Bettina Krieg's Narrative Clouds: A Closer Look | By Christian Ganzenberg

In the beginning was the octopus.

Topographic clouds made up of plants, animals and morbid branches, fragments of human existence in the process of disappearing, industrial parts, architectural elements and machine components grow into living ‘drawing organisms’– powerful and determined yet at the same time transitory and fragile.

Countless layers of ideas, images, feelings have fallen successively on your brain as softly as light. It seems that each buries the preceding, but none has really perished.[1]

Bettina Krieg’s drawings have no beginning and no end. Like rhizomes they interlock to form de- contextualized, individual elements. The viewer is challenged to become involved in the meticulously drawn details within the atmospheric whole and to search for his or her own interpretations. However these ‘clouds of numerous narrations’ neither take a predetermined slant nor offer preferred points of view. On the contrary they demand a ‘perspective simultaneity’ and a trans-historical context in which an attempt is made to dissipate common proportionalities and turn one’s attention to the universal events occurring in the drawings.

Not the protruding and the prominent but that which withdraws, not the firm, but that which hovers, is beautiful. Beautiful are the things that already carry the traces of nothingness, yes, the traces of their end within them, things, that do not look alike.[2]

Krieg composes her drawings based on numerous motifs that combine themes of transience, material transformation and the beauty of decomposition. She is fascinated by the fleeting, intermediary stages of decay, the gradual shift between aspects of civilisation and the unspoilt. Bettina Krieg discovers such scenarios while strolling through natural, urban and virtual worlds and collects her impressions in an extensive photographic archive. Little by little she extracts forms from them, isolates emotionally and contextually relevant elements and, using Indian ink, pencils and coloured crayons, creates her own collage-like ‘aesthetic of disappearance’. The regular recurrence of the octopus was not only a starting point for Krieg but is also very important on a formal and methodical level: the individual motifs weave themselves together in a flowing movement, merge with other themes, yet their references remain fragmentary; seemingly without a hold and yet with emotional tension, the drawings force their way into the gap between melancholy, poetry and existentialism. The compositions, which are created during the drawing process at the same time trigger associations with the artistic topos of the tropical primeval forest scenario.

The tropics force out the other in one’ s own. These wondrous metamorphoses prove, how soon the tropics became a picture puzzle in the European picture library:The abundance of wealth and the fertilities and dangers that befall the body like the souls of those who travel to the tropics. The tropics are hell and paradise at the same time.[3]

The exuberant richness of detail and presence have arisen thanks to the constantly untitled works of the precise, almost Old Master-like alignment and the unusual saturation of the depths. The sensitive emphasis of the outlines allows the compositions to “peel themselves” out of the page. It is left open as to whether or not they stretch upwards or vanish in the blackness of the background. In her graphic works – which predominantly consist of screen prints – Bettina Krieg rearranges the motifs of her drawings: she mirrors and interweaves them and finds complex combinations, experiments with negatives and prints on silver paper, reflective and transparent film. Pars pro toto, it is evident here that Bettina Krieg’s creative oeuvre is based on the very thin line separating abstraction and narrative figuration, between indeterminate studies of form and intended emotions. Her octopuses however hover seemingly weightlessly along the blurred boundary between nature and culture.

“…the darkness does not lift but becomes yet heavier as I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power or memory is never heard, never described or passed on.”[4]

  1. Charles Baudelaire, quoted in Paul Virilio, The Aesthetics of Disappearance, 1991.  ↩

  2. From ‘Abwesen’ by Byung-Chul Han, 2007.
  3. Ottmar Ette, special edition of ‘Die Tropen in uns’, Humboldt magazine, July 2008.  ↩

  4. From ‘Austerlitz’ by W. G. Sebald, 2001.  ↩