You Can Teach A Dog New Tricks

Making my way upstairs at Sprüth Magers Berlin after perusing the disappointing exhibiton Malerei der 80er Jahre” downstairs I didn’t know what to expect. I had been left deflated by the eighties offerings and was hoping that contemporary paintings would prove more exciting. Luckily I wasn’t disappointed.


Entering into the exhibition, my eye was immediately caught by the multi-colored piece aptly named “A Little Something Refreshing I.” A parrot flying out from amidst a swarm of colorful brush strokes, at first glance the piece looks convincingly like a painting. On closer inspection the parrot looked extremely realistic, an amazingly life-like painting, due to the fact that it was not a painting but a photograph.


Digital Vs. Physical


Nina Pohl, who was interestingly married to the famous photographer Andreas Gursky, shows works in “New Paintings” that are in fact not paintings at all, despite first impressions. They are masterfully assembled collages of aspects of paintings taken with a large format camera which are collated digitally, creating a confusing end result. Other pieces in the show also feature textural marks nestled amongst objects, from a traffic cone to a herd of horses. Rather than just being juxtaposed with these objects, however, the brush marks interact with them and create a cohesive composition; for example the thick black lines in the piece “LKW” look very much as though they have been created by the tire, which dominates most of the image.


Usually painting and photography are at odds, photography accused of lessening the practical value of painting or having been assigned to being used as a prop for painters in their bid to create “real” works of art. This exhibition questions this relationship and re-evaluates the relationship between the two art forms.


Blurring Boundaries


Although I like the end result, the fact that the pieces have been made of up of painted elements digitally leaves me feeling a little cheated. Call me traditional, but I’m usually not a fan of anything which has been “Photoshopped” – of course it requires a lot of skill digitally but that is something altogether different to the physical picking up of a paintbrush or a ball of clay. That is not to say that to be a painter you must use a brush, just that paintings as I know them are made in a different way. Do these pieces represent the “new” way of painting? Perhaps this is a purist and foolish conclusion but all I can say is that I hope not, and although the boundaries of photography and painting will continue to blur, I hope that the two practices will continue to be appreciated in their own right and without a compulsory comparison.


  • Sprüth Magers Berlin – Nina Pohl “New Paintings” – Until 12 th January 2013 – Tues to Sat, 11am – 6pm [Price range of works: €5,000 – €18,000]

Article by Marie J Burrows