Bicultural Urbanite Luke
Berlin Art Week through the eyes of an (ex)Berlin painter
It’s that time of year again: the leaves are beginning their annual metamorphosis and the nights are starting to feel ominously fresh. While these are the elegiac signs of Berlin’s darker months fast approaching, they also signify the build-up to one of the most vibrant affairs of the year in Germany’s capital: Berlin Art Week.
For French-born painter Rebecca Brodskis, the Art Week is emblematic of the five formative years she spent living in Berlin as a twenty-something, exploring the depths of her creativity and honing her craft: an “intense” period of artistic experimentation, provocative performances, wild parties, and self-discovery.
During past Art Week adventures, Rebecca recalls strolling the vast, cobbled pavements of Auguststrasse in the crisp Autumn air among great flocks of expats and Germans, drinking beer together and hopping in and out of every gallery along the way in a carefree mass of exuberance. “I saw so many excellent performances that it’s hard to keep a clear record,” reflects the emerging 30-year-old artist. "Anouk" by Rebecca Brodskis | © Rebecca Brodskis
One show that did burn a lasting image in Rebecca’s mind was Painting Forever! at KW back in 2013. “It was an exhibition about the role of painting in contemporary artistic production, raising all sorts of questions around the medium and its relationship to other media—the pressure to legitimate itself and so on…it really gave me some clues on how to formulate new positions as a young painter”.
Early beginningsWhile the Art Week encapsulates Rebecca’s Berlin experience, the experience itself was a period when the young artist first noticed herself taking her painting seriously—although the foundations of the central role that painting would play in her life were laid as early as the age of four, amidst the turpentine-heavy air of her grandmother’s Moroccan atelier. “I remember going to the shouk with her and buying pigments, which we’d mix with linen oil. She was my first teacher—a very tough one! I was not even five and she was already teaching me the laws of perspective, ruining my paintings with big black lines if I didn’t get things right”.
Many years later, after being captivated by “a certain magic” she noticed on her first visit to Berlin, those artistic seeds her grandmother sowed all those years ago came to fruition when Rebecca chose to put down roots in Berlin, a decision she recalls prompting a distinct feeling that “anything was possible”—no doubt partly inspired by the enormous flats that her and her friends could suddenly afford to live in. “It was really like being in that Jim Jarmush film, Permanent Vacation”.
"Attrape moi si tu peux" by Rebecca Brodskis | © Rebecca Brodskis But it was more than just the city’s material affordances that provided Rebecca with the chance to blossom; it was the unforgettable people she met and that inimitable libertine buzz that truly shaped the trajectory of both her work and her character. “Berlin gave me the time and freedom to be the person I wanted to be. Far away from the pressures of most European capitals, it allowed me time and space to think and experiment; to experience the extremes of life, to challenge my limits, to fly high and fall low…I couldn’t be the painter I am today without my time in Berlin”.
Berlin by the beachIn 2015, after five indelible years here, Rebecca eventually chose to change up her home base when she traveled to Tel Aviv and fell in love with the city, which she describes as a “small Berlin but with the sun and the beach” (and who can argue with the appeal of that?). Yet while the majority of her time is now spent away from Berlin, Rebecca’s ties here remain close: she invested in a Stalinbau apartment on Frankfurter Allee with her inheritance and still visits her friends here regularly. And considering her upcoming collaboration with Berlin and London-based gallery, Kristin Hjellegjerde, it seems this enduring bond will now strengthen further.
After asking Brodskis to join a group show on portraiture in her London space in February, Hjellegjerde has also offered Rebecca a solo exhibition at the gallery’s Berlin space in Linienstrasse, planned to open in March 2020. “I’m looking forward to working with [Hjellegjerde], as I really love the energy she has and her very direct way of being. She's someone who always stays loyal to her taste and her views, which I think is essential when running a gallery”. Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin | © Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Besides feeling the desire to build an exhibitive base here, Rebecca recognizes her affinity with other Berlin-based artists, mentioning her admiration for Sebastian Bieniek and his “unique way of making paintings feel alive”. She’s also a self-proclaimed “eternal fan” of Wolfgang Tillmans’ photography and his notorious documentation of youth and club culture.
And what about Rebecca’s tips for this year’s Berlin Art Week? “I would definitely go and see the photography of Luo Wang at the Positions Berlin Art Fair, Max Renneisen’s Strangers in Paradise, and Das Jahr 1990 freilegen, just because it’s always so good to see pictures of the 90s—an eternal source of inspiration!”