Amelie von Wulffen

b. 1966

Amelie von Wulffen is a pictorial artist, whose eclectic drawings, paintings, sculptures, assemblages, and mixed-media works bring together various painting styles and follow the collage principal of appropriation. She lives and works in Berlin.  Von Wulffen belongs to the generation of Germans, born between 1960 and 1975, who have to contend with the silence of their parents and grandparents concerning the atrocities done by Nazi Germany.

Von Wulffen was born in southeast Germany.  She attended the Munich Academy of Fine Arts from 1987 to 1994 where she experienced discrimination against women.  She tells how there were no female professors and that the female students were not taken seriously since they would just get married and have children.  After graduation, von Wulffen moved to Berlin, and from 2006 to 2011 she was a Professor of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

Von Wulffen’s work is influenced by historical genre painting and rural German life.  Nineteenth-century German folklore, fairy tales, storybook figures, anthropomorphized animals and everyday objects, as well as other disparate elements figure in her densely worked, duplicitous scenes.

Originally von Wulffen worked primarily on large sheets of paper, adding photographs to the surface and painting with acrylic, ink, and watercolor washes to make fantastic dreamscapes.

In 2008, von Wulffen made small-scale drawings in pencil or watercolor, many of which were self-portraits.  Handwritten texts were added as journal entries.  These works developed into her “ego-comics” – pencil drawings of the stressful life of a middle-aged female artist. She also made drawings in a style found in children’s books to show anthropomorphized fruits and vegetables in scenes that ranged from the banal to the cruel.

In 2012, von Wulffen started to work on densely packed oil paintings where anxiety, violence, and humor abound.  Her strange compositions, done in eclectic painting styles, bring together German folk scenes, animals, and schoolgirls.

In 2016, her paintings of claustrophobic, rustic Bavarian interiors, exhibited in Berlin and in London, show interior views with a dining table used as a recurrent motif – sometimes copied directly from other artists, such as Gustave Caillebotte. In one painting, “Untitled,” von Wulffen portrays the ghost of a Jewish poet, hovering over a dining scene.  The poet was Paul Celan, a Romanian Jew who wrote in German.  He had been interned in one concentration camp while his parents were killed in another. In the same year Wulffen has a dining table holding center stage in the fantastical painting, “The Inheritance,” where muddied-colored, furred animals sit silently staring at the viewer.

Von Wulffen will often paint with washy gestural brushstrokes, lacquer the work, and then paint over a layer of crackled lacquer to give the work a  strange otherworldliness.  Her figures often have an ambivalent relationship to their surroundings.  While there is oppression in her work, it can be alleviated by a very small thread of dark humor.

In 2003, her work was exhibited at the Venice Biennial, and in 2005 she had a solo exhibition at the Pompidou.  Her work has appeared in London at the Studio Voltaire in 2017 and in New York at the Reena Spaulings Fine Art Gallery in 2018. Her work can also be seen in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

 

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