On May 19th, Atlanta’s Emily Amy Gallery hosted an artist’s talk by German-born Bernd Hausmann, a Boston based painter having his first solo exhibition at the westside arts district gallery, through July 7th.
The gallery’s blurb states: “The show title, Darwin’s Coral, is a reference both to the broader concept of evolution and the natural world that is so critical to Haussmann’s work and process as well as to the more blatant patterns that often appear in this new series. In addition to the new collection of paintings that will be on view, there will also be several short films broadcast during the show that will allude to the elusive yet familiar natural world.”
The unique placement of the untitled work is a collaboration between gallerist and artist. Although each is to be perceived on its own, Bernd said that he was interested in what would happen when connecting the large and small works, and how the colors would inform one another. The small paintings work as more intensely chromatic reflections of the larger pieces. Even so, Hausmann says he never paints for the space, or for an exhibit.
Hausmann divides his time between Boston and rural Maine and many of these works have to do with water and, of course, coral. He says that a particular place makes the artist change or alter his personal environment and engage with the outside world.
Like so many contemporary artists who deal with landscape, there is a veiled political message in these environmentally focused paintings. Sixty percent of the world’s coral reefs are in trouble; global warming is raising water temperatures and increased CO2 is adding more acidity to the waters.
Hausmann notes that a biological or spiritual attraction to place may be the genesis of the artist’s curiosity, but the difficulty of being grounded results in attaching one’s self to the land, whether we till the soil or paint it.
This series on coral emerged from a series he was doing on mountains and oceans. By layering information in the paintings, through his use of scraping and reworking thickly textured areas, he is alluding to the evolution of ideas and a new theory about how coral replicates itself. Darwin originally formulated a sound theory about the structure and formation of coral, before ever setting foot on a reef.
The single celled algae that live inside the new coral provide it with food, and as the coral grows, the polyp divides repeatedly and produces more skeleton. Continually adding onto the next layer, each subsequent generation of coral builds up the reef on the bones of its ancestors. Because so many variables contribute to the formation of the coral’s shape, identification of exact types is difficult. The newer science claims that glacial effects cause sea level changes and that plate tectonics have a role in ocean floor changes.
Hausmann’s silvery paintings are unique – and reminiscent of lichen on rocks if you happened upon them during a full moonlit night. Depending on time of day or the lighting, these highly reflective works will change in hue. The mutations toward either blues or pinks are startling even in their subtlety.
Hausmann mentioned that very little in two dimensional painting has the ability to change, although we might consider Monet’s series of about thirty haystacks that he painted throughout a six month period. The same thematic repetition to show differences in light was in play, with resulting success.
In these shimmering works, Hausmann references the surface of water as a mirror. When one focuses on the bottom of the ocean, the top level information is lost. If we suspend our perception and then refocus on the surface, the converse is true. The shifting of information seems to be both his literal and philosophical point, about how memory informs and repetition influences memory.
The boundaries of his art, as he says, are influenced by his environment. Hausmann suggests that being authentic is a difficult endeavor for any artist, it will be intriguing to see the progression of this work.
More about Bernd Hausmann here.