Matthias Bleyl

in: Selected Artists, Ausstellungskatalog, Hg. Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin 2009


Elisabeth Sonneck’s wall paintings are always fundamentally derived from the specific space’s structure, that is the artist always enters into a dialogue with the space found on site. The works, mostly temporary, which have been realized so far, fall into three working procedures:
- Use of the individual wall surfaces of a space as pictorial surfaces so that the image and wall are materially identical, whereby the rhythm of the painting develops out of the dimensions of the space and the wall (Rim Shots).
- Installations involving painted surfaces on various supports, developed specifically for the space (Standbild für Tavertin; ritardando; In Anlehnung).
- Site-specific installations of independently created paintings on canvas, in combination with colour fields painted directly on the walls determined by the dimensions of the spatial situation and the colour range of the works on canvas which are to be integrated, and which creates a kind of membrane between the two (4/4 full house; Pulse 100 und 95).

Each wall painting is formally, that is with regard to the rhythm of the colour sequences, derived solely from the existing formal specifications of the space in question, in other words they are made to measure. The colour relates as much to the location’s particular space and light as it does to the paintings, if any, which are integrated. What the works all have in common, is not a conceptual but rather an on-site development process of the spatially specific tones of colour by means of semi-transparent polychrome layering, their perception dependent on the viewer’s position and distance from the work: What appears at a distance as a homogeneous colour, reveals itself with increasing proximity to be vibrating, ambiguous and multi-hued. The paint built up on each surface is thus always polychrome, so that the colouring that results, is an immaterial tone created from the paint applied, which can from a distance appear relatively static, almost monochrome, but is in fact lively and pulsating when seen close up.

The spatial circumstances of Elisabeth Sonneck’s wall-painting in the NGBK exhibition space in Berlin is not a frontal or pictorial one but can only ever be experienced fleetingly, as a passage from the front area to the wider rear area of the exhibition space, determined by the diagonal of a metal ramp to bridge a step. It is from this that the "skewed circumstances" of some of the (otherwise strictly vertical) structuring elements of the wall painting stems. The size of the total painting, produced here by both sides of the picture surface, is only decipherable in this passage situation by moving along the painted surface, which because of the angle of view can only be perceived fragmentarily. This aspect is emphasised by the rhythm of the painted surfaces which can be read by walking along from left to right and vice versa, so that the rhythm is inscribed in the movement of the viewer and can be experienced physically. In addition, the wall painting’s effect of creating space is enforced by the two similarly sized walls being opposite each other. Through their crucial physical involvement, the viewer’s perception of colour combines with a perception of their own position and a perception of themselves surrounded by colour, in this case a range between orange and green-turquoise.

The specific space is therefore not merely used as a background for painting. Rather its unique features and its effects on the emotions are both interrogated and accommodated while also being incorporated into the work. The artist responds in the medium of painting to the current state of the space, its past use inscribed as its specific features, for example the wear and tear or other accidental damage it has received in the course of its history are assimilated into the work.

Translation: Sabine Bürger and Tim Beeby