Over the last ten years, the painter Kerstin Brätsch (b. 1969 in Hamburg, lives in New York) has created an unusually varied body of work. It includes painting on paper and polyester film, photography and slides, glass works, marbling, as well as performances and collaborative projects such as DAS INSTITUT (with Adele Röder) and KAYA (with Debo Eilers and Kaya Serene). Providing a through-line to the great variety in this work, however, is an exploration of painting as both a medium and a historical frame of reference.
Two large-scale marbling pieces entitled 'Unstable Talismanic Rendering' are part of a series that Brätsch began in 2013. Their abstract forms lend themselves to various associations; bodies, faces, topographical features, or even cell structures can be discerned in the images. The marbling itself presents a transfixing spectrum of micro- and macro-perspectives, allowing visitors to zoom in and out of the image. At the same time, the design possibilities that inhere in the technique lend the work an archaic quality.
In the marbling process, paint is poured into a glue bath, where it is then swirled and worked over the surface. A sheet of paper is laid into the bath, and the paint adheres to the paper. This process only produces one sheet of marbleised paper, so each image of this series is unique. What may initially sound like a rather uncomplicated process actually requires great artistic talent, especially when working with such large paper. Brätsch acquired these skills over the past several years under the tutelage of marbling master Dirk Lange. All the visual elements in these paintings begin as drops of paint – large forms result from paint dropped from a greater height, while smaller elements are created by drops of paint released closer to the surface. While the paint can be manipulated with different tools, the marbling process itself does not allow it to be ‘painted’ in the traditional sense of the word. The image is less defined by preconceived motifs than by the physical qualities of the paint itself and the law of gravity. The final work emerges without a clearly defined top or bottom, giving Kerstin Brätsch cause to liken the glue bath to a flatbed scanner. This comparison is apt in more ways than one: The colours rest on the paper like a thin film, and therefore do not create the haptic depth usually inherent in the materiality of paint.