Nicola Barth

„I see my abstract painting as a snapshot of something that is in a permanent process.“

Nicola Barth, born 1966 in Mölln - lives and works today in Langen near Frankfurt am Main. She completed her master's degree in German language and literature, theatre, film and television studies and psychology at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. But soon she put her pen out of her hand and picked up a brush, changed languages and found new forms of expression. Since 2013, Nicola Barth has been dealing with permanent metamorphic processes that take place in non-obvious areas. In it she visualises ideas of becoming and changing, the glances of figures that are not, combines poetry and chaos and brings them to canvas and paper with graphite and oil paint. She has been exhibiting regularly since 2002.

We wanted to get a deeper insight into sources of inspiration and working methods and asked some questions:

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Why did you start working as an artist?

As a literary scholar, I mainly dealt with language and writing. Over time, however, I realized that words and language were too ´brained´ and that I lacked the means to express what there was to say. In non-objective painting I then found exactly this possibility of expression. Language is unambiguous, is controlled by the mind and raises us to a conformal level. Painting, on the other hand, deviates from the norm. It leads from the depth into the depth of an experience of being, it is another, for me more open form of communication, which is grasped with other senses and leaves more scope and freedom. Here it is more about experiencing and not understanding.

The driving force of my painting is the gain of knowledge. I paint out of an inner dilemma: the impossibility of thinking the world through to the end. In other words: I paint what I don´t understand but desire to understand.

Everything is constantly in motion, nothing remains. Time and space are questioned. That can sometimes make you dizzy.

This fast pace of life in nature and in our society and the rapid digital progress demands a stop, a standstill, a retreat to follow. My analog answer to this is painting.

Which materials do you work with and why?

When I paint I primarily work with oil on canvas or oil on paper. Recently, however, I have started to work with acrylic paint again. The reason for this is that I took courses at the academy. There you don´t only have to be able to transport your work back, but they may also not like it so much when you work with oil paint, because oil is very odour-intensive. Thanks to the acrylic paint I made some surprising discoveries. This fast colour allows a more expressive work than oil.

Are there colours and shapes that you prefer?

It makes a big difference whether I paint with oil on canvas or paper or with acrylic. Oil paint is richer and for me a much more vivid colour with more luminosity. It is the most authentic of all colours and therefore my first choice. But since I have made new experiences with acrylic which is a very fast and expressive colour, it has taken me a step further. In the end the mixture is the be-all and end-all. I love the expressiveness of acrylic paint and I also love the richness, warmth and vitality of oil paint. I combine all this by underlaying a picture with acrylic and then painting it partially with oil, which gives even more depth and vitality.

How would you describe your pictures?

My pictures are snapshots of development processes and can be compared to a film excerpt that shows only a tiny part of a very large whole. They could be further thought in all directions. I look at them as a frozen still of something in a permanent morphic process.

As a painter, I take the liberty of fixing an arbitrarily chosen detail and I can say: ´this is standstill now´. That´s a very analogous story.

Can your images be understood as a medium of communication?

Yes, absolutely. In today´s society, written form is the anchored medium of communication, while the image has fallen quite into the background.

Some time ago I became really aware of the topic ´language and communication´. Existential questions like ´Who am I?´, ´Who are we?´, ´Where do we come from?´, ´Where are we going?´, ´Why are we here?´ drive us all. And there I have reached my limits with writing and language.

Today I notice that everything that I have done flows together again. My preoccupation with language led me right here and now things are coming together. The subject of language and communication will accompany me for quite some time. As already mentioned, my works are about the moment and probably in the future also about communication in spaces that are not (real) spaces, but rather backgrounds. I call this space-walk talk in spaces that are none. In conclusion I can say that today I communicate via canvas and beyond the image.

Is there something, or someone, that influences you?

Surely there would be some names of artists whose works I think are great for various reasons that have inspired and influenced me on a formal level. But as an artist you are also always a ´seismograph of society´ and ´tentacles´ quite openly porous through the world.

Creative work is ultimately about input and output and the individual 'in-between' that manifests itself in an artistic result.

So I am influenced by everything and everyone and always. People, conversations, nature, materials, spaces, texts - everything can inspire me if I am ´open´ (on air in off space). The idea of transformation: „What can you make of it?“ is always there.

Which techniques do you prefer?

I combine all the techniques by applying oil paint to the acrylic paint to make the parts of the picture a little warmer, softer and richer, to make them shine and stand out. I also like to mark my pictures with graphite and pigment pencils, or with oil crayons.

How do you proceed with your work?

As a painter, I am primarily concerned with colour, with the process and what emerges from it. As a matter of principle, I do not paint objectively. I deliberately did not use the word ´abstract´ here, because it would mean for me that I would abstract something that had already been there. But I don´t do that, because, as I said, my painting arises out of the process. I often don´t know what I have painted and basically I don´t need to know that either. Sometimes, when the painting is finished, figurative ideas come to the mind of the viewer. Or you think it might be a reference to a certain figure. But that´s never the intention.

What do you want to say with your art?

As an artist, I think I have the opportunity to invite my fellow human beings to come along and get out of this norm-based way of thinking. I invite people to follow me into other rooms or put on different glasses.

But I´m also interested in the above-mentioned holding on to a permanent metamorphosis. In this constantly changing world there is a world behind it which I understand on different levels and which I try to capture at the moment. I am convinced that communication is different on other levels. There are so many gaps and intermediate levels that need a different form of communication. I believe that there is another form of language. Just as other living beings have their own way of communication.

That´s why my pictures carry these strange triad-sentence names like HONO BADI NISS and DULUSCH ET IGANI. These names are to be understood more as a sound or a frequency and point to the inner idea of things - and not to what they represent, because I don´t know that myself. I´m just saying that it's ´something in process.

What are your goals?

With my art, I try to dissolve norm-formed thinking and to continue inviting people for walks on other levels.

What do you want to achieve in the next 5 years?

I am looking forward to the future without having any great expectations of it. Just as I am never afraid of a white canvas. Usually I go into the process. Afterwards I know if and how intense and how good it was. For me it is about pure doing which in the future in my painting should preferably be even more courageous, even more radical, more consistent, more uncompromising and more present in my artistic expression. And I try not to lose the humor, because even on difficult days you have to be able to put your brush aside and say ´I will do something different´.


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