“My Pictures are a Medium to Process Everything I have Experienced”
Johanna Clara Becker of Düsseldorf Kunstakademie shows her latest work at online ARTSPACE NEXUS
RPR: Dear Johanna Clara Becker, you were born in Krefeld in 1995. You studied painting in Essen. Since 2016 you are at the Academy of Art Düsseldorf. How did you discover art?
JCB: My whole family paints or draws. As the youngest of six children on my father’s side, it was only possible for me to get artistic attention to a limited extent. All members of the family have an affinity for colour and artistic design, so it’s easy to get lost among so many. At the age of 18 I decided that I wanted to study art. One half of the family made fun of me and the other half supported me in my plans. In the end, however, it was only the letter of admission from the Düsseldorf Art Academy that completely convinced my family that I had to have an artistic talent. Since 2016 I have been studying at the same academy as my brother did with Fritz Schwegler. For me it was a decision that was quite clear. In art I never had to find a sense of purpose that motivated me to create something. For me, art was always part of my life from an early age. It was just there and it made sense enough.
RPR: What influence do the art academy and your professors have on your painting?
JCB: I don’t think that admission to an art academy is supposed to decide about artistic ability. I was only admitted at the third attempt and even after that I continued to go my own way. In fact, contrary to my high expectations, the art academy was rather disappointing. I wasn’t really influenced by the academy or the professors. My first professor Stefan Kürten was unfortunately only a year at the academy after I joined his class. In contrast to others, he was highly motivated. He influenced me by simply letting me do things and not questioning anything. He gave us his time and his advice. He never doubted that I didn’t need help. I think I will leave the Academy with this positive feeling. For me, the Academy is not a place for big words or exchanges. It is rather a time for me where I give myself the opportunity to find my way to my painting without many objections or criticism. Of course I have also faced criticism from other professors with my personal view. But I think that at a certain point you simply have to recognise what you want and decide what makes sense for yourself and your work.
RPR: With your works you have already developed a very own visual language. How is a work created and what role do letters and words play in the pictures? Tell us a little bit about the process of creation and what you want to say with your pictures.
JCB: I paint or draw when I feel like it. And hopefully that remains a long-lasting pleasure. Forcing me to paint or draw does not work. It is created without sketches — and everything is intuitive and spontaneous. Usually the moment of painting is accompanied by a moment of the unspeakable. Situations in which I lose the power of words and my head runs the risk of being flooded with thoughts, words, sensations, experiences, that is when I know that the brushes will open my very personal door to painting again. When I then paint, I try to erase all boundaries. The canvas is a place where I am allowed to do everything and nobody can say that it is wrong.
That is why I always use mixed media, acrylic, ink, charcoal and much more; everything is allowed on the canvas, if the moment allows it. A painting usually consists of much more than just one theme, in which the human being plays an important role. Sometimes childhood memories, voices of my youth and the political news of the previous day are all found together in one picture. Nothing is safe from my painting hand. That the viewer sees exactly what I was thinking or feeling is not important to me. My paintings should legitimize to see everything or to see something else. I am personally satisfied when I don’t think anything for a short moment, stand in front of it and my eyes just look. Then it is quiet for a moment and my thoughts calm down. It is certain that soon afterwards the next stream of thoughts will break through the calm. But since I have decided to work only at that very moment, these are moments that I joyfully welcome.
The letters and words are fragments of this very thought, a pool of memories, sensations and images. They are single words or sometimes even expressions, which are sufficient as such and often seem illogical, nonsensical or raise questions for outsiders. If I am asked what the picture means or is supposed to show, I often find it difficult to answer, because it was created in one of those unspeakable moments.
My pictures are a medium to process everything I have experienced, my thoughts, feelings, memories and to make myself vivid. For the viewer this is sometimes easy and sometimes completely impossible to decipher. Just as I do not set limits for myself, I do not want to set limits for the viewer to see something that he or she might simply want to see. That is why my paintings often don’t get titles, because they give the whole thing an individual finality in its interpretation, which I personally want to determine. In the end, we can never know what someone else is thinking and this is exactly the secret I want to keep.
RPR: You have already exhibited at several museums. Now we are showing a digital solo exhibition with your works in our ARTSPACE NEXUS. What title would you like to give the exhibition and what challenges and opportunities do you see in an online presentation?
JCB: I think “UNTITLED” is the right title for the exhibition. At the moment, whether it is untitled or titled is irrelevant for my pictures. Maybe the title encourages a more intensive look, which reveals something hidden at first and only reveals it when looking more closely and questioning.
I think the online presentation shows completely new chances of exhibiting. How often does something intervene for visitors, how often is the time inappropriate, or the location too far away and then the exhibition is already over. The NEXUS Artspace makes it possible for me to be seen from everywhere — not two-dimensional, but three-dimensional. Especially in the current time of crisis due to the corona virus, when museums are not visited and the pictures hang on the wall abandoned, ARTSPACE NEXUS gives the opportunity to make art visible — for everyone from home and everywhere.
RPR: Thanks so much, Johanna!
View UNTITLED by Johanna Clara Becker at ARTSPACE NEXUS
Read more about art historian Dr. Ruth Polleit Riechert here.