07.09. – 12.10.2023
About the exhibition
Since 2021, the gallery Smolka Contemporary has been updating and completing its programme. In addition to the successful presentation of established artists, positions of the younger generation are continuously represented. The gallery promotes young talents and enables them to be shown to a broad public. Now Negra Bernhard celebrates her first solo presentation with Radiant Green, focusing on works from 2023.
Negra Bernhard was born in 1986 in Banja Luka, now Bosnia-Herzegovina. She fled to Austria with her parents in 1992 during the Bosnian war and grew up in Linz. She moved to Vienna to study physics and soon turned to practicing art independently. She studied painting with Daniel Richter at the Academy of Fine Arts until 2022. Since then, Negra Bernhard is, as she says herself, “downright addicted to oil painting, and in particular figurativism”.
While last year dogs were also the focus of the depictions, currently it is above all people, this in natural as well as in abstracted or deformed form or also as mixed beings. Portraits are rare in Negra Bernhard’s oeuvre. For the formalised human being stands for being human in itself.
The works are quite emotional and very personal, she paints the world from her perspective, the basis of which is her own emotional state and situation. To make her point of view easier to read, the young painter has chosen the figurative. Nevertheless, most of the time the personal story rests hidden. The sources of her pictorial inventions are often biographical, drawn from childhood memories or experiences and the thoughts that arise from them. Dreams also flow into her painting and sometimes influence the formal mode of expression.
Negra Bernhard’s narratives depict feelings, interpersonal moments, love relationships, family matters, friendships, or “things that don’t work out in life”; moments whose existence is thwarted by time, fate, or external circumstances. Such a story could be behind the melancholic scene in the bar of “Farewell D.I.T.R.”.
Inspiration can also come from literature or prose. In the painting “No Help For That” she thematises the lonely waiting for something that never happens, as echoed in a poem by Charles Bukowski. For Negra Bernhard it also or above all implicates the loneliness as an artist who is always striving for an ideal, because in the impossibility of achieving it she finds the actual motor of her own creative work.
Narratives and emotional worlds were more obvious in her earlier paintings, today they are fragmented and thematically only touched upon, preferably leaving the clarifying interpretation to the viewer. The emotion in the facial expressions is therefore often subdued. The motif does not have to be described directly in the painting, often the artist uses personal metaphors.
Negra Bernhard’s painting moves between three modes, depending on the subjective state. On the one hand, she works in a very controlled manner, with exactly calibrated transitions and precision in detail.
Other paintings are built up in loosely superimposed layers, like the recently completed “Tutto Passa – Bird Girl”. It shows a moving event in which humans and mixed bird creatures participate equally. The thoughtful composition holds several interwoven narratives. The individual love and life stories of a Bird-Girl and a Human-Boy are intertwined with the theme of ghostliness and that of rebirth. It is a multiform cycle, which closes, which includes the sphere of the moon with cool colours, as that of the sun in warm tones.
In a different mode, Negra Bernhard painted the walker with a dog, she makes the composition and the colour palette the carrier of the actual content. Form and colour are subjectivized and with their expression superimpose the meaning of the depicted motif. The representational aspect of the scenery is formally approximated, treetops, their shadows and the drapery form related formal structures. The gender of the person, on the other hand, remains undefined – to potentiate the weight on being human itself. This is lost in form and colour, in a daydream, as the title “Daydream” suggests. Negra Bernhard herself has written a lot and with pleasure, and so her titles are also generally to be regarded as part of the work. Like the subject itself, they are not always direct, but very true to her personally.
The exhibition title is similar: One of Negra Bernhard’s characteristics is to experiment with a specific colour intensively in phases. Currently, she is interested in the colour Radiant Green, with which she achieves the most diverse effects, depending on the application. We encounter this hue in all the paintings gathered here, and so Negra Bernhard has decided on the dreamy exhibition title Radiant Green.
Lobkowitzplatz 3, 1010 Vienna