Michael Biberstein does not guide the viewer’s eyes through his painting
Go to Culturgest and get marvelled by this anthological exhibition of the Swiss artist Michael Biberstein, on display until September, curated by Delfim Sardo. This exhibition’s objective is to present the works of long-gone decades, but also to reveal some unpublished pieces, barely seen up to this point, some even surprising even for his work’s connoisseurs.
From the museographic point of view, the exhibition is divided into two nuclei that match different periods, albeit not organized according to a linear and chronological path, rather exploring the subjects that motivated the artist the most.
The first one was designed with spaciousness-devoted works, with pieces from the 70s/80s, including the drawing, a peculiar form of expression seen in objects drawn on the wall. The second is fully focused on painting, creating a sense of immersion.
At first, the vastness of the heavens, singular and ethereal landscapes attract our eyes. The assembling of tiny pieces has absolute freedom, with moments of revelation and strict boundaries found in the space.
Look above when switching galleries, the walls are covered with expressive and intimate sketches, contrasting with Michael’s powerful and typical canvases.
To slow down the perception, against the abyss of time (Biberstein)
There is a series of diptychs and triptychs, showing heavenly landscapes cut by a black band, a moment of collapse that becomes a clear reference to a musical rhythm. On the one hand, there is the sense of false depth – the painted landscape – and, on the other, the black surface, which does not want to misconstrue anything. It’s interrupting the eyes’ flow on the landscape, which runs in a blind painting area, as defined by Sardo.
In the first steps of his career, the artist followed the advice of the American professor David Sylvester, choosing a more complex profession, the one of experimenting and trying.
He started painting in 1972, date of his oldest work (shown in this exhibition), and ended up creating large-format canvases, favouring the contemplation of the eternal and sublime.
Michael said that his painted landscapes did not exist anywhere else, what he created were painting landscapes through landscape painting. According to Delfim Sardo, the artist was questioning the landscape, not only as a creation (even when it is an illusionary depiction) but as a concept.
In the beginning of the 80s, he appeared to have hit a conceptual limit on painting, in the decomposition of the process, and, after 82, that interest for spatiality forced him to take the path of the landscape theory.
He worked the issue of space in a holistic fashion, with a permanent concern with marking the spot, something that defines his entire universe. The exhibition’s title with the letter X is a clear allusion to the symbol used when one wants to identify someone or something on the floor.
He focused on the definition of the viewer’s space in the room, grabbing them inside the plot of his own visual field, in a phenomenological interaction with the work of art.
The singularity in his narrative-less painting was to create big, wide planes, capable of replacing the visual field as our gaze navigates alongside it, between the intense and the diffuse.
Later, his painting ceased to dwell on the space, focusing as well on the light, not only through the eyes, but also in the physical dimension.
His magnus opus is not present in this exhibition, which consists in the ceiling painted for the Church of Santa Isabel, the curator opted not to make any reference to it, stating that the best is to visit it in-person.
Bieberstein knew how to keep the friendships made of artistic complicity that he developed in Portugal over thirty years. That environment is unveiled in the film O meu amigo Mike ao Trabalho of F. Lopes, where he filmed the journey towards the inside of a painting, emerging the silence, the mystery and magic.