SOLO Studio Visit: Tina Berning

Tina Berning
Blow Up II, 2017
Ink, watercolour, thread and gouache on found paper on canvas
61" x 43"

Tina Berning

Booth S11
Alison Milne Gallery (Toronto)

Describe your studio/place of work. What is important to you about your workspace?

My husband, painter Julio Rondo and I have shared a beautiful studio right in the center of Berlin, Germany for 13 years. It is a typical Berlin gem, hidden in a second backyard, a two-storey industrial building from the turn of the last century. It is huge and each of us has its own floor, which comes quite handy when working day in, day out together as a couple. Our studio is probably our first home, we spend more time there than in our apartment next door. It has everything a studio needs: light and space, good walls and enough storage for our work.

Twice a year, for Berlin Gallery Weekend in Spring and Berlin Art Week in Fall, we turn our Studio into a gallery, hosting hundreds of people for an Open Studio event, actually mainly to celebrate this special place we are so happy to make our art in.


How would you describe your practice?

Over many years I have established working in a diary manner. I try to finish one piece every day, besides whatever plans were for that day. The drawings I do are done quite quickly. I like the pace of the brush, pencil or crayon being traceable for the beholder. But this immediacy doesn't allow mistakes, you can't hide it in layers, like in an oil painting. So finishing one piece a day means abandoning 10 others, which end up in my boxes: "Not So Good" or "Not So Bad" in they don't go "Scrap" straight away. Later I dig in these boxes, and the conceded distance, suddenly makes a formerly "Not So Bad" piece a great one - or "Scrap." It's become a ritual of making, revealing, recycling and leaving traces.

The routine of finishing a piece a day helps me to commit and especially decide, the hardest part of making art. It also leaves me with a large body of work I can choose from for exhibitions and fairs, assembling them anew or use them as references for larger pieces.

I am addicted to paper, especially found paper bearing traces of different eras, little notes that for a very short moment were important for somebody, or music that once has been wrapped inside, like the inner vinyl sleeves I love to work on. This found paper is an unpredictable surface leaving no possibilities to control but rather react, embracing coincidences and imperfections. 


How has your practice evolved over time?

For 15 years I am keeping a drawing diary, published online since 2004, in kind of an Instagram avant-la-lettre personal shared blog with artist friends. Posting drawings shifts your perspective from maker to beholder, which is a salutary approach to your own perception and development. It also forces the “finishing“, the “decision making“ into an irreversible act unleashing unexpected energy.

The last 4 years I have been sharing these drawings on Instagram, stepping out of the personal niche and gaining a surprisingly large audience. Whatever reasonable complaints you can make about social media, for my working process it has been a huge boost. Not for the likes, but for the routine.


What works can we expect to see at Art Toronto 2019?

For Art Toronto I have assembled a collection of drawings from this diary work process and added larger pieces, drawn on collaged abandoned drawings. So above the found traces on this paper, I have, as a second layer, left my own traces, melting with the new drawings. Everything I show is on paper, with whatever material is relevant. Mainly Ink and watercolor, you will also find thread, stitches, and staples.

What do you want people to take away from your work?

I start drawing a pair of eyes on a checked piece of scrap paper from an old school book, and suddenly a personality looks back at me from the paper. (Or not, which leads us to the scrap box…).

Obviously, I manage to capture an expression in faces that touches people, of course just some people. And if it was only one, I was already happy. My work is the opposite of being cynical. I am exploring the inner flame behind the physiognomy. Why does one woman in a drawing look straight into our eyes, but thinks of something totally different. When does somebody look intelligent, afraid, sincere, certain? For this investigation, I peel the figures out of the context, nothing indicates their situation or surrounding. It’s the pure stripped-down pose that reveals an expression yet open to our personal interpretation. A few fast strokes, that the observer must be able to complete. Strokes that circumscribe blank space, space to determine the image yourself, depending on your own context, history.