November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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On Location/France



Ellmerer 2

Barbara Ellmerer:

Letting Go

By Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret

Barbara Ellmerer is a Swiss painter and drawer, educated at the Academy of Art and Design in Zürich and at the University of Arts in Berlin. Giving access to the outlines of her imaginative space, she allows the viewer into a unique time and space arrangement. Her images (flowers for instance)  present a subtle beauty in their form. Presented in close-up, the images lack an anchoring point in terms of scale. They become metaphorical “ landscapes” that present the primal cycle and preservation of life and explore the transformative possibilities inherent in letting go. These traces have made physical an idea of duration, the cumulative trace of breath and body on tissue like accumulated light on the surface, even if our senses predetermine the physical limits and temporality of memories made from the perception of the opus.

Q: What makes you get up on morning?

A: The knowledge of  the shortness of the day, the lust to continue the work on my drawings and paintings (which is the same as the lust for life) and to explore its possibilities of energies.

Q: What happened to your dreams as a child?

A: The biggest dream was to become an artist which always meant to make a living out of it, came true. Although my parents were warning me and trying to prevent it, by not allowing me to visit an art academy.

Q: What did you give up?

A: I gave up my first true love, dissolved my engagement, left the province, went to live in the city, where I could get an art education and become a political activist.

EllmererQ: Where do you come from?

A: I was born and raised by Austrian parents in a small beautiful mountain village of the Bernese Oberland.

Q: What is the first image you remember?

A: The very first image I do remember was an impressive painting “Judith,” carrying the head of Holofernes in her hand.  It was placed about our family dining table. The painter’s name is Hans Bauer, who was my great-grandfather.

Q: That is what distinguishes you from other artists?

A: This question will have to be answered by those who look at artists from another perspective.

Q: Where do you work, and how?

A: The tension between a vivid movement and its fixation is seminal for my production. I do enjoy following the colors when they start to transform in ephemeral grounds like on ice and in water, on paper with fragile or powerful porosity.  But the work does not only take place in my atelier besides the river in Zurich city. It takes place in many other situations, while walking through the nature, listening to talks of mathematicians or physicists or during the phase of waking up from a sleep.

Q: To whom do you never dare write?

A: In times of floods of email-traffic there are no limits of writing to any person in the world, neither to get emails from anybody of the world. Nobody has to answer to anybody… just like Goethe did once to Jean Paul.

Q: What music do you listen to while working?

A: If it is quiet around me and my thoughts, I do not need any music. But when there are noises, voices or something else, which is disturbing my working processes, I turn on my music “shield,” my “cheese cover” to keep out the outer world. I prefer to listen to electronic music (Section Experimental).

Q: What is the book you love read again?

A: There is one book I love since 28 years: Clarice Lispector’s, Buch der Lüste.  I read it every two or three years. There is another book I reread in order to hopefully being able to fully understand some day: Lisa Randall’s Warped Passages, eine Reise in den extradimensionalen Raum.

Q: When you look yourself in a mirror who do you see?

A: A Woman who should find time to tweeze her eyebrows.

Q: What city or place has value of myth for you?

A: The Abyss of the nightly Sky, the Universe who promises to be several.

Q: Who are the artists to whom you feel closest?

A: Goya, Pollock, Judith Butler and other rebels.

Q: What film make you cry?

A: Stalker” by Tarkowskj, and “Sans Soleil” by Chris Marker.

Q: What would you like to receive for your birthday?

A: This year’s birthday I got a wonderful love letter, which almost cannot be topped.

Q: What do you think of the sentence of Lacan: “Love is giving something that we don’t have to someone who does not want?”

A: The so called impossible phenomena could eventually exist somewhere else.


* * * * *

Navratil install


Alexandra Navratil


Her book:

This Formless Thing, Publication for the exhibitions at Kunstmuseum Winterthur and SMBA with contributions by Esther Leslie, Natasha Ginwala, Mirjam Varadinis, Simona Ciuccio, Matthew Solomon, Jelena Rakin and Jennifer Burris and published by Roma Publications Amsterdam


With Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret 

Q: What makes you get up on morning? 

A: Looping thoughts and a certain restlessness

Q: What happened to your dreams as child?

A: I don’t remember.

Q: What did you give up?

A: Many things, and I keep giving up things all the time.

Q: Where do you come from? 

A: Zurich, but my background is quite mixed and I have lived in many places since

Q: What is the first image you remember ?

A: The icon painting that was hanging above my bed as a child, everything except the painted bodies was covered in a golden metal with debossed ornaments and sharp edges and I liked following the ornaments with my fingers.

 Navratil Book


Q: And the first book?

A: There is not one specific first book as far as I remember but many first books, books that mark a change, a shift, a discovery, a return, or a more physical change like a move to another city. A book with the technical drawings by Michelangelo, that my grandfather who was an engineer showed to me when I was very young, L’Éducation sentimentale by Flaubert, Le Grand Cahier by Agota Kristof,  Auslöschung by Thomas Bernhard, anything W.G Sebald has ever written, the writing by Enrique Vila-Matas and the writing by Michael Taussig, Esther Leslie, Keston Sutherland. I am sure I forgot quite many.

Q: That is what distinguishes you from other artists?

A: I try not to think too much about other artists and if I do then I look more for affinities than differences.

Q: Where do you work and how? 

A: I especially like thinking about my work when I just woke up as my mind is not completely present yet and the thoughts can move in a more free and unstructured way. Most of the days I go to my studio which is only a 5 minutes bicycle ride away from my house here in Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful space under a white-beamed roof and it has a shielding feeling to it. Once you close the door and start working it is even hard to go and buy some lunch. It kind of draws you in. I share it with two friends as I don’t need much space for my work, mostly I am just sitting at my desk. The reading I prefer to do at home as it is easier to concentrate.

Q: To whom do you never dare write ?

A: I always write to anyone that I am interested in.

Q: What music do you listen to?

A: I don’t like listening to music too much, just sometimes, it is a bit of a blank spot for me.

Q: What is the book you love read again?

A: I read most books I am interested in twice, sometimes immediately following the first read.

Q: When you look yourself in a mirror who do you see?

A: It depends on the day

Q: What city or place has value of myth for you?

A: All the places I have once lived in but especially New York. 


Q: What are the artists you feel closest to?

A: This changes all the time but maybe I feel closest to my artist friends who follow my work and I follow theirs.

Q: What film make you cry?

A: It depends more on my mood than on the film actually. Anything or nothing. But the film that never fails to make me cry is Au Hasard Balthazar by Robert Bresson.

Q: What would you like to receive for your birthday?

A: Artworks by friends are my favourite gifts, I have already a small collection and it is the best. And birthday cards.

Q: What do you inspire the sentence of Lacan: “Love is giving something that we don’t have to someone who does not want”?

A: I didn’t know Lacan was actually funny.

Q: And Woody Allen: “The answer is Yes but what was the question?”

A: Can you please stop making films for a while Mr. Allen?

* * * * *

About the interviewer:

Jean-Paul Gavard-Perrett writes about music and the visual arts. Born in 1947 in Chambery (France), he was a professor of communication at the Université de Savoie. He has published several essays, mainly about Samuel Beckett and painting, and short fiction, most recently “Labyrinthes,” Editions Marie Delarbre.