In conversation with...
The new paintings by Bernd Koberling, neither figurative nor entirely abstract, are intense, unusually eventful works. It quickly becomes clear what they are about, and what is happening here: in the painting, with the painting, with one’s own eye and one’s own inner perception. This perceptual process is capable of guiding the viewer’s gaze through numerous lines, planes, heights and depths in order to discover what was previously invisible.
The 297 watercolours from which a selection is presented in this exhibition are all in a small format. They were produced in Koberling’s Berlin studio from January 2021 to February 2022. The circumstances of the pandemic and his parallel project to produce several large paintings were the consequence and the motivation for concentrating on these small works on paper.
His visual ideas feed on perceptions and sensations. They erupt as an impulse, as a reaction to the previous brushstroke, then open up as a new impulse that is immediately made available. When painting, Koberling repeatedly intervenes by removing, wiping, or rubbing away the paint already applied, usually in order to react to it again, applying new layers of paint and demanding reactions from it. These active, controlled processes, which constantly leave traces behind, represent the artist’s constant grappling with the canvas and with what the paint causes to happen on it.
Extremely thinned oil paint, when it collects in separate puddles and is exposed to the climate of the studio, provokes a sedimentation that makes it possible to perceive the drying process as if observing from a bird’s-eye view a body of water whose moving shore is leaving traces behind on the land. Not only in the knowledge of how Koberling works but also when viewing the paintings, there is a tangible sense of reading the traces that were left here, exposed, wiped away, excavated, piled up and reshaped.
Bernd Koberling’s large-format works in this exhibition are powerful paintings, lively but not restless, and this is not less true of his small watercolours. For all their formal differences, they can be treated as equals of the large paintings, since the situations under which they were produced are comparable, and they are very similar in terms of the artistic approach and intensity of depiction as well. In this way Koberling has succeeded in produce small watercolours with great effect, just as his large-format paintings preserve an astonishing intimacy for all their monumentality.