Kerstin Arnold’s paintings are impressive. Kerstin Arnold paints people in a realistic depiction, mostly young women represented in true-to-life dimensions. This results in very large-format paintings, often with an edge length of two metres. It is not only the size of the works however that captivates the beholder; it is the realistic reproduction of the figures which is stirring.
Over the years, Kerstin Arnold has developed a special approach to the work process of her paintings. Kerstin Arnold invites models to a studio and has them adopt various poses before photographing them in order to record her ideas for the work. In doing so she prefers female models. These photographs subsequently solely serve as a source of inspiration in the atelier and as a concept for the large-format paintings. These templates are then transformed into painting form in a creative encounter. A notable aspect is that Kerstin Arnold prefers a highly realistic representation almost reminiscent of pop art painting. Perspectives and proportions but also the arrangement of the folds and even the seams of the garments – Kerstin Arnold makes reality her own and transforms it in her works. In doing so, Kerstin Arnold is able to contribute her technical skill as artistic performance. For she succeeds in lending a very high degree of plasticity to the inner drawing of her paintings owing to shades full of nuances and colour gradients. The painterly representation of reality is so broad that one would recognise the individuals in real life.
With her works, Kerstin Arnold creates highly unique compositions, for the scenery is restricted to implied environments. The models, accompanied by few accessories, usually act more like on a stage than in real surroundings. As a consequence, the beholder’s attention is not distracted by any further details and the focus of the composition is solely placed on the female protagonist(s). The activity performed by the main character thereby becomes the actual subject of the painting. For when the young girl portrayed reads for instance, she is introverted and deeply engrossed in her activity. When two individuals talk on mobile telephones amidst much gesturing while turning their backs to each other, it is the garrulous reciprocal lack of words that dominates the picture.
This is where an essential factor in Kerstin Arnold’s paintings lies. Through the action of the model or also the interaction of the models with one another, she places the portrayed individuals in a social context which can provide food for thought. Kerstin Arnold addresses social problems in this manner without expressing direct criticism. This is sometimes obviously apparent, such as the topics of respect and tolerance in the painting “The Others” and then also somewhat concealed however as in “Green Day”, where the consumption of hard drugs is ostensibly dealt with in order to draw attention in this way to exaggerated trends in environmental protection.
“The Wall” is also an example of this. A young woman is “caught” spraying a slogan on the wall. “The world is…” – she has not yet got any further. Kerstin Arnold had the idea for this picture when she actually saw a sprayed piece of graffiti. “The world is sick” was the slogan and prompted Kerstin Arnold to ponder over her own substance and embody this in a painting. The fact that she shortens the statement to “The world is…” indicates that she nevertheless does not wish to patronise the beholder and is providing him/her the occasion and opportunity for own hypotheses.
Despite societal issues, Kerstin Arnold’s paintings remain extraordinarily positive. Kerstin Arnold indeed refrains from depicting any junkies or burnt-out soldiers in her works and instead well-proportioned young women in whom it can be seen that they slip into a role – just like actresses on a theatre stage. They adopt poses and it is through these attitudes that Kerstin Arnold is able to express her ideas. The beholder can follow these suggestions – or however simply just see pretty women casually depicted in large paintings and a colourful, lively and realistic arrangement.
Finally, the size of the paintings needs once again to be mentioned. As a result of the size of the representation, the actions and attitudes of the models are further intensified and the effect of their charisma is also enhanced, for the young women look very self-confident. The entire painting is focused on the attitude of the portrayed individuals – and is deliberately formally reduced. This also is a reason for the bold, dynamic and expressive effect of Kerstin Arnold’s paintings. These works have the knack of attracting attention and placing the beholder under their spell.
Nicole Baronsky-Ottmann, M. A.