Art and language: An approach to the paintings of Michaela Eichwald

«Is there anything at all?»

A schoolgirl asked this question on her first visit to Michaela Eichwald’s exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel. What is there to be seen in the images? What do the abstract forms and shapes want to tell us? The paintings of the German artist are a challenge for the class of the Gymnasium Bäumlihof, supplementary subject Visual Arts. Together we ask ourselves the question: how do you talk about paintings? How can a suitable description be found? And are words and language sufficient to grasp and understand Michaela Eichwald’s art?

During seven intensive weeks, we approached Michaela Eichwald’s paintings from two different directions: on the one hand from a creative artistic perspective, on the other hand from language, more precisely through the written word. The students had the opportunity to experiment freely and to realize themselves detached from any creative rules – entirely in the sense of Michaela Eichwald. Like the artist herself, they were allowed to go on a treasure hunt in the world of materials and choose according to their own spontaneous gut decisions and the appealing texture and feel of the materials. They used materials that might seem foreign to painting initially but roused their interest and inspired them to create their works. Not with canvas and brush, but with wooden floors, rubber covers, upholstery fabrics in combination with test tubes, perforated sheet metal, and plaster, they approached the creative principle of the artist and found themselves flying high. There are no criteria to catch them, no recipes for success, no safety from failure: an approach that goes against all school habits and rules.

In addition to the design experiment, they dealt with various text forms to, from, and about Michaela Eichwald herself. How does she write in her blog? How does she present herself on social media? How do critics and the press comment on her works, and how does the institution talk about its exhibition? Together, the text styles were looked at and discussed, analyzed, and closely scrutinized. Are there other ways of talking about the paintings? Can the right words be found at all? In the linguistic discussion, the students developed their texts on the exhibition, which show their view of the artist’s works: uncensored and honest. After all, this is what the pictures challenge the visitors to do.

At the end of the project, a small magazine will be produced with the students’ creative experiments and their texts. Starting in December, all visitors can pick up the magazine at the reception desk, offering a different view and a new perspective on the artist’s works.

This project is a collaboration between Kunsthalle Basel,  the class of the Gymnasium Bäumlihof, supplementary subject Visual Arts, and the teacher Lukas Müller.

Ariane Gonzalez, Sara Mbumba Masanka, Jacques Merkle, Aline Prandstätter, Elin Schweighauser, Oriana Wunderle, Mathis Zeiser.