The arc of Kim Bartelt’s practice is cyclical; its evolution compounding. Drawing on techniques from painting, collage and sculpture, the artist creates with found sheets of paper, using cuttings and remainders from previous works to form the basis of each new series. In this respect, Bartelt is both collector and archivist. She gathers and scatters, studies and produces—then studies again. A piece might be revisited, considered anew, a layer added accordingly. So the dialectic of her practice evolves, each series signifying a departure from the previous one while remaining bound to it.
Chance is fundamental to Bartelt’s way of working. Collecting her signature medium of tissue paper from everyday sources, she embarks on new series free of preconceived notions, allowing intuition and the meditative rhythms of the creative process to guide her next area of aesthetic investigation. The way a sheet of paper drifts towards her studio floor, a tonal range true to her surroundings, or a serendipitous encounter may inspire a canvas material, form, or subject matter.
Situated within the Minimalist tradition, Bartelt’s practice conforms to tight constraints. Limiting herself to triptych of materials—canvas, paste, paper—the artist allows the availability of her current tissue supply to determine her palette. Tones tend towards the monochromatic and the natural. Within these restrictions, Bartelt achieves expansive depth and range. Composed of geometric shapes and free of extraneous elements, her works gain their patina from the layered interplay of contrasting textures: sheer onto solid; smooth onto woven.
Following the expansive components of Puzzles (2018) and Raw (2019), Bartelt’s Hieroglyphs (2019-2020), has a more precise inflection, conveying a finely-balanced sense of tension through dynamic angles and graphic shapes. Canvases feature the pleasingly tactile grain of jute; its dusky shade emblematic of the organic material’s sustainable properties. Against this earthy backdrop, luminous forms align; their contrasting angles drawing as much attention to the negative space between them as to their own proportions. For the artist, the creation process behind Hieroglyphsis equally one of decoding—a personal deciphering of stratified symbolism; embodying the importance of instinct to her art.
In contrast to the sharp inclinations of Hieroglyphs (2019-2020), Fundstücke/Artefacts (2020) takes a gentler turn. On a workspace of linen canvas, individual components with varying degrees of curvature are arranged with the precision of an archaeologist examining newly-unearthed relics. Their variation in shape and shade, from the inky to the translucent, gives the works a dynamism, further enhanced by a painstaking application technique rendered visible through traces of the artist’s brush. The works’ components derive their distinct identity in relation to their counterparts. Given room to breathe, their playful positioning serves to create a harmonious whole; each work in the Fundstücke/Artefacts series becomes an anchor point, a site of equanimity; a reminder of what has gone before.