Cheerful flows of color on canvas, rich in contrast—seemingly random. Yet on closer inspection, the patterns and the flow of color evolve into new shapes and patterns—each painting is a process—a fascinating process followed by the eye of the beholder.
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The young artist Stefanie Kabitzke is a born and bred Berliner—deeply rooted, literally, as she comes from a family of landscape gardeners and artists.
The distinctive, colorful brilliance of her work, its rich detail—at first, the intensity of Stefanie Kabitzke’s paintings could even seem intimidating…
But then, our gaze roams, exploring the depths of her paintings, captivated by colorful and complex details, discovering and identifying shapes which, in months of meticulous work and in constant dialog with the canvas, the artist has integrated into the painting. She describes how she pours oil paints over the canvas to create the fascinating flow of colors found in many of her paintings.
Once our eyes begin to follow the shapes and colors, that powerful energy, which initially seemed so overwhelming, unveils a fluidity in the structure and order of the painting.
As our eyes wander, fascinated, we perceive more and more details and shapes.
Living creatures? Landscapes? Powerful machines? Energies?
Densely positioned; sometimes on top of each other, and close together.
In spite of this profusion, there is enough space for each individual element to develop freely and maintain a powerful presence—as in nature, in our living environment and in the world overall: there is room for everyone and everything to develop in diverse ways, resulting in a richness of colors and shapes.
“We humans are the ones who bring tension, and with it feelings to this world,” says Kabitzke, “without tension there would be no interaction, no reactions, no feelings, no connections between us—that wouldn’t get us very far.”
Stefanie Kabitzke creates powerful paintings which are sometimes small and sometimes large enough to cover a wall—but also delicately colored compositions which inspire our imagination to wander and linger.
The young Berlin-based artist is driven by powerful forces. Energies which originated in the world that shaped her childhood and youth, growing up between forests, the many Havel lakes and Potsdam’s extraordinary architecture, where she was born in 1984 to parents who were both landscape gardeners with two grandparents who were also artists.
Allowing herself to sink into a painting’s “landscape” and explore it with all her senses—this was her preferred approach: initially a way of getting to know her grandfather Siegfried Linke, who died early, and whom she discovered and learned to love through his children’s books and fairy tale illustrations; later on, this became a way of looking for and finding answers to questions about herself.
Her exceptional talent was recognized and encouraged at the local arts center for children, but not until she was a student at Berlin University of the Arts (she graduated in 2010), under professors Bernd Koberling, Frank Badur and Pia Fries, was she confronted with an all-important question:
Why do I paint?
All the painting techniques and skills that she had long ago mastered, and even taught, were of little use to her in answering this question, and a “deep black hole” followed. Only then did she become aware of how much she needed the tools of an artist to be able to express herself as a human being, and understand why she painted.
“When I paint, I need only very little to be very close to myself and feel myself,” she explains, “like in no other situation. It makes me come alive!”
So, every painting undergoes a “trial phase” in which she takes it out again and again, immersing herself into the work in progress: “What effect does it have on me?”
Over the months, she often discovers new things in her own paintings. She never has the feeling that she already knows them and enjoys the fact that they have so many different aspects.
What happens when this process comes to a halt, when she reaches the point where a painting no longer raises any questions and she does not discover any other answers? “Then the painting is completed, ready to be exhibited.”
To date, her work has been exhibited throughout Germany; in particular, in Berlin, Hamburg, Rheda-Wiedenbrück, Cologne, Landshut, Karlsruhe and Hanover.
When the artist Stefanie Kabitzke starts work on a new series of paintings, she takes her time. Only three or four of the 30 to 40 “oil paint ‘spills” survive her own highly critical selection process—she continues to work only on the canvases that appeal to her directly and where she sees a “subject”.
This is followed by a creative process that lasts for months in her studio in Berlin’s Hohenschönhausen neighborhood. She applies layer upon layer, creating brilliantly colored paintings, frequently working on several different ones at the same time. “I feel the urge to depict fullness and nuance,” she says, “with all the fluidity of color and shape—with areas that are ambiguous and unexplained, sometimes even areas of darkness.” And the latter are truly present: looking out the windows of her studio on the sixth floor of an old factory building, she has a view of the old East German secret police premises with its state security prison for renegades.
But her paintings also contain “elements that can be easily enjoyed.” Some feel rough, others velvety and smooth when you touch and move your finger over them, and they produce their very own sounds—the artist Stefanie Kabitzke creates canvasses that provide a multi-sensory experience: “A buyer called me two weeks after visiting one of my early exhibitions at the Berlin University of the Arts and said he wanted to purchase a certain painting. He simply had to have it—he got it!”
Her developmental stages included a very dark period:
“Some said that it was due to depression; but for me, black is just as sensuous as a light or bright color,” Kabitzke says. What followed was a bleak period with dirty colors, at times I used some very subdued colors in my quest for finer and finer nuances of grey.” But her “beloved and diverse hues of green kept appearing, and at some point, the colors came back!”
Working with only two colors would be interesting, she muses, but she doesn’t think that that’s who she really is. “For me color is a need; it all becomes very colorful! It’s like in an orchestra: in the end, all join in.
© Heike Rudloff
Exhibition March 16 – April 29, 2017
Stefanie Kabitzke. Wanda Stolle.
Gallery for Contemporary Art
+49 871 9654197 – +49 176 45662416
Thursday 6 to 9 pm, Friday 11 am to 6 pm, Saturday 11 am to 3 pm, and by appointment.
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