They say the best things in life are often the hardest to get. In the case of meeting Berlin-based artist Jennifer Oellerich, I would have to agree. After numerous scheduling conflicts followed by Oellerich falling quite ill, my interview with her was worth the wait. After all, Oellerich is an artist shrouded in mystery. I became acquainted with her work through KWADRAT, both a personal and BAPs favorite. Her minimal works often utilize a stark color palette and seem to literally turn away from you, as if to hide a dirty secret. Take for instance “2 Regentage,” a black monolith standing tall at 260 cm; it looks like a stubborn child angstily facing its back towards you in a parade of defiance. Her works left me yearning to interview this German artist to discover the woman behind the art. Little did I know that her practice was just as uncanny as her works.
A Home In The North
Housed in a studio far up in Wedding, Oellerich has been calling Berlin home since her arrival fresh out of high school in 1994. Having been raised far north in a coastal town named Cuxhaven, she found Berlin’s urban environment a nice change of pace. The spark that has made the city such a magnet for creatives was alive and well when she arrived. “Berlin already had its creative and inspiring atmosphere when I came here the first time. This is still catching me every day, and I didn’t find this in any other place in the world. I studied and traveled a lot, but Berlin always stayed with me. I just love this city.”
A series of photographs detailing some beautilful decay. Photo: Chris Phillips
Since then she has maintained a steady studio practice that is surprisingly controlled: Oellerich usually only maintains one project at a time––or as she describes it, she can only “handle one mess at once.” Such a working philosophy may seem odd to viewers familiar with her work, which at times can appear busy. For one of her works she imitated what appears to be a water-stained wall; in another project she utilized a friend’s basement after it had been damaged by water for materials. Other canvases look like something is rotting behind them, thereby destroying the very structure of the canvas itself.
Oellerich peers over a glowing piece of her. Photo: Chris Phillips
Oellerich explains to me that such objects are a very natural thing for her to make, since: “The absent, the void and death have always been an important part of life to me that I try to stay conscious about every day. And they always belong to creation itself in my opinion. Destruction can create something new and beautiful.”
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