Life In Berlin: The Textures And Materials Of Paula Doepfner
The gallery of the Goethe-Institut in Washington DC is having artwork installed. A shattered pane of glass mottled with splashes of paint pigment and dried flowers leans against one wall, and fine Japanese paper adorned with pressed plants and intricate pen-work hangs in the air. In the corner is a large, rectangular steel basin. This is the work of Paula Doepfner.
"I'm Paula Doepfner, I'm an artist from Berlin. I work with drawing, sculpture, and with installations. I am very much interested in human consciousness. Materials are very important in my work, such as ice, dried flowers, plants, and glass."
Paula combines these materials in very delicate ways. Her work often involves fine paper with immaculate, tiny text or hand drawn textures that is encased in ice. Frequently, dried plant matter is frozen into the blocks as well. The ice is usually suspended from the ceiling, and as it melts, water drips into a metal basin beneath it.
"What I like so much about natural materials is that, for example, when the ice has melted, then there is this very interesting oxidation on the steel basin where I shower my ice. It can continue for a very long while - even over years. When I freeze natural materials such as seeds or plants, then something will happen to them after the melting process is completed."
The materials Paula works with are not just focused on the textural - they frequently have a back story:
"In Berlin, I work a lot with glass from the urban space - glass that was destroyed during demonstrations against gentrification."
But the glass pieces on display at the Goethe-Institut are local.
"This is a broken window of a barber shop here in DC that was during destroyed during a burglary. I collected the glass and worked on it with pressed flowers. Normally I grow the flowers myself and then I press them and work with them on the destroyed surface."
Beyond the visual elements of Paula's installations is an acoustic, performative element. The sound of the water drops falling from the melting ice into pooling water in the steel basins is a sort of performance for Paula. She also actively combines her work with plant materials into performances:
"I did a performance with a bass player [Steve Whipple], and over the course of one and a half hours he played one tone, a microtonal, very reduced sound, and I created sounds with dried leaves and bushes that I had brought. This was very intense for me, there was a moment of meditation, and I like to work with a reduced sound when I work with performance."
Soon, a new crystal clear block of ice will rest in the steel basin in the gallery, where visitors will experience the gentle performance of it melting.