The Martin Mertens art gallery is showing in How long is a piece of string recent works by the artist Bettina Krieg. Her drawings are in black and white, as well as flat blue and silky golden tones. Fine lines, drawn with a paintbrush and ink, a quill and a fineliner, stretch over large and small sheets of paper. For the first time the artist is showing her latest works – more abstract and reduced than ever before.
Bettina Krieg’s works consciously refrain from giving answers to questions of length, beginning, and ending. Her drawings have no titles. They depict nothing concrete, but challenge the imagination of the unsuspecting viewer. The artist is holding up a mirror – the images we discover reflect our own imaginations. Allow us to give in to the drawings, and see organs, muscle fibers, swallows, bays, heart sounds, frequencies or mountain landscapes. Not only their conceivable topics, but also the aesthetics of the exhibited drawings vary. Some remind us of comic-like mangas, others of gloomy etchings by Goya.
In her earlier works the artist photographed urban motifs, from which she developed graphic shapes and patterns. In this way she wove machinery parts and plant growths into complex microcosms on paper. In contrast, her recent works are based on a single element: the structure of water. This pattern does not originate from her photo archives, but from drawings which were made in Istanbul in 2012. Years ago Bettina Krieg grew fascinated with water and its depictions as we know them from copper engravings from the 15. century. The artist’s lines are inspired by the old masters. Clear, curved strokes, interrupted by gaps of luminous white, pervade her work. But Bettina Krieg’s lines do not keep to the motif of water, but grow organically into something new and undefined. They adopt three-dimensional features and pull us into an optical current.
““To draw” is at once to give birth to form – to give birth in letting it be born,” the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy wrote in his essay The Pleasure of Drawing. When Bettina Krieg draws, she does so equally intuitively. She allows her lines to grow step by step, without focusing on the result. The line becomes a trace of her concentration and openness in the making. The artist never corrects her hand drawn lines, but leaves them as they were first inscribed. In this way the drawing unfolds – it comes into being. Bettina Krieg’s works bear witness to an inexhaustible curiosity and a great devotion to the act of drawing, as well as to the power of the human imagination.
Bettina Krieg (born 1981 in Würzburg) studied visual arts at the Berlin University of the Arts, the École Supérieur des Beaux Arts Marseille and the National University Canberra. 2009 she completed her final year project with Daniel Richter, Robert Lucander und Hans Jürgen Diehl, and was awarded the title of “Meisterschüler” for outstanding achievement. She has already been awarded many prizes, including stipends from the Villa Aurora Los Angeles (2010) and the Stiftung Kunstfond Bonn (2012). This summer (2016) Bettina Krieg will be teaching drawing at the International Summer Academy in Dresden.