Berlin Artist Residency

It’s been a little over two months since I’ve returned from my artist residency at Takt Kunstprojektraum in Berlin and I finally got around to pulling together some of the main highlights from my time there. I saw a lot of galleries and museums but couldn’t fit them all in this post. Four weeks in Berlin seemed to go by much quicker than I thought it would. I now understand why so many artist residencies are at least 3 months long!

After a day of settling into my live/work space at Takt Okapi Studios in Prenzlauer Berg, I set up my studio and jumped straight to work. I made some quick automatic painting sketches to help ease myself in. Coming from a completely open and shared studio space, it was such a treat to have a self-contained studio with natural light all to myself!  It felt more like an apartment where I share a kitchen and bathroom with a flatmate. Over the first week, I met my flatmate and the three other resident artists in the studios next door to me. I needed a big hit of art inspiration on my first day so I visited the Berlinische Galerie Museum of Modern Art. I came across Christine Streuli’s war painting series which are based on military patterns used for camouflage.  Such amazing use of colour on a large scale. I also loved these three dimensional painting sculptures by Emilio Vedova.  I made some quick sketches and it got me thinking more about the use of shape and form.

I ended my visit with the permanent collection. I came across assemblage work by and finally got to see work by Hannah Hoch. It was a painting which looked like it could have been a collage. Unfortunately it was the only piece of hers on display.  I was desperately hoping that there were more collage pieces by Dada artists.

The next exciting event that week was going to Boesner, the local art supply store. I realized I don’t often get a chance to go to many other art supply stores and so was mesmerized by the sheer volume of choice and quality of the supplies. I wish I had more room in my suitcase or I would have brought back more. I had heard about Hannah Muhle paper and it is indeed very nice to work with as well as the Sennelier soft pastels.

On the fifth day of the residency I had my first art critique session. It was located about 30 minute train ride in Friedrichshain where the other live/ work studio spaces and gallery space was.  I was excited to finally talk about art and share my work with other artists. I also found out that I had only another 2 days before I had to submit work for the group show that was opening in a week.

That evening after dinner I happened to come across some free print material that I could use for collage. Then I came across a jackpot of poster pile as I was making my way back to the train station. I came home and immediately got to work. Using the found posters, I made three collages on paper. Two of them I liked and the other I ended up making a new collage from it.

Preparations and installation for the group exhibition was the focus in the second week. The opening was so much fun! I met some lovely people and had great conversations with the artists. I loved being in a show that had such a variety of disciplines ranging from painting, drawing, installation, performance art, video and film.  I also got to meet UK artist Lisa Denyer who had moved to Berlin and came to my opening! We had only connected online so I was happy to get to know her and her work a little more.  You can see more photos of the opening here as well as links to the other artists in residence who participated.

I also met with artist Tina Hopp who would be working with me over the next few weeks.  As I discovered that the critique sessions were scheduled for the month due to the exhibit, I found it really helpful to have time to discuss the progress of my work and exchanged ideas with Tina. I was drawn to her work as she worked in several different disciplines of drawing, painting and installation. It was great to visit her studio see her work in person. She had such great insight that helped push my work further. Without much intensive interaction with other artists from the start of the residency, I was afraid that I would make the same things in the same way. However, over the next few weeks, I was relieved to see that this was not the case.

For the sake of packing light, I didn’t bring the same range of materials I normally use.  I noticed that I would reach for certain things to resolve the work but because I didn’t have those tools or materials there, it forced me to find a different way to problem solve. I had shorter painting sessions and would try more experiments which led me to using up my supply of paper much faster than expected.  Part of it was that I also was trying to squeeze in time to see other artists or visit galleries as well as day to day living like laundry and buying groceries. I would often paint in the morning and late at night when I would come back home. The weather got surprisingly hot so I couldn’t be in the studio for long. Collage became more of focus during my time there as I could explore different found materials from the street and from the flea market.

The biggest learning for me was that, if I had an idea and it excited me, to just try it and see what happens. I was here on my own and could make whatever I wanted without any pressure of having it “work out”. I did lots of different experiments playing with space and form using collage cut-outs. I tried new colours like bright orange with black. I tried to figure out a way to distill the essence of what I liked about these works and to focus on that. I was able to keep working and reworking a theme which I hadn’t given myself an opportunity before.

I came to the realization of how much I needed to interact with a community of artists, especially being in a new place. Having the time and opportunity to talk about art with other international artists regularly was such a luxury. It felt so energizing to learn about their practice and different perspectives. I also enjoyed getting to know more about the process of installation and performance art. My general impression is that experimentation is highly encouraged and supported in Berlin.

Towards the end of my artist residency, I could really feel the momentum build in my work. Holding an open studio was a great way to end the month and share the progress with the other residents. It was intriguing to find ways to use the existing space for both two dimensional work and try my hand at some mini installations.

Looking back, I am surprised how much work I was able to make. I am so grateful to have had this chance to take the time to explore.  At the moment, I am continuing to develop the ideas that I started when I was away. I know that this experience will generate ideas for more projects to come. It was pretty special to be able to experience a new city with other artists. There is so much history and energy in Berlin that only can be truly understood and experienced in person.  I know I will make my way back there again. For more photos of my time at the artist residency, you can see them on my Instagram and Facebook page.

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