text by Melanie Franke, 2005, published in brochure "Ina Bierstedt - Paintings 2002 - 2005"
©Melanie Franke, 2005

In Ina Bierstedt's pictures, the eyes of the viewer wander over landscapes, look into distant celestial spheres, dive into deep pools and swampy lakes, and glide over reflecting water. Sometimes they look down from above, at fields, into a wood, or are caught in a quagmire or a copse. On the whole it is quiet in the pictures – nothing is happening. Time appears to stand still somehow. The places are remote, the houses empty, the tents abandoned. In „Signale“ (a piece from 2003) two figures have been placed in front of a blatant, blue background, seemingly lost in a world that is too large. They are on the move, leaving before it gets dark. Dusk has come. Something diffuse and secretive stretches through virtually all the pictures, settling over the landscape, turning the saturated green into dark velvet. Muted shades such as loamy brown, mossy green, turbid blue and misty grey create the evening atmosphere, the moment in which the light softens. It is a beguiling feeling between 'no longer awake' and 'not yet asleep', when eyelids begin to close and sight dims.

The bizarre proportions in the images create an atmosphere of dreams, of the unreal. In „Ambulanz“ (2004), a bus, painted in fine detail, stands in the middle of a net of something looking like seaweed, in peculiar proportion to the background, as though a toy bus has been dropped into an aquarium. The motif is repeated on the oppsite side of the picture, where its shape disperses and is out of focus. Through deformity the figures become ambiguous. Textures and black lines that sometimes suggest bushes or plant structures, stretch across every surface. They envelope the whole space and open it up to association. The allegations are too undefined and too vague to represent any clear objects. The dreamy atmosphere expands. Some areas are fleetingly painted, with diffused striae of colour, and become blurred. Thus, for example, the house in „Hütte“ (2004) is surrounded by trees with trunks clouded by milky, translucent layers of colour. Traces of colour from earlier stages of the work are still visible and are testimony of the artist’s signature, exposing the viewer to the painting process. A white cloud floats above the house, spreading without a concrete shape and gradually sinking onto the roof. It is the brightest part of the picture: the amorphous shines out of the glittering light.

In other pictures, the diffused is less concentrated on one spot, but rather stretches over the whole surface. As a result, in „o.T.“ (2004), finely painted trees and cliffs stand like a stage setting in front of a landscape that is evaporating, becoming more and more blurred as it approaches a horizon where it is lost in a bright mist. The interplay of visibilty and invisibility created by the mist, and the movement between transparency and opacity, remind us of the view seen by the hiker in Caspar David Friedrich's picture „Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer“ (1818).
In some pictures, as in „Jagd“ (2002) and „Falke“ (2003), motifs such as deer and falcons have been placed in the scenes. They are not represented as hunters or hunted, but rather are props placed in a nature setting, awoken through the protracted painting process. On the whole, Ina Bierstedt begins with a vague image in mind. As she paints, her creation changes various times and can lead to an unexpected result. Layers of translucent acrylic colours pile up on top of each and create a space where she can portray quotes and fragments of photographs from hunting magazines or elements and images from model train landscapes. Highlighted in white and looking like appliqués, in some pictures the motifs float quasi in front of the scenery.

Nature in Ina Bierstedt's pictures is the result of the coming together of pieces passed on from other mediums. Thus the motifs are seen twice – as they are photographed and as they are painted – before they are seen again as a complete painting. During the creative process there are different visions of the work. A vision that sees clearly and with precision, looking at the details under a magnifying glass, like in „Zwei Jäger 04“ (2004): the figures are defined and painted with objective precision, as well as some of the trees. In other pictures is in the bus, the stairway, the deer. The offset pieces are testimony of an eye that sees and captures every detail. They are testimony of an eye that captures the bark and leaves of a tree in all its depth and lineage. The coarse grain or the pixel structure of the initial photograph is absorbed into the painting and forces the distance between the individual motifs and the pictorial space. The model-like, offset aspect lends the scenery a constructed appearence, which has not grown 'naturally'. This transformation benefits not only the motifs but also the aesthetics. What we believe we recognise as nature turns out to be something else, as a sign with suggestive yet secretive meaning.

So it seems that the hunters are fishing in the dark, searching for a sunken 'centre of the world'. „Freitreppe“ (2003) leads out over a lake reflecting the sky on its surface. To be immersed in the landscape, to sink into the earth, the abysmal and the depth, the rooms full of loss, are the expression of a beguilingly beautiful melancholy. Elegiacs and a „Fin-de-Siècle-Ennui“ were recently defined by Max Hollein as the characteristics of a „new Romanticism“. „A whole stream of young artists have clasped firmly onto this romantic spirit, wanting to leave the commonplace behind, creating provocative, poetic counter worlds, developing a new relationship between individual and nature, and joining the longing for paradise, beauty and the magical, without forgetting the abysmal and the uncanny that always lurks behind such idyllic settings.”

When looking at Ina Bierstedt's painting, the eye is either drawn to the detail or the distance, fixed on a point, or dreaming away, or turned inwards towards the inner landscape. The landscape does not have an immediate definition, but has evolved through various indirect visual stages. In all the pictures there is an interplay between the ambiguous, diffused and opaque regions, and the detailed, clear and objective moments, creating a panorama of different views. They distort normal proportions, question what seems visible, reach into imaginative and atmospheric dreams. Nature becomes almost unnatural; like a stage setting, it arises and passes away in the blink of an eye.

Melanie Franke

Translated by Osanna Vaughn