“Lots of thoughts and memories pass in my mind and through my hands into the works of art” Kim Bartelt.
Kim Bartelt does not paint surfaces; she paints with surfaces. Instead of a brush with paint on it, her painterly work consists of irregular segments of coloured and transparent sheets of paper which she applies to the canvas. They appear like abstract phrases, fragments from a poem until you reflect on the whole piece.
IMAGE (Detail) Brutto Gusto, 140 x 140 cm, paper, flower wrapper, acrylic & fabric on canvas, 2018
Concealing to reveal.
With these new works Kim remains true to her minimalistic approach. The paintings continue to work with layers and with the distinction between that which is near, and that which is distant, that which lies upon and that which lies underneath, between fragmentation and completeness.
Her forms create a dialogue with each other and with the canvas itself. You discover the depth, the torn and the non-perfect only when you are close enough.
When placing the papers on the surface they receive dents, cuts and signs of usage. Like wrinkles on delicate skin.
IMAGE ‘A fleur de peau’ Paper, glue & acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 cm, 2019 Detail.
Kim Bartelt’s collected papers are metaphors for the manifold nature of life. The hues, the angles, the creasing and the folding, the light & shade. They speak about the transience of the moment and the cycles of life with its coming and going.
Kim Bartelt’s work has been shown at the Villa d’Este, Como, Italy, Women Made Gallery, Chicago, Galerie Lacke & Farben, Berliner Liste, Berlin, Starke Foundation, Berlin. Warbling Collective, London and Amélie, Maison d’art, Paris.
To begin at the beginning. Was there a damascene moment when you decided – or knew you had to be an artist?
There hasn’t been one pivotal moment, but rather a slow process to finally admitting that I really just want to do art. Art has always been my favourite subject at school, and I even switched schools in 11th grade to finish my A levels with Art as my major. After school I didn’t dare study art right away. I thought I would want to be an architect, like my father. In the end I decided to study Art History first. During these studies in Paris we had ‘Painting’ lessons one evening a week at a painters studio. He convinced me to go on and study art. I think I needed to hear this positive affirmation to go there all the way.
Can you tell us a little bit about the process of making your work, we love process.
A few years ago I stopped using liquid paints, after coming across a bag with collected tissue papers from my time in New York. Those thin papers which are used to wrap clothes when buying something in a store. I started glueing these semi- transparent sheets of tissue paper onto canvas.
The transparency of the papers suit my purpose to create layers, but at the same time still show what was there before. I use papers of mostly rectangular shapes which I move and position on the canvas until the perfect placement is found.
“The forms create a dialogue with each other and with the canvas itself.”
Lately I’m getting more and more interested in other found and recycled materials like cardboard, used clothes, discarded canvas, old sheets and even carpets. Another important aspect of my work is time. Through the fact that most of the materials which I use have lived for some time already, they have a history which can go on in the new work; but also the time that I put in while creating those pieces.
“Lots of thoughts and memories pass in my mind and through my hands into the works of art.”
IMAGE ‘Kim Bartelt’ Studio.
If you could work within one past art movement, which would it be. And why?
The Bloomsbury group was very beautiful, I find. They were artist, writers and philosophers who exchanged ideas. To live and create together must have been wonderful, especially to apply the creations to the house they lived in, they painted the walls, the doors and beds. To live in a work of art must be a dream. I also try to make my home more beautiful every day, by hanging art, painting walls, using natural materials and decorating it in a way that it feels good to be home. The Bauhaus movement, very strict in comparison to the Bloomsbury group, is very interesting to me as well. Again there is a connection of objects, furniture and art. Although being a trained painter I am more and more interested in using art in connection with objects. I started making screens, a wonderful element in a home to play with space and display an artwork which has been applied to it. I also started weaving and would like to translate my abstract paintings into wall hangings.
I used to enjoy sculpture classes during my studies very much as well, but didn’t pursue it because I had no space to store big sculptures in New York, and didn’t know how to transport them back to Europe. But I am getting there again and I think this ‘drawing’ in space, which sculpture is, is absolutely wonderful.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less. N.B. There is no correct answer.
Beauty can be found in so many things. In art foremost, in beautifully designed things, in landscapes, nature in general, but also, and maybe most importantly for us as humans:
“It is the beauty in other people that might be the most touching for us“
I think there is nothing more beautiful than talking with, and hearing from, other humans about their life, their thoughts about art and music and literature, to see the glow in their face when they talk about beautiful things. It all comes together then and makes sense. I think this is what it is worth living for, for those moments of togetherness and the generosity of shared wisdom. For me this is absolute beauty.
Do you have a favourite photograph or painting which has been your inspiration?
I don’t have one favourite painting or photograph, there are many inspiring pieces of art out there, which are all important to me in one way or another. But there is one painting which left a lasting impression on me, and I don’t exactly know why yet. It is Paolo Ucello’s ‘Battle of San Romano’. It is a work of 3 panels, one is hanging in the Louvre, one in the National Gallery in London, and the third one in the Uffizi in Florence. I have been invited for an artist residency in Florence for this April, which I will use to go study this painting and try to understand more of it, try to take it apart, make sketches, abstract it, and maybe take it as starting point for a work of mine.
How does the culture of where you live or work impact on your work?
I think every artist is influenced by the specific aesthetics that surround him at the location where he/she works. I can’t say my work is typically german, I also lived in many other places which influenced me enormously, the french beauty, the rawness of New York, it is all there, saved in my visual and emotional memory, and might come through in my art.
Tell us about your colour palette.
My works mostly have neutral colours, sometimes pastel. This is no intentional choice but rather a natural process which led me there. I like my works to be quiet places, a space for the mind to be still, and for the eyes to rest from the busy outside and digital world.
Which artist or artists would you most like to meet? And do you think you’d get on?
I think it would have to be Agnes Martin. She was surely not the person who enjoyed meeting other people very much. She worked very secluded in her home in New Mexico. But through this time alone she gained many insights which supported me in my studio time over many years already. She talks wonderfully about beauty and perfection in her writings.
IIMAGE ‘A fleur de peau’ Paper, glue & acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 cm, 2019 Detail.
Do you interact with technology in your work?
No, I don’t really work with technology. Sometimes I get inspired by something I see in the internet, but no direct use of technology. It is important for me to work with the hands, and to put time into the works. I hope that this transmits and gives something to the viewer.
What do you wish every child was taught in school, at home, in life?
The most important thing is that children’s creativity is not being ignored during their school time. They have everything they need from the beginning: the curiosity, and the fearlessness to experiment and just do, without thinking about the outcome. That is all you need (to preserve) for any profession.
Have you ever held your head in your hands and questioned your career entirely?
Never. I wake up happy every day, looking forward to another day in the studio. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love.
Do you love what you do? And does it love you?
Yes, absolutely. I can’t imagine any other profession for myself.