Nadja Beryl Jerczynski
About my work: "Any picture which does not provide the environment in which the breath of life can be drawn does not interest me." Mark Rothko’s words. For him, as one of the founders of Abstract Expressionism abstraction in the generally accepted sense was non-existent: in his opinion each form, each colour had to imply the "pulsating concreteness" of life, so that the painting could become a stage for its drama. The "sublime" which Rothko and his contemporaries pursued in their art should unfold beyond memory and tradition. A painting, as Barnett Newman once put, shouldn’t only be perceived through the "nostalgic glasses of art history", but be a revelation for the spectator.
While the idea of breaking completely with painterly traditions and to reinvent the creation of a painting was still an option for the New York painters of the 1940ies, 50ies and 60ies, it seems hard to ask this from any contemporary artist nowadays. Art history seems to have come to a point where everything appears to have already been said or done, with all aspects and possible positions well elaborated over decades. In our time it is more important for an artist to find a place for his work within this thoroughly explored terrain and to create his own identity with the legacy of the past. Making something new in our period means trying to look at the old and bequeathed from a new point of view, continuing developments from earlier on and trying to find new combinations of different painterly elements.
Of course the radical changes of the past set in motion by Mark Rothko and his contemporaries cannot be repeated, but they can serve as a basis for succeeding artists - and so they do for Nadja Jerczynski, whose painterly roots are embedded in the epoch of Abstract Expressionism, which has long since become a fundamental part of the very same art history Barnett Newman often so much neglected. But the young Munich artist is using these pictural roots in her own characteristic way, allowing her colour fields to develop a dynamic life of their own. In this sense her paintings fulfil Mark Rothko’s demand, quoted at the top. In Nadja Jerczynski’s colours and even more so in the textures of her paintings the viewer recognizes nature, fragments of landscapes and objects of everyday use - in other words they breath life itself, but not quite as the doyen postulated it for his own pictures.
In The Last Hour the colour fields diffuse into different skies. At a closer look the radiant white in the otherwise dark Ultraviolet 4 comes from a light bulb. Nadja Jerczynski interconnects abstract traditions with a representational execution. In doing so she wants to show the overlapping of spirituality and physical existence, as she puts it. While Rothko and before him the European expressionists banned the visible world from their canvases for the benefit of the inner spiritual world, the young Munich painter does it in reverse and makes this backward step visible in her paintings. The dichotomy with the human being and all his emotions on one side and his environment on the other side becomes neutralized.
The paintings Light and Field I + II and Suburbian W-Lawn I - IV (both from 2007) mark first measures of this still proceeding process.
The viewer recognizes the green of a meadow, a blue sky, asphalt greys in the stripes and colour fields and the step from the inner world to the outside can also be perceived in a slight shift of technical devices: In her earlier paintings Nadja Jerczynski took some trouble over extinguishing any personal note in the way the colour was applied on the canvas. Visible brushstrokes or three-dimensional structures on the surface were avoided in favour of clear, transparent or opaque colour bands. In her more recent paintings the austerity of the colour fields starts to open out and diffuse into clearly visible painterly structures sometimes with thick layers of oil paint. Brushstrokes are leaving their marks on the surface. Seen from a short distance the squares in Suburbian W-Lawn imitate the texture of a lawn, in Light and Field I+II the brown areas look like a piece of ploughed land, the spray of the sea in On the Shore seems to spread out from the canvas. The white in Ultraviolet II crawls into floral patterns, like flowers lost in the snow.
The artist indicates to get numerous influences from pop music. Especially the extensive oeuvre of the Irish band U2 has given her continuous inspiration over several years now. Mostly, because these four musicians manage to keep their own position while taking on different musical influences, as the artist remarks. But additionally because they work with combinations of various sound elements and are striving for content and meaning in their music. But there is an even deeper bond: both, the Munich painter and the Irish band are looking for spirituality and transcendence in their work. So it didn’t happen by chance that some of the paintings in the catalogue have the title of U2 songs, for instance Ultraviolet I-IV, Grace I+II and TomTom and Eloise. The painting The Last Hour was inspired by the Joshua Tree album.
In some of her most recent images Nadja Jerczynski withdraws even more from abstraction and paints people and figures, like in Desperate Christmas Angel. But still the Angel somehow remains unreal and out of grasp, which makes him a perfect example for the artist’s work: there is a sense of the enigmatic, mysterious and inscrutable lurking behind the textures, motives and layers of colour.