, which also includes the expressions of the environment and contemporaries. A point of this understanding is the juxtaposition of self-sufficient units and always symbiotic orders and patterns. If those are determined by the poles of difference and selfhood, then these are characterized by an interplay of demarcation and opening, mediated by the spontaneous functioning of the sensorium and the catching in the reflection.


With the often quoted and also disputed formula of the solar nature of the human eye*, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe described the assessment that a tropism such as that of the eye to light does not result in a purely materialistic idea such as the stimulus-reaction scheme, but in a Tether for our understanding consists of two threads, as it were: one leads through sensory experience, the other through (often lengthy) mediated cultural concepts. Although – to stay with the example of light – the sun has been integrated into rites such as “God Ra”, abstracted as a “celestial body” or finally classified as a “hydrogen-fusing dwarf star” in conceptual strategies that have existed for thousands of years, light and heat remain spontaneously and originally for our access to knowledge about as a primary experience that art traces: in the drawing as a knowledge-creating dialogue between contour and surface, in the illusion of space as dimensioning seeking order, and in color as a correlate of inexhaustible emotional shades.


Focusing on something outside of us creates a kind of tension, like positive muscular tension as the origin of a movement that follows it. Although it fulfills its meaning through its dissolution, it retains a peculiar echo in art: what has an after-effect in the work exerts a special attraction, just as the reverberation of its choreography can interest us after a performance. As soon as the art is made, it can be accepted in the situation of viewing as the "zero point" (Roland Barthes) of freedom of feeling and creating on the part of the production, as well as of seeing and feeling on the part of viewing.


Certainly, the style says something about the spirit of the selection of the works, which is interested in the creaturely quality of making: It starts from what is happening in the design, which itself always has a starting point, and follows the traces that show how making is itself loses to the foreign in order to rediscover what is one's own - but, loosely based on Bertolt Brecht, in a different, unexpected place.
If we don't swap (supposed) nature for art, it's because
In contrast to the natural tropisms, this is not only integrated into artistic creation, but as an understandable social practice, it has its meaning in the fact that free expression and discipline are mirrored in one another. Art can be defined directly by the process of allowing creative spontaneity and reflection to work through one another in arranged scenarios of self-awareness. In short: the reflection is already in the picture. Each picture stands on its own as a work, but for viewing it has a special appeal to follow the coordination of tension and relaxation in the serial variation of techniques or motivic "reproaches" or to engage in the permutations of the alphabet of coloristic: artistic practice summons the elemental spirits for us, lets them play and orchestrates them at the same time.

The Tropismen project is funded by the Kunstfonds Foundation as part of the NEUSTART KULTUR aid package initiated by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. We would like to thank the foundation and its jurors for this!

© Text (2021): Galerie1214 | 2021, (eng FM, 21)

Dr. phil. Peter Kohlhaas

Digital presentation via issuu

TROPISMEN DEUTSCH PDF Originalversionstext

Art. History. Looking. Dr. phil. Peter Kohlhaas, Marie Irmgard Birkedal, Savage Glitter © Text (2018): Galerie1214, 2018

Marie Irmgard Birkedal grew up in Copenhagen, studied English, art history, and art, traveled extensively in the USA, has been invited to numerous solo and group exhibitions in Scandinavia since 2003, and has lived in Berlin since 2013. Marie Birkedal encompasses genres from conceptual approaches to photography to painting, she works in an artistic and historical continuum and refers to a coordinate system that is broad enough to incorporate the search and work results of exponents such as Cy Twombly, Diego Velasquez, or Yoko Ono into her artistic work.

In her latest works on canvas and paper, Birkedal takes a new, specifically painterly approach to the creation of the picture. In addition to the impasto application of paint, a painting style that is often heavily diluted with linseed oil, large formats take precedence, especially, but not only. The genesis of the image is delayed, slowed down. The content, the surfaces, the color come to the test of time.

