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Anke Weyer makes paintings ‘of the moment’

July 28, 2016 // by Jaime DeSimone

German-émigré Anke Weyer allows herself the freedom to act uninhibited and uncompromising in her paintings. In the large vertical compositions, Weyer's bold, expressive brushstrokes and intense colors vibrate off the canvas. As part of Confronting the Canvas: Women of Abstraction, we asked Weyer to discuss the way she approaches her work.

Anke Weyer Portrait b
"I am really not a firm believer in abstraction," Anke Weyer says. "As a matter of fact, I am not quite sure what it is supposed to mean anyway." Image courtesy of Aidas Bareikis.

Describe your approach to painting.

An intuitive entering or employing of a flux of forms, a visual and emotional imagination with moments of decision making but also of inability to make choices. In a way, the painting is a documentation of this process.

Of course, I cannot explain all my choices; most of them are made while painting, and there is no explanation for them other than the painting itself.

Like personal notes, the paintings have to be natural; all thoughts or traces of thoughts have to be allowed to play out. The worst is to make paintings that look like the idea of a painting.

How did you develop this unusual approach to abstraction?

I am really not a firm believer in abstraction. As a matter of fact, I am not quite sure what it is supposed to mean anyway. It would be limiting to subscribe to one “mode,” such as figurative or nonfigurative. For me it is a matter of what needs to be done at that very moment. When I was 12, I made a painting of our cat sitting on a woolen blanket. I paid great attention to the color of the cat's hair and the brown and green color of the blanket. It turned out to be quite abstract. 

Anke Weyer Haircut Today with Visitors c
MOCA Jacksonville visitors view Weyer's Haircut Today. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

What ideas do you explore in your work?

Different ones in each painting.

Describe your color palette.

All colors are allowed. Often strong bright colors, they seem more urgent and more willing to immediately represent an impulse, but again, it is a matter of what needs to be done at that very moment.

Describe your titles. What meaning do they convey?

A title should accompany the painting, not describe it and not confirm one meaning. It should keep interpretation open and up to the viewer.

What does “abstraction” mean to you?

Sitting here, I can hear the TV in the next room. The noise is muted by the wall, and in addition, it's in French, so that I can only hear fragments and can't really understand more than a word here and there. But those fragments become forms of their own, and I perceive them, mix them up with what I am supposed to write, and they become a document of sorts of me sitting here, of the person watching next door, of you reading it. (Funny, actually, the movie is Je t'aime, Je t'aime by Alain Resnais, an exercise in abstraction in itself.) I think that fragments, mutations, mistakes can better describe or touch something human than the depiction of a specific situation.

Anke Weyer Haircut Today Detail d
A detail of Weyer's Haircut Today. Image courtesy of Douglas Eng.

Who, if any, abstract painters have influenced your work?

Artists that are close to me but not limited to abstract painters. First, my grandmother, who worked in our home when I was a child and in whose studio I hung out all day to draw. This is when I decided what I wanted to become. Also my parents, who made sure there was always music and art in the house. Friends in art school. Later, my friends here in New York.

How much do these influences or other inspirations guide your painting process?

It is important for me to hear what people whose opinion I respect think when they see what I do. To a degree, this does have an influence.

Making these paintings is an intensely physical process-one I often relate to the performance of painting. How do you see your paintings in relation to your own body?

It does not have to be physical at all. I can sit completely still and make a painting.

Painting should not be so easily categorized.

Do you see yourself as an action painter or one who is continuing the tradition of Abstraction Expressionism?

I do not.

Anke Weyer Confronting the Canvas Gallery Visitor e
A visitor views Weyer's paintings More Presents and Haircut Today. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

At times, paintings are discussed as masculine; at others, feminine. Can a painting be gender?

I never thought of my paintings that way. Is there any more reason for a painting to be male or female than there is to be a cat or a flower or a cloud? Every painting has its own constitution, which is much more complex.

Where do you find inspiration?

In the city, in people, in the Met [Metropolitan Museum of Art], in music, in books, in movies, in nature.

How do you prepare for a new project?

Keep working. 

Anke Weyer Confronting the Canvas Gallery f
Weyer's large-scale paintings are on display in Confronting the Canvas at MOCA Jacksonville. Image courtesy of Doug Eng.

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