Berit Myrebøe

Storyed slides

The Berlin-based Norwegian artist Berit Myrebøe worked for a month at DIEresidenz in Die, France, on two new series on paper. The final exhibition “Super position” showed a selection of these amalgams of superimposed photographs, drawing and painting on different types of paper.

Berit Myrebøe creates imaginary landscapes on aluminium or – as in DIEresidenz – on paper by layering images and materials. The technique is reminiscent of avant-garde photography of the 1920s and 1930s, when the photographic superimposition initially resulted from an accident and artists subsequently printed the photographic paper several times or combined several negatives in the development process.

But Myrebøe does more than “just” photography. Rather, she fights against photography by changing this layer by layer. Her works thus begin with a photograph – that of a landscape or a human body. In selecting these “photo-sketches” (according to the artist), she prefers photographs that capture a movement, a moment of transition, that are somewhat indistinct and already have a painterly aspect. “Transition” is a key word in Myrebøe’s working method, because the motif never remains the same.

The artist transfers her photographic sketches onto aluminium plate, using the transfer printing process, a printing technique used in lithography, for example, to turn the mirror-inverted image around. Once on metal, Myrebøe removes the context of her main motif using various solvents and adds layers or elements of oil paint. From this intervention she takes a photograph again, which can be treated in the same way over several cycles.

In Die Myrebøe works on paper, superimposing sheets of different textures, shades of white and transparency. She scratches and rubs away parts of the previously printed, transferred picture base, draws and paints on it with charcoal, chalk, oil paint and paint sprays. By applying varnish or linseed oil, she gains transparent or shiny parts of the picture, thus highlighting or hiding details of the “original” picture – from which she is moving away more and more. In this way, the initial photograph is increasingly transformed into a drawing, collage or painting.

The artist often works serially with the same motif, which she then overlays with different layers and reworks in different ways, each time emphasizing certain elements. The repetition of the motif is reminiscent of film sequences – even though Myrebøe does not tell a story. Rather, they are juxtaposed snapshots, shreds of dreams or memories.

Finally, the repetition appeals to comparative vision. The portraits of women, for example, are only identical at first glance. Then one discovers the different backgrounds and the different techniques of processing the printed image, which is almost destroyed to let light or a hidden motif shine through the paper. Myrebøe calls her works “light pictures” and thus, despite or perhaps because of her interventions, ultimately finds herself back at her starting point: photography. (Conny Becker, DIEresidenz, 2019)

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February, 2020