Hella Berent

Galerie Dany Keller

Hella Berent’s lofty aspirations and passionate urge for self-realization are given expression in drawings and installations that convey abundant intellectual energy through a vocabulary of suggestive, fragmentary forms. Within a force field of dense, very dark planes of color, cubelike forms, and jagged trails of light, experiences of the self and of the world flow together to create a sensual view of reality magnified to cosmic proportions. We feel the presence of idiosyncratic, open spaces through the associations they evoke, activated by the emotional dynamics of the strokes and the intensity of the color. At the same time, but often only subliminally, contact with the outside world breaks through in these works in their connection with the historical city of Rome, where Berent lives as a fellow of the Villa Massimo.

As in her earlier works, Berent seeks to reach both the airy heights and the historical and mythic depths through research into the space between, above, and below the body and the earth. On the floor of one installation, Das lachende Weltgericht (The laughing world court, 1986), potsherds from the ancient Monte Testaccio (mountain of shards) remind us of the slowly growing layers of Roman history. But the viewer stays immersed in the sense of historical time only briefly before getting caught up in the heights of timeless, visionary, Leonardesque landscape. In the end, what cannot be unified is brought into harmony. Mirror islets, crowned with cones of black pigment, draw the heavens down to earth, turn above into below. Above and below, near and far, past and present are neutralized in the free space of Berent’s art. By balancing vision, emotion, and artistic consciousness, Berent presents a truly Herculean challenge to this unstable world and attempts to reunite all those fragments that make up our history, our collective experience, and our individual lives.

Ingrid Rein

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.