Steffi Hartel’s pictures are small and they all have the same format. All portray vertical colored strips. Some have the same and some have different widths. Some glow, some are mixed, some are at regular and some are at irregular distances from each other. There are almost always one or two strips of gold leaf between them. A series. The rows of strips following each other give the impression that they could be either horizontally or vertically extended beyond the edge of the picture and that the picture itself is just an extract of this eternity. Different ambiances arise depending on the mixture of colors—Norwegian, Maghreb, Rococo, New York; or even tones—major and minor. What ideas and feelings can be caused by color? Hartel, who was born in 1956, works in the tradition of American color-field painting, which investigated the effects of color. Frank Stella, Gene Davis (1920–1985), Daniel Buren and Bridget Riley painted strips of color, but each from a different starting point. However, Hartel accentuates the perception of color in a special way by using golden strips. Depending on the light and the angle of perception of the viewer, they flash, protrude from the surface of the picture, re-enter the rows of color when the viewer moves, and turn green, red and yellow to function as colors themselves. Light also paints—this is an aspect of Minimal art. The golden strips also absorb the light radiation of the neighbouring colors. Because of this, two golden strips can have different tones. The golden strips also react to the spectator by incorporating his own colors (e.g. his sweater) into the picture. In comparison to Michelangelo Pistoletto, who painted parts of mirrors while leaving other parts unpainted, thereby making the spectator and the surrounding space a part of the picture, Hartel’s interaction is tranquil. Indeed, the golden strips give rise to associations of actual space, while also referencing everyday reality at another level. The painters of Siena around 1300 (Duccio, Simone Martini, Lorenzetti) used gold to represent divine light in the background of the sacred legends. Those who are enlightened wear a golden halo. Gold as divine light also symbolizes preciousness and power. By using a gold frame which surrounds the painting with an aureole, it is removed to the realms of the unapproachable. Finally, gold also served the splendor of the Church and the secular authorities. Such obvious ideas make Hartel’s pictures seem more distant and give them something of the aura which once surrounded the divine. In spite of the small format, her pictures have a concentrated effect. They are celebratory and exquisitely colourful. The results of a long-planned experiment are of a delicate beauty. Burkhard Brunn

  1956 in Mayen geboren, lebt in Frankfurt am Main / 1985–90 Studium an der Städelschule, Frankfurt/Main / 1992 Jahreskunstpreis des Frankfurter Verein für Künstlerhilfe e.V. / 1995 Preisträgerin des Kunst-am-Bau Wettbewerb für das Behördenzentrum, Frankfurt/M. / 1996/97 Arbeitsstipendium des Hessischen Ministeriums für Wissenschaft und Kunst
Exhibitions (selection)
2001 Galerie Ute Pardun, Düsseldorf, mit Udo Koch; »Frankfurter Kreuz«, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (Kat.); »Jahresgaben 2001/ 2002«, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt/M. (Kat.) / 2000 »One of those Days«, Mannheimer Kunstverein (Kat.) »Im Garten«, Dörrie & Priess, Hamburg / 1999 Galerie Brigitte Trotha, Frankfurt/M. (E.) / 1998 »Petshop«, Galereie Sies & Höke, Düsseldorf / 1996 »Medien Kunstwerke«, Galerie Stampa, Basel / 1995 Konstantin Adamopoulos, Frankfurt/M. (E.) / 1993 Forum der Fr. Sparkasse, Frankfurt/M. (E., Kat.) / 1992 »Multiple Choice«, Galerie Bob van Orsouw, Zürich

O. T., 1998
Mischtechnik auf Holz 38 x 30 cm