Literary criticism knows the expression "god’s eye view" for a narrative perspective from which figures and events appear to be completely transparent and - in the context of the narrative - as facts: everything is always known and weighted. The closest thing to this in visual art is the medieval picture stories, which create a comprehensive simultaneity in the juxtaposition of spaces and narratives: the painter is its omniscient chronicler. Cubism also condensed this as a claim: its nesting of perspectives wanted to be understood as access to making these conditions visible under the conditions of “modern life”. Or as Guillaume Apollinaire put it succinctly: Cubism is a realism. In her art, Marie Irmgard Birkedal pursues a different approach to the claims of a totalizing world representation.
The origin of this path - because being on the move is a movement, not a thesis or a polemical point of view that is “related”, inhabited and defended, this origin lies in the fact that Birkedal takes a paradoxical position outside the polarity of Assertion and counter-assertion (A vs. non-A), in an original aesthetic of amazement. In an interview published in 2016, in which she discusses the motives behind her artistic work method, she says: "To me, passive astonishment is a transcendentalist's outlook. (...) I look a lot at nature's “visual design” - the outlines of dog paws, horses ’canon bones, cat skulls, and bird feathers never lose their fascination to me. The same goes for some foods - a broken egg, a mango cut in half, and an eggplant - to me there's everything in that. I can look and look and I still don’t quite get it - but I don’t mind that I don’t get it - as long as I can keep looking, there is no frustration in that look. It's very much about being in a state where not understanding, or ever expecting to understand but just observing and admiring, is okay.

One might be tempted to speak of 'subjectivity' or 'subjectification' here, but that is not Birkedal's point. Her original insight (which may have something to do with her feminism and the subtle reflection on her life history) is basically that subjectivism in painting is - not radical (enough). Beyond the assertive gesture, in the practice of art, often enough remains centrifugal, distracting, ultimately consumerist, unable to dispel fundamental doubts about the enlightenment power assumed to be stereotyped. This is why less posh nicknames would simply be curiosity and variety. Subjectivism in art does not lead down to the roots of simple human needs, at most - if at least well done - to their parody. To that extent, it remains centrifugal. On the other hand, astonishment as a rooted attitude has a different orientation, it opens and bundles at the same time, it is centripetal and exposes itself to the gravity of the real fields of experience, comes what may. To be astonished means to observe and wait.

Wait, Compress

Painting from the attitude of amazement is not indifferent to the painting process. In many of her current works, Birkedal uses linseed oil as a painting medium, the long drying time of which delays the process of elaboration, sometimes considerably. As a result, certain form-creating projects, as well as the achievement of precisely intended color values, can neither be arbitrarily accelerated nor simply broken off. The wet texture of the diluted paint facilitates the painterly gesture, the quick stroke, and is at the same time a precaution not to accept the first gestural impulse as a result, like that. Changing the gesture of the painting hand repeatedly to check how it ultimately fits into a whole.
If you ask Marie Birkedal in a personal encounter with the phrase whether she has time, then she often affirms this by saying that she has to wait anyway: a picture is drying at a work level before she can take the next step. This is a kind of suspended courtesy that characterizes the person as well as the painter's technique. Respect is not as an empty phrase, but as a concentration on the open process that the intention and hand have set in motion. In her case, astonishment and observation require waiting as the basis of the artistic way of working. For the normal Western view, waiting appears to be an imposition: “Waiting, according to the standard perception, is empty, lost, pointlessly elapsing time” (Ralf Konersmann, waiting is a disappointment, a humiliation, an art. NZZ of March 12, 2017). Birkedal, on the other hand, integrates waiting as a prerequisite and a kind of substance that the work of art assimilates into her artistic practice. Atelier practice instrumented the waiting in a painting technique: by delaying the drying of the colors, Birkedal slows down the material and deepens the intellectual production process. This enables parallelism of the inquiring view: there are always several pictures in the making so that the development is controlled on the one hand by the picture-specific situation, but on the other hand by the painterly recognition of constellations. Observation can get lost in the details, it can (in Schiller's expression) be naive, at the same time it reaches beyond the individual work the level of reflection of dialogue, where Birkedal's perception of the whole (Schiller's sentimentality) comes close to the historical and contemporary roots of her artistic impulse.

Surface: I can look and look ...

