Where beauty and terror are dancing with each other: the work of Paula Doepfner

First there is beauty. If you look at Paula Doepfner’s drawings, glass objects and ice installations you can’t help but be fascinated by their inherent aesthetic; their frailty, their delicate materials and soft colors. But as soon as you look closer, you realize that they aren’t anything but harmless pretty things. In fact, Paula’s works are heavy. This is meant in all ways you could understand this word. They are heavy-weighted (up to 60 kilo each), they are heavy to handle (melting ice blocks in a gallery space!?) and they contain a heavy meaning.

Her work circle around the phenomenon of the human consciousness. What is a subjective experience? Can a mental condition be described with words? What relationship is there between emotions and neuronal processes? For exploring these questions, Paula uses literary material taken from diverse sources such as neurophilosophical writings like The Philosophy of Mind (edited by David Chalmers, 2002) or passages from autobiographical narratives like The First Year by Durs Grünbein as well as parts from The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. While the theoretical writings explore the “hard problem of consciousness“ and investigate the question how subjective experiences operate, Grünbein and Pessoa describe internal processes and approach the complexity through poetry.
Reading constitutes the startingpoint of her work. What follows then is a phase of reflexion, meditation, and transformation in which Paula produce long copies of what she is reading. She literally rewrites the words, to let them stream through her body and mind. These texts finally become part of her drawings and ice installations.

Her glass objects shows something different: Here, beauty and terror are dancing with each other. What you see are dried flowers and blossoms, mixed with earth and pigment to build organic forms that gives the impression of a human brain. Fixed on cracked bulletproof glass panels, these objects reveals a vulnerability that isn’t easy to overlook. Paula combines powerful and fragile materials, scientific rigor and poetic openness. She visualizes the inconsistency and complexity of inner conditions and addresses the difficulty to understand subjective experiences. Complemented with long, poetic titles taken from pop songs her works invites us to take a journey into the wildest country we can think of: our psyche.


Paula Doepfner, Whatever gets you through the night, it’s alright, it’s alright
Galerie Tanja Wagner, Pohlstraße 64, 10785 Berlin
November 15, 2014 – January 17, 2015
opening hours: Wed. – Sat. 11am – 6pm

All copyrights by the artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin
Foto credits: Paula Winkler


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