Marie Irmgard Birkedal makes works of visceral materiality, methodically exploring the materials of painting.  Her current work borrows from ancient and modern sources alike. Throughout her two-decade practice, she has treated painting with an On Kawara’ish investigative level of intensity and devotion.

MIB works in flux between control and loss of control. When the paint behaves unexpectedly, she is open to follow the unexpected, to be cooperative with the new direction the work is taking, as opposed to dominatingly insisting on her original intention for the work. The set-up for the works is methodically organized in advance, there are a definite objective and a fixed color palette from the outset. The paint is thinned to the point of making the pigment evaporate and leave dust-like traces rather than directly applied color. This technique makes the materials unpredictably mercury’ish and creates “mistakes”. She will look at these mistakes from the work's point of view, not her own, and evaluate if the “mistake” will be enriching for the picture or not.

This openness to the unexpected is not to be mistaken with the postmodern notion of “anything goes”. She is conscious of postmodernist thought and integrates it in her work, but she also includes the sense of present possibility of modernism, thereby working within metamodernism. This receptiveness to the unexpected requires confidence and security, but whereas previous generations of artists found that confidence in ego “I made this so it is good”, she finds that confidence in technical mastery and in an innovative approach to materials. She does not view her materials as mere tools but as active collaborators. Each component is important.

Her works include time as a part of them; time is as much a part of the pictures as the paint, canvas, paper, stretches and gesso. The works are not made alla prima because her signature the translucent tactile thinned colors, requires that each layer be completely dry until the next. There are long periods of waiting and looking, where she is not actively painting. These time periods are encapsuled in the works, as much a part of the paintings, as the actively painting.












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