To wait means to draw time under these auspices; just as one can draw breath, or draw hope, from a constantly renewing source. Empty time, the metric time of clocks, of measuring, by definition does not renew itself. Waiting is charged with energy thanks to observation, which is the prerequisite for the subsequent step-by-step process of condensation. For this, Birkedal uses the synonym pair observing/admiring herself and thus delimits an open observation before making any judgment against an analytical approach, on the one hand, and a preliminary judgment on the other. Birkedal brings a term notorious to Andy Warhol into play, but she steals it cunningly, so to speak, and extends it to include the sphere of social interaction, mirroring - a broken egg, an eggplant, or a still life are unquestionably worth considering. As a realization, Warhol’s gesture is unrepeatable - it could at best still be copied, but that is not an issue for Birkedal. However, there is a force in it that she wants to preserve or reactivate for the topicality of painting.
With the creation of time, the space for action is created in which the interplay of content, form and painterly elements can be explored. This also shows the conscious work in series, in which the painting is allowed to watch itself, as it were. A dialogue develops between the intentional impulses of the painter and historical foils and models (Velasquez is an important one, the Baroque still lifes would be another) on the one hand and the current, material process. Through her approach, Birkedal allows polarity to become visible between the ductus of the hand, in the visible traces of the design, and the obstinacy of a surface event that is prepared and supported, but at the same time takes place " by itself " due to physical and chemical principles: in the mixing and penetration of colors, the formation of microstructures of the background, which give the newer works their special character, with running drops ('runners'), cracks, ruffles, or rhizomatic effects that project fine linework that promises order. They have to be seen and understood together with the broad brushstrokes that build up the pictorial space with large sweeps on formats of more than two arm lengths.
In her painting, Birkedal avoids articulating the surfaces as statements. Rather, the surface itself initially only wants to be visible, not discursive in the sense of meaningful statements or content that we always refer to when we want to claim to be binding for assessments. When viewed, the surfaces offer themselves like contributions from an ongoing dialogue between the painter and the world, from inanimate nature to history and art history, that avoids a narrative program or is so extensive that the space in between for the individual résumé is retained.


Birkedal's current works (from 2017/18) live from a coloration that gains its energy and intellectual tension not least from the fact that the painter first distills the color in the artistic process. It is not the color that determines the picture, the process of the picture decides the color, it demands certain values. The constructive order, which can be reconstructed, oscillates around a preliminary drawing, which it soon leaves again. She exchanges the definition that promises security for the design that promises openness, modeling in the sense of the scientific model term as a “model for ...”, for a view that has yet to be gained. The astonished person does not yet know what it is: a flower, a house, a bouquet, venison, a room - modeling is the way to a view since the visual and conceptual lexicon of things has been used up, or vice versa with the digital explosion of the semantic, "overdetermined". The observer, the waiting person, is the really radical one in this situation: she does not contradict the ubiquitous meanings, but delves into the open questions of the process: Why is this something and this and not something else? The modeling does not direct the search to something hidden behind the curtain or just below the surface, rather it lets us feel the weight of the design, it presses the color into our eyes, it irritates us with the movement into which it transfers the static. The color is the meaning of the surface. Adding, removing, intersecting, superimposing levels, layers ... The picture shows a color shape, the (often) numerous individual steps of which can still be read and which can also be read. Two different strategies emerge here.
For a group of pictures, Birkedal lays a framework of strong dark tones over the primer, which she repeatedly checks with their effect on one another, in neighborly contrasts, and with a view of the picture as a whole. Even in this first phase, she often uses colors very diluted. This often happens on the flat canvas (on the studio floor). If Birkedal then erects this, the typical 'runners' emerge, which run off as excess color in the direction of the intended image inclination with gravity. The fact that these tears of color often run in different directions shows that Birkedal keeps the picture structure open; she uses the developments in the picture surface as a starting point for new points of contact. In the self-description “I look and look ...” there is a maxim and instruction at the same time: the enjoyment of the picture comes above all who can solve the condensed time again.

