conversations – Interview by Margaret Murphy – 16.03.2023
ANNA BELLER: THE MIND, BODY AND SOUL OF ABSTRACT ART
Transcendence Through Artistic Process
Painter Anna Beller believes in the importance of process in her abstract artistic practice. Whether in her physical paintings or NFTs, creating art provides Beller with an experience transcending time and space. Beller speaks about art as a form of religion, balancing both a digital and physical practice, and her sensory response to painting with Margaret Murphy, Head of Community.
For the Hannover-based Beller, art is something that she lives and breathes. Having studied architecture originally, her creative process incorporates discipline juxtaposed with intuition. Remaining open to possibility has led to her joining Web3, being one of the many emerging artists to benefit from minting their art on the blockchain. Despite the expectations to be always online, Beller understands the importance of staying present in life and creative expression.
Margaret Murphy: You originally studied architecture. In what ways does architecture influence you as a visual artist working in abstraction?
Anna Beller: Working several years as an architect has shaped me a lot from an aesthetics point of view, but it also equipped me with some pragmatism. In architectural design and drawing, you work in series, testings and variations. You shape, repeat, delete, and start again. You work with concepts and logic structures, proportions and colour schemes. Mostly you don’t have much time.
As an artist I work fast and in series, with concepts and the points. In my digital series, many times I work with geometric ideas and I use architectural software. My larger painting process-based works are quite different. I work with fluid colour. I don’t like borders, I mostly work on large unstretched canvas on the floor. Still, I’m designing and it’s very much about aesthetics, complemented by personal expression and using my body in the physical act of painting.
Contrary to architectural drawings I avoid using scale in my abstract expression: Abstract art is being experienced in a “scaleless” way—opening the doors to another space has been most fascinating to me.
MM: In an interview with RightClickSave, you stated that art can be like a religion—could you elaborate on that idea as it relates to your own art?
AB: Many people living in hectic cities frequently go to museums on Sundays, they probably don’t go to church services. These people experience art in silent rooms surrounded by complementing architecture. They find something to hold on to when looking at it. Some have an art collection at home and have a relationship with it, or maybe an art book, or are looking at an NFT.
In the end, art can give you power and trust. It can be something to believe in beyond the physical dimension. I’ve been visiting museums and galleries since childhood, soaking up art. Today, going to museums can calm me and allow me to connect to a different space. Art provides me with an experience of timelessness and spacelessness.
MM: Your color choices range from subtle and muted pastels to bright primary colours, there is much personality in them. What is your relationship with colour?
AB: I work a lot with inner colour visions, some that I remember since my early childhood. I keep them like an inner treasure. I often react in a sensory way with regard to colour exposition. During my second pregnancy, I had to stop painting with bright primary colours because I felt sick when I saw them. When I started using cold blue ink instead, I immediately felt better.
In my current paintings I experiment a lot with fluid colour. I give those liquidities a lot of space to flower out—colour pigments melt, pushing each other and surprising me. I do interact with the colour flow very intuitively but at the same time controlled.
MM: You frequently use the “soak stain technique” established in the 1950s by American abstract artist Helen Frankenthaler and developed by Morris Louis in which highly thinned colors soak into unprimed canvas, generating organic shapes, movement and overlapping color. How have you interpreted this technique to make it your own?
AB: I love Louis’ cool, minimalist and repetitive approach to working with color stripes and shapes. Frankenthaler’s work might be more emotional and beautiful to some. Both artists experimented for years to find those new techniques, although it looks so self-evident and natural.
The soak stain technique feels pure and natural. You paint on an unprimed canvas which also leads to a raw and direct expression on the one hand. On the other hand, blurry edges add a dreamy spherical atmosphere to the paintings.
I believe I put some contemporary, aggressive elements into my paintings, some movement and disruptive factors like paint floating into the white space or dynamic fat brushstrokes. My paintings are always vertical. With some paintings, I fight between color flow and geometry, reflecting the difference between the intuitive-emotional side and the logic-rational side is us. Sometimes, my soft shapes need a clear cut so I will cut the canvas and arrange them in a totally new geometry as a collage work. In my NFT series, I frequently change between more intuitive painting works and clear geometric studies, which feel good to me.
MM: With using such an in-depth and tactile technique, is the process or the result more important to you as an artist?
AB: As a painter, I have an inner compulsion to paint. For me, the process is more important. I love that I can use my physical effort for it. The urge to paint is a bit like I’m on a search like I have to find something. But I always have an initial, clear vision or concept before I start painting, so I want to see a specific result.
MM: You are an artist who keeps both digital and physical practices simultaneously. What are the biggest differences that come with conceptualizing, creating, and exhibiting digital versus physical art?
AB: Selling digital works is much faster and easier at the moment. I can’t say what the future will bring and it’s hard to compare. I’m a bit hesitant towards exhibiting digital art on screens. I still prefer the materials of canvas and paper. I like collecting NFTs and looking at them in my collection. Screens for exhibition purposes are getting better and that’s exciting. I love pen-plotter drawings as they connect the digital with the physical.
Working digitally can feel lightweight, fast, and clean. You don’t need all the supplies and don’t have to carry stuff, drive around, or throw away paintings. But working only digitally is not enough for me; I need material and physical work.
MM: In the summer of 2022, you started minting work on the Tezos blockchain. As an artist with a more traditional background, did you have any reservations about minting your work on the blockchain?
AB: My biggest reservation was and still is the energy consumption by blockchain technology. But I knew it would get more efficient and my concerns were overruled by the fascination to enter a completely new space. I saw the potential in NFTs being a powerful tool to show artworks. NFTs provided me with a playground for being an artist not that well-known yet.
I didn't think too much about the time I would spend in the digital space. It can be a bit frightening, so you have to be cautious not to disconnect from reality too much.
MM: Your NFT series SKETCHBOOK features multiple techniques ranging from crayon, acrylic, oil paint, ink, watercolor and lacquer. What do you say to those who believe in only sharing and minting finished projects?
AB: I see my NFT series SKETCHBOOK like a traditional physical sketchbook: it is opened now and then, worked on, and closed again. In between, I work on other NFT projects. Some of the sketches can be seen as studies for larger paintings. Now, presented in the digital space, they appear scaleless—which also might be why they became successful. Additionally, these sketches have a relation to each other, which gives them a generative character.
MM: Do you have any advice for artists who are looking to create both traditional art and NFTs?
AB: NFTs can be the existence of art in the digital space. It’s good to start collecting a bit first, probably on the Tezos blockchain. I started with releasing test pieces, I didn’t prepare a series, on the platform Teia and then continued on Objkt.
Show your personal art, show what you like, and collect what you like. Show your work on Twitter—yes, you have to be quite active on Twitter but that might change someday. Connect with artists you find interesting and ask them questions. Connecting internationally with different artists and collectors is a great aspect I haven’t experienced to that extent before and I’m very thankful for that.
Anna Beller is an emerging experimental painter and digital artist from Berlin, working in Hannover. She experiments with color relationships and transparencies using the soak stain technique, which was developed by Morris Louis (1912-1962) and established in the 1950s by American abstract artist Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011): highly thinned colors soak into unprimed canvas, generating organic shapes, movement, and color overlaps.