text by Christine Humpl, 2008, published in catalogue "second", 2008 ©Christine Humpl, 2008

Ina Bierstedt’s painting has become quieter in recent years. There are hardly any stencil-like human or animal components. Nature and architecture now dominate, often in a mutually accepting adjacency as in Two Lamps (2008) or in harmonic agreement with one another as in Glashaus (2008). Pure nature paintings like Fluss (2006) and Schilf (2007) are even in tune with themselves. Only a few works still make reference to natural catastrophes: Rosstrappe (2006) shows the end of a pier before the spray of the sea, two lamps in white hold their vertical position against a storm. Sturm 05 (2005) and Sturm 06 (2006) are somewhat more mysterious. The first is an upside down house (perhaps a reflection, a stylistic device often used by Ina Bierstedt). The second picture provides a view from above of a housing settlement that seems about to disappear in the water or marsh.

The artist’s primary interest is in the processual development of a painting or an image. Frequent overpaintings and glaze like layers of paint indicate a long process of painting. “I use colors and painterly techniques in the sense of a slowly developing visual idea, and overall I work in a very experimental fashion,” Ina Bierstedt writes in her artist’s statement. In Plötzlich diese Übersicht: Was gute zeitgenössische Kunst ausmacht, Jörg Heiser explores the difficulty of contemporary painting in the following words: “Perhaps the greatest challenge to painting is make visible what refuses to become visible: processes of decision making, effects of power and powerlessness that saturate social life and the finest physical sensations of each individual echo.”

I often ask whether the conditions in Ina Bierstedt’s paintings actually exist in reality and why some of them seem familiar to us. In a few, there is a link to real life, because the beholder knows similar situations; moments that we often see only fleetingly (as in a brief view of an unclear situation from a train window) or only in intermediate states (for example in half-sleep). I think above all of weather situations remembered from childhood, how the air after summer heat thunderstorm palpably becomes material. Or the light just before a hailstorm, the air after a rainstorm in spring, or the minutes just before sunup or sundown.

Ina Bierstedt’s painting allows us to observe these brief, real, but individually perceived images of nature longer than in reality—maybe this is a key reason for the strong attraction of her works. To see it again, to feel it again: how lovely! On the light situation in her pictures, the artist says, “I am interested in the moment in which the light or a point of color begins to tell a huge story. I am always concerned with the question of the extent to which painting can count on our associations.”

Martin Seel described nature as not only a place of contemplation that corresponds with our own lives, but also as a showplace of imagination. And not in the sense of a strange reverie; but the unison of art and nature, something that is only successful under certain conditions. “Gert Friederich Jonke’s story ‘Die Gegenwart der Erinnerung’ tells of the strange events at a summer party at a country villa. The climax of the evening is a chamber music concert that culminates in the playing of an inaudible sonata. From the ‘sonata silence that completely enshrouded the guests’ the narrator leaves the abandoned and dark garden, where he was only to find a much strange ‘air song.’”In this example, natural events are absorbed in the acoustic interpretation of optical phenomena and sensations of touch, and what emerges is a very particular experience of nature, a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk. I see the images of Ina Bierstedt in a similar light: I receive the nature depicted in her paintings with all my senses, I consider it something that has really taken place, something that has really been felt. The impact of the images might be dream-like, but not the causing phenomenon or situation. Ina Bierstedt’s works target an objective correspondence with nature. I know her Gelber Baum (2006), a pine tree that is sprouting new needles of a slightly yellowish color in the springtime. In this region, there are remains of snow even at the height of summer. The tree sways and bends in the wind, there is a smell of fresh needles and honey, a bit like the industrial sugar that my mother always used for making honeydew honey, a slight drizzle touches my body: the noise, the elbows, behind me the tweeting of birds—a warning of the storm

Christine Humpl

Translated by Brian Currid

Christine Humpl studied art history and economics in Insbruck and Chicago, and has worked since 2000 as a curator at Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg bei Wien. .