German artist Kim Bartelt creates art that meditates on the frailty of our existence through simple forms and translucent colors. A hybrid of painting and sculptures, her canvases are minimalistic, geometric landscapes that capture the fragile connection between the visible and the invisible. We learn more about her intriguing artistic process in her studio in Wedding, Berlin.
We meet Bartelt on a sunny, slow-paced April afternoon. Her studio space in northwestern Berlin is airy, complete with huge windows that bathe the single room in natural light, accentuating the beauty of the works on display. Organized yet full of creative clutter, this is the hub of Bartelt’s creative process, where the artist spends countless hours bringing her ideas to life.
An array of canvases in different stages of completion lean against the main wall, each showcasing her unique style and technique. We are instantly struck by their vividness and expressiveness—a captivating sequence of sloping surfaces and forms on smooth-coloured canvases. These are no regular paintings. Instead of using paint, the works result from several layers of irregular pieces of colored, textured sheets of paper glued to the canvas’s rough, unprimed surface. Through this technique, Bartelt composes different abstract forms and shapes. Some have a chalky effect reminiscent of fresco paintings, and others are flatter and more minimal; some are small in size, while others are large sculptural works.
As we are shown around, we learn that Bartelt grew up in Germany but found her artistic expression abroad. The artist studied art history in Paris before traveling to the United States to complete her studies in Fine Arts at the Parsons School of Design in New York. There, she began collecting paper, employing it to create artworks in which the simplicity of composition clashes with the textured, intricate details of the material. An upcoming exhibition titled ‘Break Easy’ is set to bring her works to Milan, Italy, with a solo show at Cadogan Gallery running from May 17th until June 30th, 2023.
Her art is inspired by frescoes, but also by minimalist art movements of the past
The artist explains that she chose to work with paper because of the texture and versatility that the medium offers. Her use of it, however, is more than an aesthetic decision; it is a way to reflect on the fragility of life through the very fragility of the material. As Bartelt explains her artistic process, she mentions how her art is inspired by frescoes, but also by minimalist art movements of the past. She talks of the importance of patience and perseverance in the artistic process, explaining how it can take weeks to complete a single piece. Creating her collages is a long, meticulous, and meditative process of slow application, finding the right paper cut for the right spot in what feels almost like a puzzle game.
Radiant and poetic, her collages have a balanced, captivating luminosity. In some, hues contrast sharply with one another. In others, serene forms seem to almost merge into each other. As we are invited to inspect the works, their deceptiveness becomes increasingly obvious. The artist harnesses complex emotional experiences into her geometric compositions, carrying the viewer into the fluid and expressive potentialities of paper on canvas, layer by layer. Her multi-layered work compels us to think of, understand, and express the complexities of human emotion and the many layers of our contemporary existence, those seen and unseen. Beyond engaging the senses, the canvases also verbalize the emotional fortitude needed for artistic expression, giving viewers a chance to question the very role of art. As we exit the studio, we have a newfound awareness of the complexities of art-making and the fragilities concealed within the power of creativity.