【Leo Gallery | Online Showroom】Lost and Found: Doris Ernst Solo Exhibition Interview III

Leo Gallery
Apr 18, 2020 12:55PM

Lost and Found

Leo Gallery Online Showroom | Doris Ernst Solo Exhibition

Artist Interview III

Doris Ernst

Born in Germany 1966, she currently lives in Shanghai and Berlin with her family. She is a self-taught artist. Her instincts and creativity come from her experience of living, traveling and working in different areas such as New York, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Ethiopia, New Delhi and Japan. These different cultures, people, societies, diverse artistic forms, and her friendship with artists from many countries have all affected her. Doris also held several exhibitions in Shanghai.

This exhibition selected Doris Ernst's nearly 40 works from 2017 to 2019 to open the first online exhibition of Leo Gallery in 2020, We invited artists to analysis the idea behind each collection.

Trying to stay calm, 70x50cm, Plaster and acrylic on canvas, 2018

Going crazy and trying to stay calm

As described before I love to go to the hardware store for my material. It feels raw and not so perfect and refined. This is the reason why I started to make works with plaster. My first one started with a “messed up” canvas which I wanted to cover. I use the plaster that is normally used to repair craigs in walls. I felt this is symbolic because I need to mend some wounds in my heart. The plaster covered up everything. But the old feelings are still there behind the shield. That is why I started to take of some of the protection. Sometimes one manages better than other times - where like in going crazy old wound break open again and did not heal.

In general, I love the process of adding and subtraction of color or in this case plaster.

Going crazy, Acrylic and plaster on canvas, 70x50cm, 2020

The confusion series

The series named confusion deals with the dilemma of decision making. If you follow a line on the painting, you come upon crossings all the time. There are always options. Which path to follow is a decision we must make. Sometimes there are more complex intersections with lots of options. Some decisions can make us go around in circles. The overall picture is complex, complicated and confusing. There is never an easy main road that is clearly marked moreover the whole process is under a blur that does not help much or give guidance. We are on our own. Sometimes the image also reminds me of our brain with the synapses – which is where this decision-making process takes place.

Confusion (yellow), Acrylic on Canvas, 70x70cm, 2019

The Colorful series – find your balance

I really admire or maybe sometimes envy people who seem to have found their inner balance. The harmony in live and calmness that make you sleep well and wake up relaxed.

I tried to capture these moments of balance. Where I found my own opinion on certain topics, where I was able to come to a conclusion or found a solution to a problem, where at least part of my live was in order. The paintings have bright colors and are dominated by a clear pattern. Sometimes the printing ink on top enhances the structure and the outlines.

Colorful 1, Acrylic on Canvas, 70x70cm, 2020

In the large painting colourful 2 however I use a different technique. I use three colors and applied those three times each with different size of spatulas.

After the first layer I covered part of the stripes with tape before I applied the next layer of smaller stripes. And then again did the same thing. Before removing the tape there seemed to be a perfect order of stripes. But when removing the tape this order was changed. Again. I was happy, used bright colors and an orderly pattern but in the end looking a the bigger picture the moment of clarity remains just a fracture of a bigger chaos.

Colorful 2, Acrylic on Canvas, 100x120cm, 2019

Division 1 and 2 – many ways of interpretation

The painting - “Division” can be interpreted in many ways. For one as an inner division of a person - the small part is the balanced, calm part with flowing/smooth transition. There is clarity, not total black and white but understanding a blending of positions, potential for compromises, no struggle or direct conflict. Versus the hectic and confused bigger part behind a haze of disguise. The grid shows an order that is however conflicted, sharp edges, breaking points and inner unrest. This part is the dominant one being much lager then the soft one.

Division 1, Acrylic on canvas, 100x120cm, 2018

It can also be interpreted as a picture of a partnership of two persons or the division in society or in politics.

Nothing is ever clear and light and dark – a philosophical approach. The paintings are constructed like an analysis. They both started with a clear thesis in the form of regularly put colorful stripes. There was an order. Each individual stripe was visible like clear thoughts or individual personalities, like a clear plan of the days and the time to come. A rational mind map with some randomness and unpredictability accounted for in the form of the application of the stripes by spatula.

But the more you read, the more you think, the more you take into consideration, the harder you try to make sense it can happen that you lose your clarity. Everything depends on something else is interconnected, complex and in the end confusing.

In the painting, the clear orderly pattern of colorful stripes gets an overcast a layer taking away the multiple colors of the ground layer and covering up the order and with it the clarity. The top layer is the attempt to gain back some of the clearness by using printing ink to highlight the underlying structure or by a layer of white light whitewashing the dark hopelessness/forlornness.

Division 2, Acrylic on canvas, 100x120cm, 2018

Constant struggle and frustration – human vulnerability

With these paintings, you should imagine what it feels like to touch them. They have a rough surface from all the paint being scratches away. The surface of Constant struggle even is a bit like sandpaper. By the touch you can sense the human vulnerability. Life is not always sooth but lots of time a struggle. We get frustrated and hurt. I tried to work these experiences into the paintings by applying color and then scratching it off with the same spatula/scraper. This leave marks, scratches, sometimes deep reeves it reveals the edges of our personality that cannot be scraped away even if they are challenge harshly.

