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Intuition and Experimentation - The Press on To Paint Is To Love Again in the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle
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Intuition and Experimentation
The Press on To Paint Is To Love Again in the
Deutsche Bank KunstHalle

On the occasion of the second Berlin Art Week, four important institutions celebrated painting. With the exhibition series “Painting Forever!,” Berlinische Galerie, Kunstwerke, Neue Nationalgalerie, and Deutsche Bank KunstHalle showed how mercurial the medium of painting – which has often been written off – actually is. In the KunstHalle, the exhibition “To Paint Is To Love Again” juxtaposed current paintings by Antje Majewski, Katrin Plavčak, and Giovanna Sarti with late work of Jeanne Mammen. “Painting Forever!” met with a resounding response in the press, and for many journalists “To Paint Is To Love Again” was a highlight of the exhibition project.

“The most differentiated, surprising, clever exhibition of the cycle is the show at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle,” writes the art magazine ART. “Three young women painters each have one of the rooms to themselves and know how to fully exploit their engagement with Mammen’s work. Antje Majewski’s theme is the artifact. She paints auratically charged objects. (…) Her presentation is full of allusions to Joseph Beuys. Ultimately it’s about archaic objects fraught with significance – a great room. Giovanna Sarti tends to pick up on Mammen’s abstract works. Katrin Plavčak shows that even political, almost journalistic current painting does not have to be superficial. Curator Eva Scharrer completely relied on her intuition and joy in experimentation, and it paid off.” In monopol, Silke Hohmann writes: “It is quite astounding that with its exhibition the non-urban, independent company Deutsche Bank has organized a thoroughly curated show that focuses on Berlin yet also provides great art-historical impetus. (…) Due to its “dialog with feminist politically motivated current painting,” Hohmann sees Mammen’s late work as being “relevant again” today.   

Large national German dailies also reported on the show. “‘To Paint is To Love Again’ – with this quote from Henry Miller Eva Scharrer puts herself above the discussion about the end of painting with great poise,” writes Simone Reber in the Tagesspiegel. “Men here, women there (…). While the opulent exhibition “Jack King Queen Ace” in the Neue Nationalgalerie devoted to four men impresses with powerful, juicy, purely contemporary painting, its female counterpart at Deutsche Bank’s Kunsthalle takes a much more sensitive tack.” The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also contrasts the show with “Jack Queen King Ace”: “In the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, very idiosyncratic works whose styles range from fantastic (Katrin Plavčak) to precisely realistic (Antje Majewski) to neo-Informel (Giovanna Sarti) confront the work of Jeanne Mammen (1890 to 1976), who was known primarily for her depictions of Berlin nightlife. This show can be viewed as a counterpart or antidote to what is happening in the Neue Nationalgalerie.”   

While taz is not enthusiastic about all of the “Painting Forever!” projects, the daily newspaper praises the exhibition in the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle. Eva Scharrer, it writes, “precedes the half-abstract, half-surrealistic late work of the Berlin painter Jeanne Mammen with three contemporary artists (…), who show how manifold the entanglements are between figuration and abstraction, conception and narration in current painting.”

Miriam Böttger declares in Kulturzeit (3sat): “While ’Painting Forever’ is perhaps not the great declaration of love for painting that the title suggests, the quartet on exhibit is nonetheless inspiring.” In Die Zeit Sebastian Preuss asserts: “The individual exhibitions are more differentiated and demanding than the slogan leads us to believe,” adding: “In the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle the Berlin-based Italian artist Giovanna Sarti enthuses about the painted surfaces of the young Sam Francis and European abstract art. (…) It’s good to know that nothing in art history gets lost. The painting recalls its own history.”

“Impressive” is the word the Berliner Morgenpost uses to describe Jeanne Mammen’s abstract paintings. In Die Welt, Hans-Joachim Müller calls Antje Majewski “one of the cleverest contemporary painters” who shows “how the courted and discredited métier can reflect intellectual activity. (…) The curator Eva Scharrer brought together women artists in the Deutsche Bank’s rooms who delicately and quietly collect the balls that the somewhat more precious-looking work of the capricious Berlin painter Jeanne Mammen passes to them.” While in the Süddeutsche Zeitung Catrin Lorch is not enthusiastic about “Painting Forever” as a whole, she is thrilled about Antje Majewski: ”The only paintings in this show that come to life are the works that emancipate themselves from genre. For example, Antje Majewski refrains from upright, tasteful renderings in the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, showing (…) that painting is not a still medium.”  

The lifestyle magazine Traffic also raves about the three painters: “Apart from the city they work in – Berlin – they primarily share a pronounced experimental zeal.” Kulturspiegel draws attention and Der Spiegel has this to say about Katrin Plavčak’s works: “Everything looks timeless, nothing seems old.” In the Berliner Zeitung Irmgard Berner writes: “Each of the painters was given her own area in the airily organized KunstHalle. As a reference, a work by Jeanne Mammen hangs between paintings by Plavčak, Sarti, and Majewski. Affinities can be discovered, very subtle ones, often only in minute details. (…)  Curator Eva Scharrer chose a kind of hanging that admits the auratic.” Berner concludes: “Great art that lives up to the Art Week hype: Painting Forever!”

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