Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Artist's Studio: Martina Nehrling

As part of my research on artists' studios, I visit artists working in the studio setting and ask them about their materials, methods, practices, and approach to life. The emphasis of these forays is to examine the studio setting and how the artist functions and creates art in that space.

I drove to the western edge of the Chicago city limits to visit Martina Nehrling, who lives in a two-story house with her husband in the Galewood Park neighborhood. The former owner had converted the garage in the back of the house into a workspace, and Martina and her husband added heat, insulation, and skylights. Martina said during the summer, the garden is filled with flowers and the entrance to the studio (on the south wall) has ivy-filled trellises, now bare.

Martina uses the 400-sf space as her studio, where she has two desks, small tables, chairs, a sofa, lamps, a ladder, an easel, shelving, storage space, and miscellaneous supplies and equipment. The north wall is a large expanse of space, where Martina hangs her ongoing or newly completed work (Garden Drink, below, was completed in 2008 and measures approximately 4 feet high by 12 feet wide).

On the east wall, Martina has sculptured substrates for painting, and her art materials and supplies are arranged neatly on her desk and on shelves. She said she's experimenting with relief sculptures and painting.

On the day of my visit, Martina was working on a commission for a client who has a home in a sunny climate. As she climbed up her ladder to work on the painting, which measures about 9 feet high by 5 feet wide, she said the painting has to do with the rhythms and progress of time. The finished painting will be in an area with a view of water, so she wanted to provide a sense of motion like the movement of waves, palm fronds swaying in the wind, and lingering clouds in the blue sky. The natural light from the two skylights above seemed to make the brush strokes vibrate on the canvas.

Martina's studio practices: "I’m a morning person so I usually get an early start and tend to work into evening if I can. Preparing canvases (stretching, gessoing), painting, drawing, sketching, and documenting finished work are the main things I do in my studio. Mostly I listen to NPR and sometimes music, but sometimes music can be too directive."

Martina Nehrling. 2007. Through a Purple Patch.
Acrylic on canvas, 42" x 252".

Martina Nehrling. 2008. Throes.
Acrylic on canvas, 30" x 30".

"When I paint I am sounding out elements of my everyday and I am captivated by the pulsation of such disparate events, information, ideas and things. In our cultural landscape of abundant consumer goods and the privilege/burden of access to information, I create compositions of accumulation about that beautiful and horrific, relentless clash; at once the weight and the flimsiness of daily life, both the inspiring and the mundane."

Martina Nehrling. 2008. Susurrus.
Acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24".

Martina Nehrling. 2008. In Waves.
Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48".

"Grouped or tangled together, I use multiple distinct brushstrokes for their graphic directness, but rich color in order to engage and explore its imprecise language. I am utterly seduced by color’s formal complexity while I revel in its emotive slipperiness and enjoy mining its controversial decorativeness. The inextricability of these aspects, unique to color, continually spurs my engagement. Additionally, color is significant to the marked auditory aspect of my painting process. To develop the tenor, tonality and rhythm of a piece, I listen to the spatial relationships and interrelation of color, often combining both fluid and percussive qualities. I use particular color relationships to interrupt or punctuate the tracking of patterns of value and intensity, creating moments of concord and discord, enjoying syncopation and visual rhyming. With color that refuses to be ignored in patterns akin to lists, sentences, or notes, my paintings often operate as lyrical musing, lush celebration, high pitched lament, or raucous rebellion."

Martina Nehrling. 2008. Garden Drunk.
Acrylic on canvas, 48" x 144".

Martina Nehrling. 2008. Crux.
Acrylic on canvas, 25" x 28.5".

Martina's ongoing and recent exhibitions: Clusterf?#*k!, Zg Gallery, Chicago, 2009; Winter Show, Zg Gallery, Chicago, 2009; Through a Purple Patch, solo exhibition, Zg Gallery, Chicago, 2008; Faculty Exhibition, Sonnenschein Gallery, Durand Art Institute, Lake Forest, IL, 2008; Painters & Sculptors Make Prints, Crisp-Ellert Art Museum, St. Augustine, FL; Summer Show, Zg Gallery, Chicago, 2008; Summer Show, Zg Gallery, Chicago, 2007; Echo, solo exhibition, O’Connor Gallery, Dominican University, River Forest, IL, 2006; ArtFutura, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, 2006; Bridge Art Fair / Zg Gallery, Miami, FL, 2006; (un)Natural History, Zg Gallery, Chicago, 2006; Faculty Exhibition, Sonnenschein Gallery, Durand Art Institute, Lake Forest, IL, 2006; Art Chicago / Zg Gallery, Chicago, 2006.

Martina Nehrling. 2008. Blue Million.
Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48".

For more information on Martina and her art, go to

Credits: Art images labeled with the artist's name were provided by the artist, and all other photos were provided by Amy A. Rudberg, unless otherwise noted.

1 comment:


Martina's color is like looking at a Monet up close. I am happy I get to look at one of her paintings everyday in my collection and always look forward to seeing her work at zg gallery.