‘Control with Chaos’

By Shira Wolfe

The artist in her studio. Photo: Nicole Schäfer for Collecteurs

Jana Schröder’s art is about process, not about meaning for the sake of being meaningful. Her work has been referred to as a tribute to Albert Oehlen – her professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 2005 to 2009. Accurately described by Artforum’s Marta Silvi, Oehlen ‘combined abstract and figurative elements in response to the neo-expressionist aesthetic that reigned in the 1980s.’ And yet, Schröder does take the question of abstraction in contemporary art in a different direction than her teacher – where Oehlen’s works are decidedly more figurative in their abstraction, Schröder plunges into the world of action-packed lines and scribbles head-first, and dedicates most of her oeuvre to this approach. There is an element of automatic writing in many of Schröder’s large canvases, and her use of copying pencils means that her painting is in a constant state of evolution, gradually dissolving or changing colour.


‘Spontacts’ series. Photo: Nino Mier Gallery

Her performative doodles could be a form of self-portraiture: she uses her own handwriting as the point of departure, signatures, initials, etc. She is interested in the aesthetics of lines, handwriting, and curls. ‘The movement and the materiality of handwriting and what happens, when it becomes unreadable,’ she explains in an ArtFridge interview. Her ‘Spontacts’ series is all about exploring the possibilities and layers of these lines, scribbles, and doodles. The 2015 exhibition was comprised of two types of paintings: the white and blue scribbled canvases executed with copying pencil and oil paint and the darker, heavier, layered crusty oil paintings. The Mier Gallery writes that these two types of paintings are mutually dependent, asking viewers to consider the parameters of pace and speed in her spontaneous painting acts.

‘The handwritten landscapes of Schröder emanate proximities of the present without wishing to retire elsewhere,’ writes Collecteurs Magazine. This is interesting: she works with a layering of the here and now, alienation and recognition of a reality that is not clear-cut and is ever-changing. The questions Schröder asked herself while working on her ‘Spontacts’ series were as follows: ‘What happens with lines, what occurs in between two layers? What can be left behind? How can I accelerate, and how can I decelerate? When does the result come in, and what changes the outer circumstances? What does reproduction stand for? Is it good to lose control?’

She moves between the realms of chaos and control – on the one hand, she can spontaneously scribble curls and lines with her copying pencils, but on the other hand the oil paint she uses takes time to apply and requires more thought. ‘The loss of control has clear limits,’ she says.

The artist in her studio. Photo: Nicole Schäfer for Collecteurs

More recently, Schröder started working on a new series, ‘Kadlites’. The series shares many similarities with ‘Spontacts’, but this time, the artist chose yellow as her foundational colour. Here, she experiments with erasing and adding. She says she is leisurely moving away from handwriting here, working more with the idea of the surface. However, the aesthetics of handwriting and the free chaos of the scribble continues to fascinate and occupy her.

Get more information about Jana Schröder here.