‘Sense and Illusion’

Exhibition in the Thalhaus Gallery, Wiesbaden

Speech at the Opening on September 17th 2015 from Ulrich Meyer-Husmann, president of the art organization Bellevue-Saal in Wiesbaden


Anna Bieler, the artist of this exhibition, has, it is true, mentioned among other things some biographical facts in the leaflet on display, but in such a short form that I would like to go into her biography again, but also shortly.

The external data are quickly mentioned: born in Greece in 1968, moved to Germany after five years, then to Lisbon in 1977 and back to Germany from 1982. Both early stations – Greece and Portugal – were decisive experiences for her. Sun – i.e. warmth – and water. Year for year she is drawn back to Portugal to paint there.

Something I have never seen in this form on an artist’s web site is the ‘alternative curriculum vitae’ given by Anna Bieler, one from her father. There you can read: At the age of three, she knew everything. Or: I want to ride in the carriage. I want to… I want to… What is shown here about the young Anna is her strong will, her energy. Anyone who has seen Anna Bieler in her studio, simply carrying her large pictures around, knows what strength there is in her.

There are statements in interviews which are, so to speak, key sentences. One of them is ‘Painting is my passion’.

What is it that determines this painting?

Most conspicuous is the many-coloured palette she uses; red, blue, yellow – the so-called primary colours. On the other hand, she does without earthy colours. Accompanying the primary colurs are the secondary ones green, orange, violet. But the decisive colour is a warm red. Red is an energetic colour, and in this markedness it has a positive energy.

In some pictures, ultramarine and lemon yellow appear together and load the pictures with tension.

What is not apparent in the pictures is the important role played by white. Most of the colours are mixed with white, making them brighter or also more dense, so that the coloured surfaces are made lively in themselves by means of a structured application of paint.

It is essentially a flat kind of painting in which the surface forms are clearly defined by contours or by strongly contrasting colours applied next to each other. Perspective as an organizing structure is for the most part done without.

Here, it is a matter of a recognizably figurative kind of painting which is, however, not realistic in structure.

That makes the ‘What’ the central question.

Yesterday, I read in a leaflet: ‘bright colours radiate optimism’ and articles on Anna Bieler’s pictures spoke of ‘fabulous worlds’ and ‘droll imagination’. I regard that as categorizing thinking and would like to modify that. What can be established is that, in the pictures, all possible beings appear in spaces not defined more closely.It is interesting that, in ancient Egypt, the word for colour was at the same time the word for a being. And in German, ‘colour’ also means ‘life’. This is clear from such expressions as ‘the colour left his face’.

Her subject is Life.

Primarily, human beings are shown, often man and woman in their relationship to each other. The physiognomies, especially profiles, are sometimes reminiscent of figures by Hieronymus Bosch, the colours, on the other hand, are more marked by expressionism.

But what does that mean, anyway?

More important is that the pictures tell of man, his wishes, longings and fears. Look at the eyes; they are often bearers of expression.

When I paint a picture, I try to get hold of something original, existential“ says our artist.

This is the reason for her falling back on mythical figures and forms, even if this means a partly subjectively-marked symbolism is dominant. For the observer, this means that the symbolic references are for the most part not unambiguous, and are thus difficult to decipher because many associations present themselves.


Water. It means movement, lightness; swimming in it is felt as a weightless kind of floating. But because of its formlessness, water also stands for chaos, able to consume everything, even primeval materials. With Anna Bieler, it stands for the subconscious.

Flowers. They embody beauty but also transience; they are a favourite symbol of vanitas.

Fish is interpreted as divine or demonic, synonymous with life or death. And ‘frutti di mare’ as a delicacy among antipasti on the menu indicates the fish as a symbol of fertility – also in phallic interpretation. Among many North African peoples, the fish even offers protection from the evil eye.

Bird is the opposite of fish. Birds belong to the region of the air and of light and are thus symbols of the soul and spirits. In the art of ancient Egypt, the soul leaves the dead in the form of a bird.

Finally, sun. It can bring life and flowering, and on the other hand, it burns.

The examples, which refer to the pictures by Anna Bieler, show that they usually offer no definite interpretation; each context is important.

I would speak of ambivalences. And they extend as far as the construction of the pictures. In almost all of the pictures there is a secret central axis, sometimes accentuated by circular forms, whether these are heavenly bodies or heads. An opposition of both sides, left and right, arises through this.

Thematically, bright versus dark, life/pleasure/eroticism versus death, laughing/joking versus mourning, sense and illusion -the title of the exhibition.

But careful: ‘Truth is Different’ is the title of one picture from last year. Do not, therefore, make the mistake of interpreting what is shown in the picture from its title. The titles, without exception, arose namely afterwards,as a result of the artist’s thoughts while painting.

‘Life is too great for Man’

This, too is the title of a picture, this time from the year 2011, and is at the same time a key sentence.

It can, of course, be read as an espression of resignation. But I think it can be understood in quite a different way, as the deep amazement at the possibilities and variety in human life.

Being capable of amazement has a particular quality – for the person amazed, the world does not consist of everything being firmly fitted and ordered, but is something great and wonderful. According to Plato, amazement is the origin of philosophy. And for Karl Jaspers, it is precisely childlike amazement and the questions which result from it which form the first step to philsopohical questions, and touches what is the Original.

Allow yourself to be moved to amazement by the pictures.

Ulrich Meyer-Husmann