Enacting Arcadia

Birgit Jensen is interested in the connection between artifice and truth… and the role of mediation in our pursuit of perfection. In service of that exploration, she’s created a group of moody and seductive landscape paintings based on a park near her home in Düsseldorf, Germany. The paintings are carefully constructed to appear to be photographic images – enlarged to the point of becoming pixilated.

The depictions refer to Insel Hombroich, a 52-acre parkland wrestled from a swamp. The landscape is notable for its lush, over-grown wildness; though in fact, the course of waterways have been manipulated, ponds and hillocks have been fabricated, and the trees and vegetation were planted and are cultivated by a team of highly-skilled horticulturalists. Bernhard Korte, its visionary creator said, “Insel Hombroich is tended to look as if it weren’t.” It’s been purposefully constructed to create a romanticized aura of “Nature.”

In spite of their photographic appearance, Jensen’s paintings are not representations of images of the place, but impressions she’s stitched together to convey the mood the setting instills. Both the landscape architect and painter have as their goal the creation of something perfect. An ideal that’s “truer” than reality.

Once, not so very long ago, photographs were indicators of veracity. Remember the phrase “photographic evidence”? While the ease with which images can be electronically manipulated has eroded the presumption of “photographic truth,” we’ve become increasingly accustomed to – and dependent upon – understanding the world through a screen. More and more of our experiences are virtual, constructed or designed.

In this case, we experience nature that isn’t actually natural, but is constructed by a designer, then depicted by an artist who looked at photographs, and from them, created images, not of the site, but that “feel” like the place. At the same time, those paintings look like photographs, suggesting the image is accurate, or “real.”

Instead of exploring the relationship between artifice and truth, perhaps it is more accurate to say that Jensen is illustrating the truth within the artificial.

Birgit Jensen was born in Würzburg, Germany in 1957 and studied at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. Recent solo museum exhibitions include Kunstverein Leverkusen Schloss Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany; Atelier Schloss Jägerhof, Düsseldorf; Pictura, Dordrecht, Netherlands; Museum Ratingen, Germany; Kunstverein Villa Wessel, Iserlohn, Germany; Kunstverein Linz am Rhein, Germany; Kunstverein Duisberg, Germany; Kunstmuseum Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany. Jensen lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany.