The painter Birgit Günther is a true lover of nature and color. The polychromy, monotony, silence or tranquility, peacefulness or confusion of nature is for her an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Let's listen to the secrets of Birgit Günther's abstractions for ourselves.
Interview by Ummuhan Kazanc
Dear Birgit Günther, I would like to start our interview with your statement: You say "Colors in nature are the pure joy of life for me and allow me to unfold all possibilities in my painting." How would you describe your close relationship with nature artistically? Is it a source of inspiration for your art?
Nature is the greatest art and inspiration in the universe for me. It's like magic to me. Just think of the magnificent splendor of colors in so many different nuances and gradations that one hardly comprehends, but should perceive. If you look closely, you can learn a lot from nature and that's what I want to trace. If you look at the different leaves and flowers with fine structures and shapes, connections, and levels, you can guess what I am about. It is light-dark, small-large, delicate-powerful, moving-rigid, simple-expressive, dynamic-quiet, stable-fragile, light-heavy, harmonious-chaotic contrasts, which I also feel in my painting and combine into a total work of art.
Also, the rapid change of blue tones in the sky interspersed with white-appearing clouds create an incredible depth or the evening sky in red-orange tones when the sun sets, not to mention the night, which is just not only dark, inspires me to very detailed and sensitive images. You just have to look closely and perceive consciously.
Nature is for me loud and quiet, light and dark, colorful and monochrome, calm and upset, deep and high - an inexhaustible source of inspiration and emotions that are evoked. These are to be explored and to get behind the secret of my existence, as I am a part of nature.
Nature demonstrates that everything is possible and I feel this joy of life when I paint. It is a recurring process that I experience in each new painting. Colors are chosen intuitively, just by the sensations of the momentary work step. The change from the white canvas to the finished picture is like a cycle in nature.
When I look at your paintings, I see bold gestures and brushstrokes. These gestures work in great harmony with vibrant colors. So your compositions are very powerful and lively. What is your secret?
When I begin a painting, it is initially quite tentative, indecisive, and slow. The exploration of colors, shapes, lines, and surfaces begins and increases. In the course of the process, the idea becomes clearer, more powerful, and more decisive. A dynamic develops that I can hardly control. Depths and heights, as well as the spatial composition and arrangement of elements on the canvas, are an important and exciting part of my work. I feel when painting the energy and my power that fills me and leads. My paintings are multi-layered and leave a lot of room for your fantasies. And that is good. Vibrant colors are a part of me, my world is colorful and multifaceted. I play with my possibilities, I am an equal partner in my actions, let go and catch, only to take the lead in my actions again. This creates contrasts that show themselves in carefree color surfaces and actively placed brushstrokes and strong, often contrasting dominants. A symbiosis is created that seems alive and moves.
In creating your paintings, you use materials such as acrylic, graphite, marble powder, sand, tar, and ink on canvas. Is there a particular reason for using such a variety of materials?
I use a variety of materials in my paintings, but not all materials in one painting. It is for me a palette that is available and can be used depending on the motif, expression, and message. Each material has a statement that enters into the picture and supports the subject. The variety that can be created by each material and the combinations and reactions of different materials with each other are an inexhaustible source of artistic expression.
Structures that arise consciously or unconsciously, controlled or spontaneous, knowingly or seemingly arbitrarily, fascinate me and go into depth. Structures that allow superimpositions, irritations, and recognizable in the background to guess, are for me perplexing and delightful. Nothing seems as it is and yet every layer, every material has its justification. The top layer is only interesting because of the layers that lie beneath it. Through the conscious use of different materials, I create a palpable liveliness.
The work process shows many individual experiences with the materials used. Some surprise, which was not planned in such a way, arises, is discarded or accepted, and sometimes leads to a change of direction. Everything remains in flux and is always exciting for me until the artwork is completed.
How would you like art viewers to read or interpret your abstract paintings?
I would like to cause with my pictures the power and joy that is in the jump on the viewer. I am convinced that every person has a positive strength in himself, but he is often not aware of it. Creativity is a high good and one should promote it. It changes perceptions and reflects one's own, perhaps fearful attitude. This should be overcome and come into the lightness of being.
The viewer should open up to new things and remain or become curious about life. A close look at all things shows perhaps impossible or but further development of their perception. The viewer should be addressed by my images, deal with hidden themes and find their interpretation. Important for me is that communication between viewer and image takes place. Often I am surprised by what people see in my pictures, but there is always a confrontation that is wanted.
Being brave and determined to respond to change and feeling the freedom that creative work allows. It is a positive exchange with others and perhaps also provides space for discussion of different points of view and should promote understanding and acceptance of others. However, one should be willing to engage in it and discover one's imagination.
You studied interior design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and are also a certified mediator. When did you first become interested in the art of painting? Do you have a special story?
My first contact with art and the realization of my talent for painting developed at a young age. A grandmotherly acquaintance showed me how to use colors and motifs, and my first drawings and paintings were created.
I could always express my emotions and thoughts best creatively. Also during school, I found great support and access to cubism and abstract painting. Things that are not superficially recognizable at first glance, exercise a great interest in me. I like to get to the bottom of things to understand what meaning they have.
My first study trip to Paris and the artist who lived there in Montmartre and Montparnasse fascinated me. I felt a freedom that I had not known before.
During my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, I came into direct contact with other creative people, artists, and painters. Creative thoughts and ideas are also required in interior design and the learning process for composition, the interplay of various elements and sensitive handling of colors, shapes, and lines are given a high standard for success. Critical questioning, adaptation, and modification ultimately lead to a radiant result.
The training also included subjects of painting and art history. This allowed me to learn across the board and further develop and refine my creativity. The variety of available color pigments I experienced there fascinates me to this day. Colors are a wonderful experience for me.
Through sketchy quick drawing, with grasping the essentials on many vacation trips to international countries, the clear lines and the deliberately powerful characteristic brushstroke strengthened. Study trips to France, Italy, Holland, Greece, and Scandinavia enriched my understanding of art, painting, and aesthetics. The exchange with other artists as well as my idea of painting and the associated expression and processing of events are unique in painting.
Painting can also be an aid in mediation to connect different points of view and bring them into balance. Apparent opposites find rapprochement and the understanding of abstraction can be sharpened.
Abstract painting has a very strong history in Germany. Who are the German artists that have influenced you? Do you visit museums and art galleries? How does visiting a museum affect your artistic work?
You can't per se only start from German artists who have dealt with abstract painting and influenced me, it's a history of time in many cultures and different nationalities. To depict things no longer representationally and to take the degree of abstraction further and further until the object is almost completely unrecognizable is an examination and questioning of the real world.
Starting from cubism, which I was allowed to get to know during my school days, and the dissolution of the previous stringent painting, I am fascinated by the alienation and dissolution. Certainly, Kandinsky, Picasso, Braque or also de Kooning, and Twombly have influenced me. Images that I do not recognize in the first moment and may not open up for me in the second step, but still hold me captive, inspire me very much.
Since I live and work in Munich, it is a great privilege for me to have a good art scene right there. Visiting wonderful exhibitions in art and urban galleries and museums such as those in Munich, Berlin, Nuremberg, Paris, London, Barcelona, Venice, and many other cities, or even at the Documenta in Kassel, is a great enrichment for me and a challenge me. A variety of interpretations of diverse themes, views, and implementations of other well-known and lesser-known artists offer a rich spectrum for my painting and further development.
We are passing through a time when very important developments in the history of mankind, pandemics, and wars are being experienced... How do these affect your artistic production?
The current events and developments in history and the present often make me sad and stir me up. Of course, this is also reflected in my art, the motifs change, the colors become more muted, and the lines more confusing. The rising emotions must be processed and reflected. The reflection on oneself and the importance of small things in life, which are often overlooked or suppressed, come into focus. It is a change that must be made in the large, but also their small universe. Details in my painting are therefore indispensable.
An understanding of coexistence and mindful interaction with life and nature is brought to consciousness and should be internalized.
In contrast, however, nature gives me the security and strength even in dark times to discover and present positive things. Letting go of the old and welcoming the new is reflected. Then the colors are bright and shining again, giving hope. The transformation begins, something new emerges and the flow of life is palpable and I hope also visible in my paintings.