CHARLOTTE KOLLMORGEN - OBSERVATIONS ON THE WORK OF A PAINTER
By Prof. Dr. Johannes Eucker, Hochschule der Künste, Berlin
Are Charlotte Kollmorgen’s pictures beautiful?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What is more, the concept of beauty has changed again and again in the course of history. One can still prove in all her works that the artist does not want to attack, hurt, criticise, delude or rattle anyone, that she does not want to either communicate any ideology or lay down any rules. Neither does she place herself at the service of anyone who might set the standard or call the tune. Instead, we encounter an autonomous artist in her works who is only responsible to herself and also determines her own artistic standards. In this sense Charlotte Kollmorgen is an artist of the modern era, and her works in their independent choice of contents and means are a true expression of democracy. The autonomy of the artist is also reflected in the fact that - as she herself says - she does not have any potential viewers or even buyers in mind when she creates her works. Instead, she follows her artistic impetus and her sensitive, but also very rational aesthetic notion of design. Because all her pictures have been deliberately designed, many with an emphasis towards the centre; they are well organised and represent an order that is perceived as pleasant rather than provocative by the people of the present day and age.
Now, anyone who tends to believe that this brand of art was without any function should examine whether it does not, after all, act in a humane sense, by satisfying viewing needs, providing insights, triggering emotions. Yet, the artist also wants to emphasise the coexistence of man and nature, the fact that the latter is threatened, and the need for man to again see himself as one with nature. This attitude, too, is a motivation for her production of art.
Influences of other artists - the artist’s place in art history
If one takes for granted that art is produced essentially in the immediate attempt to come to terms with art itself and that a professional artist quite naturally carries a large treasure of artistic experience within him or her the question is an obvious one whether any approximations can be discerned. This way of looking at a body of artistic work is the attempt to determine the artist’s place in art history. After all, no-one who is active in the art world has started from scratch. They are all involved in some tradition of art even though they may deliberately take an opposing stance or present a contrary design.
I was pleasantly reminded of some of Charlotte Kollmorgen’s works when I walked through the National Gallery of Romanticism in Berlin’s Palace of Charlottenburg, especially of the light, that very powerful atmospheric influence, staged by the romanticists, for example, in the form of a view between two rocks. Her paintings are also reminiscent of cave motifs, archways, vegetable forms and roots. This is, however, no justification to say that she is a neo-romanticist. Rather, I report about spontaneous associations that the beholder may have.
Another association is the figure of Mandala. Reference has already been made to her trip to India and the pictures based on it. A striking feature of her early, small-size works is the circular shape with its centric positioning. The centric composition, a pictorial device of religious art, is used here for a quasi "intimate communication" (Kandinsky, p. 202).
Deciphering this communication in the case of Charlotte Kollmorgen’s works is combined with considerable viewing pleasure - for many art enthusiasts, it can only be hoped!
Berlin, December 2000
Translated from the original German text by Gerd H. Spriesterbach