In addition to changing the basic color structure, the technique of glazing plays an important role, especially with uneven surfaces of titanium white in different densities and consistencies. They can appear as translucent clouds, as wiped broad brushstrokes, or in more or less dense veils or overlays that partly follow an earlier shape, but then reinterpret it through a semi-transparent application of paint. One could find that Birkedal goes the opposite way with the light colors as Mattisse does with the dark ones: if he also used black to re-stage the light, Birkedal does it with light glazes and alabaster-like translucent bodies (such as in “Ersatz Primitiv”) conversely, to give the darker values a new meaning; like a map directs, but also first reveals a terrain, the colors are re-orchestrated by the specific colorism, to work their way through different works: as if they wanted to explore their possibilities in variations and in different contexts in the stubbornness that can only be defined painterly.

This demands from the painter the patience not only to bring a color value into play once, or, conversely, to always occupy it with the same valence, but to get involved with the respective picture as a special situation and the formal and color vocabulary each time with its validity and suitability to question. In the larger formats, for example, one notices the recurring shades of brown or green, prominently in the dedication image for Charlotte Salomon, "L'ermitage was not the sanctuary it promised to be", where they appear like an ostinato, in dialogue with bright, striking colors that create staggering views in terms of content and space - but not in perspective.

Another group of works is represented in particular by the Berlin Flower Series (2014-2018), in which delicately takes on the imagery of the Spanish and Dutch for instance Sieclo d’oro or the Baroque to still lifes and interiors. Through the described color strategies and decisive access to abstraction, they execute a double movement that takes up the interior and with it living (building ... thinking ...) as it were tangentially. The arrangements are 'bound' and dissolved again, placed and bundled for themselves, infected with moods (in the best manner of historical models), and cooled to zero degrees Kelvin in the next manifestation of the cycle. It is fascinating to see how Birkedal, to a certain extent, develops a vocabulary for the well-being of living, which is also further processed in large formats. Not living and the precariousness of living are existential. The nomadic is longing and at the same time triggers fear; to the emotional inevitability of settling down - under often difficult and questionable economic and social "framework conditions" - the answer is the dissolution of the order, which is then reorganized under a new shape.

In the cycle of the Berlin Flower Series, the more impasto application of paint - known from earlier work phases - is again more widespread. Brushes and sometimes spatulas are decidedly used for a thick application of strong colors, some of which are guided by the painting movements in parallel lines, strings, or streaks, while others blend more intimately. The thicker application of paint, the impasto, often gives the picture surface an almost relief-like character and enables special intensity in more intimate formats. They are chamber plays of variation in the serial, which at the same time can question subtle moods. Birkedal partly uses the primed canvas directly as a background, partly she places the flower piece in a fictional space by choosing a different background color and a pedestal-like surface for the draped arrangement (as in “Gawkey”). In doing so, she also resorted to eye-irritating reversals, for example when in “Palpable Poignancy” she made the vase body (also visibly placed) in a dark brown, but transparent, while the densely staggering bouquet, is again designed as impasto.

Savage Glitter

Birkedal took the title phrase of the Berlin exhibition in April 2018: Savage Glitter from the novel “The Quick and the Dead” by Joy Williams, it alludes to the tension between the romantic (wilderness) and society (trinkets/tinsel) to which we feel drawn as if contradicting two polarities. The stories that explain everything are at some point - or suddenly - no longer believable. Images about stories, images that believed they could (or had to) tell something, keep losing ground in modern times; or have to conquer new territory. A "picture over" that seems like program music ...
Birkedal has dealt intensively with the question of representability. She has reflected on Agnes Martin's apodictic appreciation of composition at the expense of color and pure beauty at the expense of nature, but she does not see representationalism as a taboo but as a dimension of interest and anthropology. Her flection of the photographic image in the diptychs of photographs and abstract acrylic works in the cycle New Mexico 17 Years After (2010) or in the Booth series (2011) can already be seen as an answer (and solution) to the doubts about purely compositional strategies are seen. One conclusion seems to be that the form reflex can be ignored, but the contents of human existence, the scenes from everyday life, are revenants, even if they are not turned into narrative. Birkedal pushes these existential, which we develop every day in our stories, as questions through the open curtain onto the stage, where the audience has to deal with them, whether wanted or not: flower arrangements, interior scenes from the intimacy of living, or the compositions mentioned above, which reflect the still life of Spanish-Dutch style, reflect rituals and residues of everyday life and set the old dialectic of public vs. private disturbingly in vibration: what will become of our festivals of encounter, of regular or civil occasions? Does the private, the interior, also belong in the future in the sphere of masculinity, or, on the contrary, does the impulse for design break up the once gender-typical attributes? Is the flower arrangement “residual nature” (wilderness) or a visual echo of the “reactionary nuclear family” or something third, for example, the - quite Marxian - liberated processing of the vanitas motif as part of a free game of its new interpretation, which also dresses provocatively maybe in glitter?

