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Sentimental photorealistic portraits of Sabine Rudolph

Sabine Rudolph's portraits which set in on dark ground with amazing depth tell a story. They release certain emotions in the viewer. They are symbolic of feelings.

Interview by Ummuhan Kazanc

 Sabine Rudolph “Pretty in Blue
Sabine Rudolph, “Pretty in Blue”, 2020, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm.

 

Dear Sabine Rudolph, can we get to know you better for the blog readers of our All-in-Line website? How did your artistic journey begin?

Already in childhood, I was mainly interested in pictures. Probably that's nothing special. But they played an increasingly important role in my life. I vividly remember visits with my mother to a painter in our small town - a great experience in my childhood that was to shape me. And so craft and art have been a constant companion in all phases of my life. Little by little I learned the craft. Decades ago, I began to occupy myself with modern art. Frankfurt am Main, my adopted home, offered me good opportunities for this, for example through courses at the Art Academy or seminars and workshops at the Goethe University. Later, I was also offered courses at the Neue Kunstschule in Zurich. The most important phase of my artistic education was at the Freie Kunstschule Wiesbaden.

Sabine Rudolph “S.” 
Sabine Rudolph, “S.”, 2020, oil on canvas, 50 x 70 x 2 cm.

 

Do you describe yourself as "on dark ground" in your resume? Can we elaborate a little on this mystical description?

I'd love to. Black has a depth like no other color. It stands for itself and would not need any other addition. Darkness is disappearing, culturally and historically. I find this fact frightening. Light is being used everywhere, so we can no longer see the stars fully in their beauty. Physically, black is not a color, but the complete absence of light, which to create 100 percent has not yet been achieved. Perhaps this is also not possible at all. I, as an artist, reintroduce light. I find this to be one of the most beautiful creative artistic freedoms, an act of creation. For many years I have worked exclusively on dark black canvases and other materials.

Even without adding anything, these grounds are already an experience for me. For me, black is big, strong, and deep. In addition, the dark grounds give me security. The picture in which I work is not empty. I only shape it with my brushstrokes and give new impulses that the light dictates to me.

The light and reflections of light in Sabine Rudolph's paintings can be explained by her love of photography. Light reflections and shadows in her works give life to her paintings.

Sabine Rudolph, “Remember”,
Sabine Rudolph, “Remember”, 2022, New Media: Manipulated on Canvas, 11.8 x 11.8 x 1.6 cm.

You have been working with portraits for a long time. What does portrait painting mean to you?

If you look at a photo where there are no people, it quickly appears soulless or empty. Something is missing. If I photograph a street without people, it makes a very specific statement. It suggests that something has happened here or is about to happen. I feel the same way about art.

Imaginarily, the human being is always present, even in a still life.

The human face interests me because you can read in the faces. My portraits are not portraits in the classical sense from the time when there was no photography. They do not show the type of a single determined person with his profession or character. The portraits I paint tell a story. They release certain emotions in the viewer. They are symbolic of feelings.

Identification also plays an important role here. Why do I hang up a poster of Bob Dylan, Madonna, or Franz Kafka? Firstly, because I like them, but also because I identify with them. Something of them is a part of me. That also happens with unknown faces. They can cast a spell on us for the most diverse reasons. That remains the secret of every observer.

 Sabine Rudolph, “Fragile in Time and Space”
Sabine Rudolph, “Fragile in Time and Space”, 2020, oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm.

 

Sensitivity, poetry, light, light reflections, and transience attract attention to your images. What can you say about this?

During my artistic activity, I have become aware of the strong expressiveness of facial expressions and gestures. That's why I prefer to work with models who have had training in acting. They can cover the whole range, from anger and sadness to mean grins.

But then I tend to choose poetic, thoughtful images. Transience, vanitas, a recurring theme in my paintings, moves me a lot. A certain quiet melancholy always resonates. That has to do with my nature, there's nothing you can do about it. The painter or the painter always paints themselves. Light and light reflections can be explained by my love of photography. It fascinates me how light can change a room. Light reflections breathe life into a picture. Of course, also shadows, through which a spatial effect can arise. Light reflections mirrored in a window form an autonomy. A new image is created, which can be seen only for a moment. This combination of two images in one is a fascinating spectacle. All these combinations are infinite. One only needs an alert eye to track them down. Then it is up to me whether I can process it in a picture and capture my sensations.

Sabine Rudolph, “Enchanted”,  
Sabine Rudolph, “Enchanted”, 2021, Photography Print: Color on Glass,
Limited Edition of: 3, 40 x 40 x 0,5 cm.

 

The psychological and inner aspects of the portraits you depict in your paintings are very much felt, as is the visual language. One gets the impression that they are a bit shy and introverted. Is this a conscious decision or does the production phase of the painting lead you naturally to this result?

Reading introversion and reticence in my paintings is something I can relate to. That's where I come back into play. I decide on a motif when it appeals to me. Before that, I discard countless versions and preliminary stages. It is then like a touch. When I feel it, I stay with it and develop the motif further.

Look closely, that is my motto. Superficiality frightens me, and even makes me sad.

You make art in a photorealistic way. What does photorealism mean to you?

I didn't choose it consciously. It has evolved. My paintings have more of a photorealistic feel. Pure photorealism goes much further. It emphasizes realistic representation much more than I do. Especially with the black and white paintings in oil on canvas, I try to paint only what is necessary. The viewer completes the omitted parts, which lie in the dark, himself. The less I paint, the better the picture. Imagination is the magic of good pictures.

Sabine Rudolph, “Lights in the Evening”,  
Sabine Rudolph, “Lights in the Evening”, 2020, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 x 2 cm.

 

In addition to classical painting methods, you also use the digital techniques of our time for your paintings. How do classical and contemporary techniques merge in your works?

The basis of each of my paintings is a photograph I have taken, which I often alter digitally on the screen. I then proceed very experimentally and allow myself crazy designs. Often random results are then the best source of my creativity. Chance plays a big role in art. If you allow it, amazing combinations come to light.

That's how I combine photos with a great deal of pleasure and whimsy. It's the new digital simplicity that makes this possible. It's so easy to experiment with color or with structures and shapes. But in addition to free experimentation, new image worlds are also created through deliberate manipulation.

The new techniques are a preliminary stage for the later implementation in a classical way. From time to time I also go the opposite way.

I assume you work mainly with live models. But as far as I know, the art of photography also has a special significance for you. How would you describe the boundaries between photography and photorealism?

It's true, I always work with live models. But I make photographs of them. Photography has influenced me. Photography and painting complement each other. People like to say to a painted picture, "Oh, like a photograph," and to a good photograph, "Oh, like painted." That says a lot. I think it is, too. Both art movements now stand side by side without competition, they serve each other mutually. Photography is recognized as an art form, and good old painting is still alive and well. Added to this is digital technology, which can combine both genres wonderfully.

I'd like to talk a little about your plans. How will your deep connection with art continue?

Experimenting, discarding, collecting ideas, and always being open to new things. Art is part of my life. At the same time, independence and freedom are important to me.

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