Hotbed Berlin


Berlin is now Europe's hottest art city - an affordable and liveable place that enables artists to produce and present some of the most challenging work to be seen anywhere. Their art is often challenging, impolite and arresting. So it is no surprise that clashes between order and chaos are a common theme in many of the exhibitions currently on view.

The first such sighting is in a joint show at the Villa Grisebach Gallery, where Alvar Beyer and Katharina Ismer create geometric abstractions that compliment and contrast with each other. While Beyer paints architectural, structured, yet softened shapes that evoke urban structures and 1970's patterned design, Ismer crafts complex nature scenes of free-floating lush, leafy branches and piles of kindling, interspersed with patches of solid, bold, synthetic color. Ismer's intent is plainly to combine forms from architecture, interior design and nature, but in her images the standing trees and stacks of cut wood often override her references to man-made structures. Strikingly, the forms in the Diepholz-born painter's images become more apparent and interesting in close proximity to Beyer's color-fields, while the strict design, clean lines and cool colors in the Weimar-born Beyer's paintings calm the implication of chaos and the gestural feel of Ismer's dense, clashing constellations of forms and color.



Fontainebleau 2006 Öl / Tusche auf Nessel
70 x 100 cm

For example, Fontainebleau, a 2006 painting by Ismer, at first presents a straightforward, simplified depiction of trees growing along the side of a concrete road. At closer examination it exposes the whimsical illogic of the image. The trees are not planted by the grey zig-zagging pattern but on it. One of the trees seems even to be sprouting from behind or from within a tilted turquoise square, which could be read as sky, but in its actual position adds a surrealistic element of mystery to the scene. Where Ismer's abstraction expresses the cluttered conflict between man and nature, Beyer cleans it all. Beyer, who doesn't attempt to ground his forms in any obvious worldly reference point, might not play with the laws of gravity or the logic of nature so blatantly, but his light colors and the soft perimeters of his forms add a joyful aspect of randomness to the paintings' otherwise precise geometry. Beyer's 2005 ArchitekturI consists of lines of color - black, grey, peach, and tangerine - streaking across an all-pale cream colored canvas like a highway.


Ana Finel Honigman
12. January 2007