Ina Gerken

Born 1987
Lives and works in Düsseldorf


A gesture is a movement that functions as a means of communication. It often goes hand in hand with a verbal form of expression and thus serves to further conversation. It seems to be simply an accentuation of the spoken word, but if you take a closer look, the casualness of a gesture masks the same quality of expression that is transferred by verbal communication. A gesture has the ability to express that which can only be conveyed by the body. The ring and index ngers cross. The thumb stretches upward while the other ngers are pressed against the palms. The index nger is then gently pressed against the lips. If you look at the various forms of gestures that are possible, it becomes clear that most of them are made with one particular part of the body: the hand.

It also appears to be the hand that is the driving force behind Ina Gerken’s paintings. Her pieces are constructed like a library of movements. Similar to a well-organized library, Gerken’s painting draws on the fact that the care she takes in her composition is not only re ected in the overall picture, but also when you look more closely at individual works in particular. In keeping with the language metaphor, the viewer then tries to approach it with categories. They search for connections in order to nd a common thread. Although Gerken’s paintings have different development processes, they would not be considered as having a serial quality. Although some paintings have a similar color spectrum, there does not appear to be any reoccurring patterns. No two images are alike, and yet they all have something in common: their salient feature is that of gesture.

It is intuitive and eludes any masking of reproduction. The lines that Ina Gerken makes on her image media adhere to the surface and direct the viewer’s gaze. Their execution is so precise that they almost resemble a signature. Some strokes show signs of wanting to further the structure of the image media by imitating a right angle. Nevertheless, these brushstrokes are never a reproduction of given forms, but rather present themselves as images of movements. They suggest a kind of lightness. Sometimes they appear as indi- vidual protagonists on the surface, and there is an insinuation that Ina Gerken’s brush painted the canvas as if by chance.

But it is this apparent randomness which disguises the precision of her characteristic style. In a small volume written by Roland Barthes regarding the work of Cy Twombly, the author differentiates between sign, message and gesture. In contrast to the other codes mentioned, a gesture is productive without ever having pursued the intention of being productive. It is precisely the casualness of said execution that characterizes Ina Gerken’s brushstrokes in much the same way. This does not mean that her style is lost in arbitrariness, but rather that the placement of the strokes is carried by a determinate lightness. Every stroke is where it is meant to be.

But they are never placed in the same spots. Ina Gerken uses different materials for her paintings and drawings, which effects the way the color emerges. On the cool, smooth surface of a PVC board, the paint just seems to graze the medium. Shades of blue, green and purple blend into each other and fade into the white background, which itself tries to surface. The colors therefore gain more intensity than when conventionally applied to a canvas. The application does not give the impression of being a nished action, but rather creates an overall picture that remains uid. In contrast, the paintings on polyester canvas resemble snapshots of movements. This dynamic thus becomes the leitmotif that runs through Ina Gerken’s work and becomes visible on every surface that the artist appropriates. If you look closely at Gerken’s paintings, you’ll see that no surface is left untouched. With almost surgical precision, ne layers of Japanese paper are fused into the canvas. These never adopt a three-dimensional character, nor emerge as a collage, but rather like a second, even ner layer of the image medium. With this method, Ina Gerken seems to want to make something of the past visible, however, this turns out to be more of an addition. Even the different layers of color within the painting, which the artist sometimes wipes off in some works and scratches off in others, show her desire to unmask surfaces. In doing so, she gives the feeling of going deeper to the source of her paintings by making her own traces visible. These tell countless stories of movements that the artist has performed on the canvas. They nudge her own technique further into focus — a technique that does not shy away from bringing something hidden to light, be it older layers of paint or even the bare background of a canvas. In her paintings, Ina Gerken gives new life to all the strategies that other artists have already put back on a dusty shelf. Gerken frees them from this layer of dust and releases the potential of expressive painting into the present-day world.

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