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Geist Und Form: Spiritual Paintings From Berlin

An abstract painting consisting of vibrant colors and many unidentified shapes depicting a state of mind by Jorge Queiroz

The Grunwald Gallery of Art in IU’s Hope School of Fine Arts is currently hosting the Themester-related exhibition Geist und Form – Ten Painters from Berlin.

Jurriaan Benschop, Dutch writer and art critic, assembled ten international artists, currently living in Berlin and created an exhibition which encourages questions and answers at the same time.

This is the thing that really interested me in this show: In what way could you talk about abstraction? What has become of abstraction after it was sort of a revolution in the arts in the early 20th century?

The chosen title for instance should “in the first place make people curious”. “Geist” translates as spirit, psyche, mind or ghost, and “Form” stands for shape, form or mold. As Benschop explains “it’s not only about what you can see … it’s also about things that are absent or that are hidden”. It’s a theme that weaves through all of the paintings in the show.

How Does "Now" Look?

But there are vast differences among them. Contemporaneity is not a predictor of style, as Benschop explains: “Somehow the contemporary became like a quality in itself, while nobody really knows what it is. But on the other hand of course I understand that you see a painting and you have this immediate feeling “Ah this is from now – this fits our time.’”

That feeling is often triggered by abstract paintings, another term that’s broadly interpreted in Geist und Form. “[In reference to] most figurative painters [in the exhibition,] I wouldn’t say that their works are not abstract or that there is not like an abstract quality in it. And this is the thing that really interested me in this show – In what way could you talk about abstraction? What has become of abstraction after it was sort of a revolution in the arts in the early 20th century”, the curator speculates.

Similar to the diversity of approaches is their origin: Denmark, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany and even the United States are the nationalities represented in Geist und Form, although – as the title suggests – Berlin – the home to several thousand international artists, is what all ten painters (and the curator) have in common.

Painting Outside The Lines

The history of the city made Berlin a “place to be” for young artists. After the wall came down in 1989 the city which “used to be the place where Europe was divided, became the city where in fact the East and West were … reunited”. Benschop compares the reunification to “a champagne bottle, that the cork pops off”. Many young artists were attracted to the “Freiraum” that emerged – the city’s new physical limitlessness and the spiritual freedom that ensued.

Today, Berlin's status as an art center persists by virtue of officially sanctioned spaces, such as the five important museums located on the city's "museum island" that house art from all over the world, along with countless informal spaces that host exhibitions in old garages or empty houses.   The art-rich city still nurtures a thriving bohemian arts scene.

Ten artists cannot begin to represent the estimated 420 galleries in Germany’s capital. Geist und Form does at least suggests the diversity among Berlin’s painters. The genre of painting as defined in this exhibition is fungible enough to encompass paintings in the Expressionist, Symbolist and Pop art traditions, as well as a conceptual painting consisting of unstretched canvas, pigment and stretcher bars, and painted-on photographs.

At the end of the day, Benschop asserts, “it’s not important if [the exhibition] is from Berlin or from another city, because … it’s painting language”.

Related Events

Several artist talks have been scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition Geist und Form: Ten Painters from Berlin (on view through October 11th 2013):  Valerie Favre speaks September 18th at 6PM in Fine Arts 102); Michael Markwick, September 19th at 6PM in Chemistry 122; and Mark Lammert, September 20th at 5 PM in Geology 126.  A panel discussion takes place September 20th at 7 pm at the Grunwald Gallery featuring the aforementioned artists along with Jorge Queiroz and Adriana Molder.

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