No 1 (65) 2006
January - March

The Pictures by Bettina Bereś

Bettina Bereś has been placing objects in the center of her canvas. There are no doubts that they feature main characters in her works at a scale approaching 1:1; painted with a thin coat of paint, with no care for details, reduced to a simple sign. They hypnotize with their austerity.

Ewa Łączyńska, Marta Lisok

B. in 1983. 4th year art history students at University in Cracow.

Ewa Łączyńska, Marta Lisok

Jugs, bowls, chairs, bathtubs are not casting shadows. Located against one color background, they rather represent ideas than portrait individual objects. Their anachronistic shapes bring back the era that has gone. They emanate the charm of passed time discovered in an attic or in a dusty cubbyhole that has not been opened for long. The artist keeps thinking about the object for quite a time before materializing it in the picture. It might happen that an observed situation draws her attention and she cannot forget it, as it has been the case with a pram full of brushwood spotted by chance in the street. The concepts are budding and ripening in the spring and summer so as to appear on canvas – during winter nights, in a couple of hours of intensive effort - in a completely different dimension. Their dense form and sparsely applied paint indicate the cold temperature of the time of their creation; monochromatic hues, even the oranges and reds, though quite intense, look as though they were pulled out of the blackness and grayness of what had surrounded the artist when she had been painting. For some time, Bettina has been experimenting with untreated parts of the canvas. Ever more frequently, rough fragments have been disturbingly expanding, growing over the surface of her pictures. The artist has not always painted like that. Her first works, going back to the bleak 80’s, were figurative and daring, very striking and bright (fovist) in their palette. They were a response to the grayness of the then realities. Later, she has grown more ascetic, giving up showing people with flat faces empty of any features, instead, using more subdued colors. Some pictures show inscriptions framing the canvas, resembling the rhymes embroidered on kitchen wall hangings. The artist herself does not treat these inscriptions as the key to interpret her works. Occasionally, these are merely associations linked to what has been presented in the picture. Frequently, the meaning is more enigmatic within the context of the objects they are accompanying; i.e., “what is beautiful, is noble” accompanying a candlestick, or “they have adopted a child” in the picture depicting a white kettle. The objects - explicitly related to feminine jobs such as cooking, cleaning or washing – dominate among the depicted. However, one can speak here neither about a critical attitude by the artist to the reality, nor interpret this art as an illustration of a woman cornered by objects, shown as a slave to hearth and home. This is Bettina herself who has implored the objects, immortalizing them on her canvases, immersed them in formalin and made them immune to the passing time. Her art has been ostentatiously feminine - and what is interesting and very rare – it cannot be defined within the feminist art stream, complementing the latter. The painting process turns into a ritual where the repetitive action itself and the foreseeable safety of the familiar have been more important than the original objective. For her, the act of painting seems to be only natural and indispensable. Undoubtedly, the pictures by Bettina Bereś do affirm everyday life. Everything immortalized has been stripped off its natural surroundings, individualized, made monumental, driven away from the everyday life chaos and mediocrity. The artist casts a light on homey objects, so “common” and ordinary that they have been no longer separated from their function, dissolving into kitchen shelves or into bathroom corners. One has an impression that the artist likes these objects and that she has been enchanted with their form. Abstracting these from their surroundings, she gives them a special, higher rank, upgrades them by the time devoted to them. One gets focused on her pictures, reassuring by means of their simplicity and stability, offering a break to stop and think for a couple of seconds. One is forced to give a thought on what is simple and small. The artist, as a good housewife, has perfectly organizes the space of her canvases. The emanating hard austerity can be related to clear, unchangeable rules one can always rely on. There is no place for a quiver or uncertainty. Their static qualities and permanence contradict aggressive messages attacking one from every corner. Each of the presented objects seems to have its individual characteristics and its own history. It is a kind of challenge against the overwhelming consumption, the fast culture of use and throw away, disposable products. Cold metal, wood, fragile china or greenish glass prevailing in her pictures, have resisted the pressure of the nameless, the short-term, the trashy. Bettina Bereś, “ Exhibition to Celebrate the Silver Wedding Anniversary”, painting, Open Atelier, Cracow, October – November 2005.