a week in Berlin

I got back from Berlin on Saturday but haven't found the time to write up my journal reflections until now. I spent the majority of this week recovering from some sort of sickness that I caught when out there but I'm back in the studio again now, in full swing for second year exhibition prep.

After a day of driving, flying and nightmare travelling last Monday, we arrived at our hotel exhausted and ready to sleep ahead of our day exploring the city. On Tuesday morning we spent around 3 hours on foot, walking and taking in Berlin in the light of day. Our route taken to get to the first gallery was, as it happened, a lot longer than we had planned for - but gave us a chance to find our bearings and take photographs.

The first gallery stop of the trip was Hamburger Bahnhof. The museum's permanent collection houses work by Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly, to name a few.

Although fantastic to see works by artists whom I have admired for most of my art education (in particular, Rauschenberg and Twombly) in the flesh, the stand out exhibition for me was 'Hieroglyphics', with work by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

The exhibition offers an insight into Kirchner's work and captures the experience of "immediate ecstasy" that exploring a city brought to the artist. This feeling was captured through his  photographs, preliminary drawings and final paintings as "complete hieroglyphs", a concept used by the artist to describe his act of 'artistic translation'. 

Several of Kirchner's photographs, books and drawings complement the paintings in the exhibition, marking the 'cultural charge' of his painterly worlds.

Several articles with thoughts and considerations about the work of Kirchner were published in art periodicals around the 1920s, introducing and explaining his art. Published under the pseudonym 'Louis de Marsalle', the author of these articles was actually Kirchner himself. The articles used the word 'hieroglyph' repeatedly to describe the idea of capturing an artistic reality with a symbolic language. Kirchner's art, as we can deduce from the writing under his pseudonym, is an abstraction of things seen and experienced. A reduction of traditional imagery, these hieroglyphs found in the paintings reveal a personality in Kirchner's visual language and uncover his 'way of seeing'.

I loved the way Kirchner coined the term 'hieroglyphs' to describe the gestural and suggestive energy in his work. The photographs complementing the paintings also got me excited about using photography as an art form again in my own work. It is something I have done a lot of in the past but neglected of late.  

I like the idea that hieroglyphs could be linked somehow to mapping and cartography, in terms of symbols acting out as a map 'key'. I'll be thinking and writing more about this in future.

Another art-related highlight was the Dali exhibition we visited. Not a great follower of his work, I didn't really know what to expect, but I am so glad that we made the trip. Having only seen his paintings in the past, I was completely unaware that Dali was a print-maker, too. Discovering his beautiful etchings by accident was a wonderful discovery. 

The use of almost painterly, sketched-out lines on the etching plate was what drew me to the prints, as opposed to the subject matter. Out of a personal preference, I enjoyed his landscapes more than his figurative pieces, but it was his effective use of negative space that left me admiring the works.

At this point in the trip, in awe by the sheer amount of work framed and shown upon the gallery walls, I noted that I needed to draw more. I find often that I am so concerned with making finished works that I neglect the importance of 'prep', maquette and sketchbook work. 

I found a book called '40 Tage' in the bookshop of the Hamburger Bahnhof museum, a collection of 40 graphite drawings made by Gerhard Richter in 2015. They were so simple. Small, but moving. They carried an intense amount of energy in the lines and tone put down onto paper despite being so minimalistic.

I need to be confident enough to be satisfied with the simplicity in my work - simplicity that I so admire the bravery of in the work of others.

Perhaps the greatest gallery trip we made in the week we spent in Berlin took place on the last day. Having visited the KW the evening before and spotting the ME Collectors Room, we made a note to visit when it was open the following day. The exhibition showing at the moment is titled 'My Abstract World'. It ties together a selection of international artists, with names such as Etel Adnan, Bernard Frize, Katharina Grosse and David Ostrowski in the mix.

The group of abstract paintings are owned by collector Thomas Olbrict and reflect his love for 'intense colour and bold expressive gestures', drawn from his collection of 350 abstract works by ninety different artists. Paired with an installation of seating arrangements, piles of reading materials and magazines, oriental carpets and reclining chairs, the exhibition elicits a relaxing, multi-sensory experience. The gallery felt like 'home'. We spent a good 4 hours there - disappointed when we had to leave to head back towards the airport.

A quite incredible and inspiring week in Berlin spent in the company of some of my wonderful peers. Berlin is most definitely a city I wish to head back to in future to explore the coffee scene, the myriad of bookshops, foodie spots and hidden art galleries and exhibitions. For now, I have left feeling rejuvenated to continue to push my practice and make ambitious work ahead of our upcoming exhibition at The Poly.