Miriam Smidt, with his unique technique she calls "Liquid Light Painting", creates very special works that allow us to evaluate the harmony of fluidity and color from a different perspective.
Interview by Ummuhan Kazanc
Dear Miriam Smidt, first of all, could you introduce yourself to our blog readers? When and how did you decide to get involved with art?
Actually, I have always been an artist inside, but for years I tried to prevent that in practice by doing various other jobs and trying to find a "reasonable" place for myself in society. I studied political science and German literature and worked as a freelance writer and social scientist for a few years after graduation. Then in 2016, I got a brain tumor diagnosis. That was the moment that changed everything for me. I understood that life doesn't last forever and that maybe mine was supposed to be over now, even before it really started. I then pretty much threw everything over and turned it upside down to finally paint.
The bright colors of your works and the flowing movements and shapes catch the eye and fascinate you at the first moment. The viewer can almost lose himself in these shapes and colors. What can you say about your style? What do these flowing movements and color transitions tell us?
My painting deals with the themes of change and transience based on movement and time - water is exactly the right medium for this.
My work processes extend over several days. The media are in constant motion on the painting surface. Control and release, flood and void, and persistent and ephemeral parts play a major role in my work. These are all elementary things of being and life with transitions and finiteness. My paintings tell of this and I explore this in the creative process: after I put the liquids on the painting surface, I withdraw and become an observer: the colors then develop a life of their own and unfold completely without my intervention. In the process, they expand and complement my movements of applying the paint or simply washing them away. My presence becomes superfluous at this point in the work process, and my work is transient. I, however, have initiated everything with my impulses and left traces.
If then after some days also the water has evaporated, all events on the canvas freeze into a static painting - the momentum and the dynamics remain however visually. They can be visually traced through the transparency of the watercolor inks that I use, and act as an obituary of the activities of the creative process. The intensity of my works, resulting from the harmony of the colors and the organic liveliness of the forms, is an appeal to dwell at the moment and the bright colors point ahead full of confidence. This interplay of retrospection and outlook and the moment of pause in between fascinate me and are the essence of my work!
To which art movement do you assign your works? Can we describe your style as abstract expressionism?
Since I have developed my unique technique, which I call "Liquid Light Painting", my works are not easy to classify. Even though my works have a different aesthetic than most of the works we know from this genre, you are correct and I would also most likely place them in abstract expressionism.
You work with ink and water-based paints. Can we learn something about the secrets of your technique? What can you say about the process of creating your paintings?
The creative process, in the beginning, was almost like being in a kind of art lab. I paint with inks, water, and - here's the secret - paste. Researching the right combinations, mixing ratios, and also times first took many weeks and months. Even today, the knowledge of this is something that is gradually expanding. In the meantime, I know my materials well and am familiar with their peculiarities, yet the media rarely do exactly what I want them to do right away. So it always remains an interplay of chance and skill, action and reaction. And, as already mentioned, control and letting go. This interplay extends over several days with small works and can take several weeks with very large works in which I intervene again and again in the picture until everything is dry. Then, however, it remains unchanged. The combination of materials, as well as my aesthetics, in which the negative space plays an important role, rarely allows overpainting and supplementing.
Your art studio is in a very interesting place. You work in a chapel in a cemetery. How do these working conditions affect your productivity?
My studio is actually in a former funeral chapel in a disused Berlin cemetery. Here, of course, the themes of transience and farewell are very present. Of course, especially when there is a life-limiting diagnosis to live with, this is a constant memento mori that certainly influences my way of working. Furthermore, the straightforward Bauhaus-inspired architecture of the chapel certainly influences me. It corresponds wonderfully with my powerful and exuberant works.
Even though we first think of death, there is also a lot of life to be found in a disused cemetery. The chapel is surrounded by a green oasis in the heart of Berlin. I meet countless animals here that one would otherwise rarely encounter in a big city. Some of them, including squirrels and foxes, even venture right into my studio. And my works also bring a lot of liveliness to this place.
Sometimes I wonder if my works would look very different if they were created in a different place.
Can you tell us anything else about your plans?
I'm currently working on several crossover projects in which my painting interacts with video and sound installations. It's still a while away, but part of it will certainly be on display at a solo show in Hamburg at the end of the year. It will most likely be colorful and moving. But I don't want to reveal too much yet.