Bettina, could you tell us briefly about yourself, your origins, your culture and your family background?
Co-founder of Artists.B.Collective and Triologcompany
Member of DaVinciArtAlliance Philadelphia 2006, MainLineArtcenter
I was born in 1965 in East-Berlin. I had a happy and quiet childhood; I lived before and during perestroika as a student and experienced the fall of the Berlin wall. Then I was a university teacher during the "cleaning" of the public organisations in Eastern Europe.
It was a period of change where a lot of new businesses sprung up like mushrooms. But at University there were 10 times fewer staff members for two times as many students. And everybody suspected everybody else of working for the secret services. There were a lot of Control Commissions which controlled almost everything and everybody. I spent more time filling out control-forms than preparing my real work.
Later, I moved to Paris and to Luxembourg to work in controlling in the European Social Fund before becoming a full-time artist in 2003. I had the opportunity to move to Philadelphia in 2005, joining my husband who worked there. And I was immediately integrated into the vibrant artist community there, making a lot of friends amongst them and having a lot of exhibits.
What artistic movements influenced your artwork when you were in Philadelphia?
I was strongly influenced by Gerhard Richter, I love almost everything he painted, and David Hockney, who had his first Philadelphian Exhibition just two meters from where I held mine, years later.
I like Warhol, who apparently never had a solo-show in his life-time in New York (I read that once), I like experimental artists like John Cage.
There are so many great artists. Unfortunately, two years later we had to move back to Europe to take care of my parents-in-law and ended up in Belgium.
How did you integrate into the Belgian art world? What challenges did you face?
The Belgian art-world is very different from the American one. In Philadelphia you feel immediately, if you are doing right or wrong, the art lovers and art dealers don't judge you on your past or your former successes, they only consider what they see, which is great! In my experience, the American public is mature and they don't easily follow trends or fashion (I mean in art, especially painting), and they only listen to their own tastes and needs. That is great and as a painter and artist you have an immediate feedback.
In Europe, this is not the case. My experience is that first of all, you need to have a name, a past, an "artist’s resume", to come from a famous Art School, and last but not least, you have to have a style (and only one!). I feel that Europeans don’t trust their own instinct, they prefer to follow official trends, they believe what is written in journals and they listen to art critics.
Art critics and gallery owners like talking about the sufferance and the struggle of artists in their life and about the act of creating art. Here, in Europe, to be credible as an artist you have to “suffer”. Someone who lives a happy life can barely convince people (neither gallery owners, nor collectors) that they are a “true” artist, it is not "sexy". "Poor" is beautiful. Success is regarded with suspicion. Fortunately, not every art lover and not every gallery owners is like this. And in Belgium art may open doors.
The biggest challenge for me was to restart again from almost zero, and to make friends again, to learn how things are organized here.
I learned that half or more of the art world live from subsidies and funds, where it is extremely time-consuming to introduce a demand or a project to be supported by a public investor.
Could you describe your painting style?
My style could be described as virtuous/eclectic. I have tried and still try a lot of different things. I have also had success with abstract and with "classical" paintings. I love both: oil and drawings and it depends on the subject, which material I choose.
Bettina Kusel at work
Our world is full of new materials and matters and as an artist I can't only stick to the classics, I have to look forward and try new unexplored directions. This is what an artist does, doesn't he/she?
My style could be described best as "neo-realistic". I like it, when people still recognize things on the canvas and when they have a bright smile while looking at my work.
Which events you are organizing in the coming months?
I’m working with several artists around a project about love and life, to be seen in May 2014 in Düsseldorf (Germany) at 4WändeMaire (www.4waendemarie.de
). Another project is about religion, where I work together with the German writer Chrisptoph D. Brumme (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christoph_D._Brumme
), which will be shown at the end of the year.
Moreover, I'll exhibit in a showcase “Gallerie du Prince” in Brussels in spring. And I will continue working with Triologcompany in a beautiful and poetic performance ( http://triologcompany.blogspot.be/
I was born and raised in East-Berlin and my artistic expression is related to this identity; coming from the East and living in the West. Having experienced the cold war as a child, and the perestroika as a teenager, the prohibition in the USSR and the destruction of the System as a graduate, the changing place of women in the society, and the respect for environment… has left me with a critical mind-set about almost everything which is more and more visible in my artistic work.
Initially coming from music (I spent 13 years at a conservatory playing violin and alto viola, and performing both as a solo and in an orchestra, playing free-jazz and texting for "die Räuber" produced on Radio), I then, under the influence of my parents, studied serious matters such as economics and history, marketing and management at Humboldt University Berlin, ESCP Paris, Buck's College High Wycombe, GB. Finally I successfully completed my PhD in Economics.
I then worked in an ad-agency and taught Economics at Humboldt-University, then followed research in several groups, even in a group for the reform of the educational system in France, and then became an external controller of the European Social Fund in Luxembourg and only then I become a full-time artist.
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