So even in the darkness of frustration there is the idea of staying true to yourself and in constant struggle there is the green of hope and an underlying strong grid of values that cannot be completely eliminated. But both paintings also show the fight it takes and the marks this fight leaves behind.

Constant struggle, Acrylic and printing ink on canvas, 100x100cm, 2018

Happy days – brightness wins over darkness

The painting happy days started with the idea of monotony. Endless boring days like grey, black and white stripes. The density of billions of people living closely next to each other in an endless horizon filled with high rises. The individuality lost by the sheer mass and the similar, monotonous daily routine. And me being part of it as a tiny little almost unrecognizable part. I put in some silver stripes to stick for those who stick out or those who just want to stick out by showing their shiny materialistic things.

Happy days, Acrylic on canvas, 100x120cm, 2019

Leo Gallery dialog Artist

LG: Please tell us about the events and art works that impact on or impressed you most.

Doris: When we lived in Houston my children were still. Living in suburbia in Texas was kind of hard in a lot of ways. People spend much time alone in their cars or in malls. However nature/outdoors in the US was great and Houston has the Menil collection (!) which does not only have great contemporary art but also a Cy Twombly pavilion and the Rothko Chapel. I had liked Mark Rothko for some time as one of the pioneers of abstract art. Iwas fascinated by the depth of the colors. Entering the Rothko Chapel I was first disappointed because suddenly the wonderful bright colors were gone. But understanding the feelings that Rothko put into these works I discovered what a unique place the chapel is where one is surrounded by these large black/gray fields of paint (and pain…). I love Rothko´s innovativeness regarding the material he used, the long process of trying/layering to reach the final breath-taking results.

Another artist who influenced me is Gerhard Richter. Not only seeing his painting in exhibitions but in particular by seeing him work in the famous documentary film. Watching him work with his squeegee/scraper impressed me and actually made me buy my first spatulas in a hard ware store to try out scratching. At that time, I had no knowledge about squeegees for silk screen printing and other fancy, expensive art material.

After I had already been working in my own little studio for 2 year learning a lot about different paints and materials by just trying them out for myself my husband gave me this wonderful catalogue of Soulage for my birthday. And the paintings just spoke to my heart. All this wonderful black and the marks that look a bit like the ones I had discovered using my spatulas. This gave me the confidence I need to continue on my path and stay true to myself.

Stripes 2, Acrylic on canvas, 80x80cm 2019

LG: You chose to use common items, such as scrapers for wall painting, picked stones, homemade cardboard, etc. as the creative tool. Does this reflect a concept of your life, what kind of concept? What are you pursuing in art?

Doris: I have always been very observant of my surrounding. Not only did I do a lot of crafty things with my children with whatever we found in the forest. I loved all the tools in my father´s basement.

When I went out to buy my first art supplies, they were kind of expensive in Germany so I went to a hardware store too to see what I could find there. That is how I discovered the spatulas/scrapers that are normally used by handymen to apply plaster to walls.

As a self-taught artist I never followed any instructions and liked not being told how to do things.

I am very curios and I like experimenting with whatever comes into my hands. Especially when I have leftover paint or material, I produce a lot of little pieces on paper.

There is this longing for perfectionism in our society which stresses everybody out. I am not perfect; my art is not supposed to be perfect and so is my material.

I also collect a lot of things that have been thrown away. They have a story to tell like the broken tiles from demolished houses that I use for small prints. Old houses have a history along with the people who lived there. Weathered things like rusty wire or metal objects, wood, twisted traffic signs with lots of dents and scratches. These objects were kicked, left unattended - they lost their function and value. Something weathered, old, rusty, broken and imperfect can still be beautiful. To me all things that show marks of time and life and history are valuable.

Clouded vision, Acrylic on Canvas, 70x70cm, 2020

LG: How do artistic creation and your concern for social, environmental and political issues complement each other?

Doris: If we look at our own private life – at work, in the relationship to friends and family - even if we feel privileged and have wonderful people around us and we live comfortably the overall state of the world we live in also affects us.

In an age of climate change, diminishing resources, political turmoil in many regions of the world and huge differences in living conditions it is hard to feel happy just for yourself and forget about the rest – in particular if you have children and thing about their future.

It is hard to make sense of it all and very easy nowadays to get lost in depressing thoughts.

That is one of the reasons why I called my series of works “trying to make sense”. The world seems to be more chaotic every day and I am looking for an order/ a bigger picture that gives me hope because living an egocentric live just looking at self-interest like many people do is no solution for me.

Living together respectfully, tolerant and caring for each other´s concerns that is what some might see in my paintings where every stripe and stroke is different but they coexist on the canvas and together build a greater picture that even might have a sort of harmony and therefore symbolizes hope.

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