Marie Birkedal understands it skillfully, to work on objects of this kind, in a painterly way without giving their addressees a script. Colors cannot be metaphorical, but white as a moderator of colors can - as with Birkedal - put the literal nature of colors to the test and it can cancel out the uniqueness of things - which means what - behind the veil of ignorance. The phrase, taboo was ethnologically and later psychoanalytically the message that could not be touched. Birkedal shows by hiding (glazing, wiping, deconstructing), and only then do we know that there: something is there.

© Text (2018): Galerie1214 | 2018, (eng FM, 19)

Dr. phil. Peter Kohlhaas

Deutsch: Kunst | Geschichte | Staunen PDF


Interiors & Territories

Galerie1214 shows from 1st June 2018 until June 22nd the exhibition "Savage Glitter II: Interiors + Territories" with the artist Marie Irmgard Birkedal. An artist talk with Marie Irmgard Birkedal takes place on Friday, June 1st, 6:30 p.m. in Galerie1214.

Alexandrinenstraße 1, 10969 Berlin-Kreuzberg, Concert bassoon +: Villa-Lobos / Heinichen.

The Danish painter Marie Irmgard Birkedal has been working on a group of works consisting of interior views and unusual still lifes since 2014. The Danish compatriot Axel Salto spoke of “supernatural interiors” a hundred years earlier, with a view to Matisse's bold pictorial inventions. Birkedal's colorful and large-scale sculptural paintings suggest a description as 'para natural': nature returns almost like a jungle in the supposedly circumscribed, sealed-off interior, in colors that model inner worlds, in forms that assert themselves as a matter of course. Instead of views, Birkedal presents us with breakthroughs: one does not look discreetly through the window into their interiors, it is as if walls were open and the room took back what civilization withheld from it.

As if in contradiction, Birkedal ties in with the imagery of the Spanish and Dutch Sieclo d’oro and the Baroque. Where our interiors are decorated by concept stores, Birkedal's adaptations of still life leave traces in need. Her color strategies and the decisive access to abstraction carry out a double movement. The arrangements are 'bound' and dissolved again, put together and bundled for themselves, infected with moods as if to test our reaction to the reappearance of the historical pre-images.

It is fascinating to see how Birkedal develops a vocabulary for the well-being of living and works through it in her pictures. According to Heidegger, living does not take place in empty shells: “Living is always a stay with things.” With the things, plants and animals, the large-format sculptural paintings depicts the precariousness of living in the spaces of the frame: solidification is threatened, the color would not, and empty spaces would not suggest a way out; the nomadic is longing and at the same time triggers fear.

Birkedal's interiors ask themselves about their suitability to store or release memories, they articulate wordless formulas for moods, show the raw and the designed, with and against the outside world, and leave - empty - as a question of how the place for sociability beyond mere consumption could be made habitable.

Dr. phil. Peter Kohlhaas (eng FG)

An artist talk with Marie Irmgard Birkedal will take place on Friday, June 1st, 6:30 p.m. in Galerie1214. In the beginning, the Duo Concertante (* 2001) opens with Kathrin Goschenhofer (oboe) and Ulrike Buhlmann (bassoon) in our Fagott + series, with which we juxtapose compositions from the baroque and modern times.

Buhlmann and Goschenhofer interpret a baroque sonata by Johann David Heinichen and the first two movements of the duo for oboe and bassoon (W535) by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.