Liz III, 1997
“Hardly anyone dares to call a painting beautiful. One rather says it is interesting to not nail one’s colours. ” (Quote Cornelia Schleime)
Not only with her paint brush does the with numerous artistic prizes awarded German artist Cornelia Schleime “nail colours”, but with her entire attitude towards art, her work and fundamental topics such as zeitgeist and the past. As it takes a long time for the artist to part from the paintings she just painted, we are incredibly proud to show some of her most recent and still unseen works straight from her private collection. At the latest her solo exhibition at the Museum Franz Gertsch in 2012 doubtlessly proves the artistic sustainability the painter has been able to establish over the years. Growing up in former East Germany (GDR), she today lives and works in Berlin and Brandenburg. Before applying herself to study art, she did an apprenticeship as hairdresser and a schooling as make-up artist. In 1975 she started her formation in paintings and graphics at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden (Dresden Academy of Fine Arts), where she received her diploma in 1980. With “Horizontebilder” (”Paintings of Horizons”) in India ink on Japanese paper she definitely broke away from the traditional Dresden school of painting and owned up to her passion, the travels, which at first she could only virtually satisfy with books. In the time of the dictatorship of the »gesetztes Wir« (»sober us«) as the German poet Uwe Kolbe called the GDR, she worked as groom, nude model, edifice conservator and exhibition warden during the day, so that by night she could dedicate herself to art. After an exhibition ban of her works and body performances in 1981 she filed an application for an exit permit to West Berlin. “Socialism was something for idealists, something I was always very far off. That is why I had to get out that crap”, says the artist. On her departure she lost all her previous oeuvre. Her work “Bis auf weitere gute Zusammenarbeit” (“To Further Good Cooperation”) came into being years later after reading her own state security file. In form of a photo spread and with the help of a self-timer she dressed up in hats, costumes, wigs and selected accessories to restage and exaggerate the situations described in her file. “Painting never was or is a manner of processing the political or the personal crisis. I actually suffered more from the provinciality of the GDR than its politics”, the artist points out. The subjective basis as well as the inclination to the ironic and theatrical are junctures in her work. Innocence, defiance, vulnerability and hidden eroticism can be found in the expression of her subjects. Children, often with braided hair, portraits of women, movie stars and even the Pope are ever returning motives in her mostly large-scale paintings. Schleime seems to have always been fascinated by Pope John Paul II. Although in the Protestant-Prussian GDR her parents were not very religious, she was raised strictly catholic. She says: “With his staging the Pope is the most famous pop artist. While he is the most popular critic of the exostosis of the modern comfort, he yet uses its tools perfectly to ban it even more effectively. ” Next to the giant portraits her small-format “Camouflage” watercolours appear quite marvellously abstract. Schleime’s painting process follows the pattern of the “dessin automatique”, which was intensively practised by the surrealists in the early 20th century. By scratching, carving and drawing the creating begins intuitively – fluxionary, without a concrete vision. Coffee grounds and sand mixed with glue or shellac dissolved and diluted in spirit help to break the smooth surface of her canvases and the layers of paint. Compared to her soft watercolours the artist perceives her oil paintings as almost cumbersome. The latter mean a huge effort for Schleime, yet they spur on her ambition and keep her alive as an artist. She states: “I paint to not concede victory to the run of time. Actually this is the real lunacy of painting, because the time runs faster than the paint. ” “The Vulnerability of the Beautiful” (“Die Angreifbarkeit des Schönen”) as Klaus Gallwitz a German art historian and curator once phrased it, probably exerts this incredible pull on Schleime’s work – the calm yet dynamic, strong nevertheless fragile contents paired with the refreshingly humane and unpretentious style of the artist.