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About Portraiture

ABOUT PORTRAITURE is based on the idea of a colloquium.
Four painters and an art historian are invited to come together to discuss the subject of portraiture in painting

Felicity Brown (Norwich, GB)
Martin Holzschuh (Frankfurt/M, Germany)
Monika Romstein (Frankfurt/M)
Britta Kadolsky (Frankfurt/M)
Carolin Kropff (Frankfurt/M).

The portrait in painting represents the relationship between the painter, the viewer and the picture and vice versa.

Far from any individualization in the early days to a realistic representation of physiognomy: a challenging subject for art in all times.


The colloquium has met several times and talked, philosophized and discussed the subject of portraiture and does not claim at any moment to be a complete presentation and analysis of the subject. It does not want to give assured and absolute answers to the general questions. Instead, the interest is directed to the mutual artistic exchange and the development of thoughts while speaking. The 'artistic' interpretation as a method is the main focus. In comparison with historical models, intuition and inspiration, philosophical and social concepts are at the center of our conversations.

How differently the subject of portraiture is handled in contemporary art could be viewed and discussed with us on October 30, from 6 - 10 pm. The presentation was meant to take into account the individuality of each work. The selection is therefore not based on the lowest common denominator and a delicate balancing in favor of an optimized exhibition space, but prefers the independence of the individual positions in a rather undefined space.

The Frankfurt art historian Britta Kadolsky has written a text about the exhibition (see below).

Felicity Brown is a British artist and fashion designer. She studied art and textile printing at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London.

Together with her brother Henry Brown she founded her own designer label and became part of NEWGEN, and this enabled her to show collections in London, Paris and New York. She has shown work at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Handbag Museum in Seoul, and The Fashion Project at Bal Harbour Shops, Miami, alongside pieces by Jean Cocteau, Elsa Schiaparelli, Léon Bakst and Hussein Chalaayan. She has been collaborating with Carolin Kropff since 2015.

Martin Holzschuh was a master student of Michael Krebber at the Städelschule. He writes:

I also drew, and not infrequently, a drawing was a trigger to paint a new image, transformed by the materiality of colour. Increasingly, my paintings darkened into dark, almost abstract surfaces. When this reached an endpoint, I began to approach a figurative position again through sketching. The painterly dialogue with Felicity, Monika and Carolin is a good occasion to continue these new approaches.

Monika Romstein (b. 1962, Saarlouis) lives and work in Frankfurt. Romstein is known for her work with watercolours, oilpaintings and installations, ranging from large scale to small format. Being highly motivated by a dark, haunting and fable-like range of references, her work includes imagery from domestic realities as well as landscape elements. Whether surreal or narrative, her intense and detailed paintings are often perceived as controversial.The figures and spaces in the intimate formats of the watercolors are about the refusal to accept the dictates of evidence that constitute our reality space. Thus, sceneries appear in the watercolors that at first seem strange and enraptured, yet continually refer to aspects of our present and past.

Britta Kadolsky is an art historian (MA) based in Frankfurt. She studied art history and art education at Goethe University in Frankfurt after working for a long time in a major bank. She also paints and draws herself and approaches art both theoretically and practically. During her studies, she discovered her love for writing about art and has been running her own art blog 'Was kann Kunst' since 2020. There she prefers to write about modern and contemporary art and posts articles regularly. There you can also find her blog post about: 10 Fakten über Portraits.

Carolin Kropff studied at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie and Städelschule Frankfurt where she graduated. From 1989-1991 she worked as an assistant costume designer and men's tailor at the Theater Dortmund. From 1999 - 2002 she maintained studios in Madrid, Spain and 2006 - 2011 in Dubai, UAE. In 2020 she founded STUDIOSPACE Lange Strasse 31 in Frankfurt am Main. The project work is supported by the Kulturamt Frankfurt and the Fraureferat Frankfurt.

Her artistic work explores the relevance of cultural and communal inventions such as the archetype, myth, and traditional craft methods of making. Her interest lies in exploring the commonalities between image invention, creation and storytelling, and giving expression to their inherent possibility for communication, collaboration, and belonging to each other and to time. To this end, she increasingly makes use of folk art and participatory art forms.

Ausstellung: About Portraiture

Britta Kadolsky

On Saturday evening, 30.10.2021, the one-night exhibition About Portraiture took place at STUDIOSPACE Lange Strasse 31. Positions of five artists* were exhibited.
Together, for almost half a year, we exchanged ideas about artistic strategies that deal with the portrait of people. Through the various meetings, initially via Zoom and later again in person, a lively and creative exchange developed on the subject of portraiture. In the dialogue, our very individual perspectives on the portrait came to the fore: while Caro Kropff and I are enthusiastic about the portrait genre, Monika Romstein has a rather distanced view of the subject. Martin Holzschuh approached the subject of portraiture on the occasion of the discussion after a long time, while Felicity Brown drew gouaches on paper of shaman-like figures. The paintings were sent to Germany for the exhibition, but could not be shown because they got stuck in customs.


For the curator, every exhibition involves an intensive examination of the subject, the artists, and the resulting presentation - which should be as optimal as possible - while at the same time the exhibition space is always suboptimal due to space, time, and organization. Together we discussed in the run-up to the exhibition, also about the hanging of the individual works. In a creative process, the ideas emerged that finally determined the setting for the exhibition, doing great justice to the works. The small but fine anteroom, which has a white cube feel, also supported the abundance of works: Large canvases of intensely colored paintings hung next to small sketchy drawings, a drypoint etching next to a delicate painting on wood, and colorful drawings were found in between. Through the extension to the small kitchenette behind the exhibition space, the intimate atmosphere in the STUDIOSPACE Lange Strasse 31 conveyed an almost domestic ambience. The extension to the studio room also contributed to this. There, further works could be seen over a glass of wine: altogether a casual overall setting.


The three-quarter portrait painted by Carolin Kropff depicts Felicity Brown, greeting visitors as they enter the exhibition space on the right wall. The woman in the painting makes direct eye contact. The gaze is open and interested, in the head turned slightly to the right. The painting of the incarnate on the face consists of many different tones: the color palette combines pink and beige tones with greenish brown tones as well as with gray and white. Particularly on the right side of her face, juxtaposed brushstrokes emphasize the curves of the facial form and are reminiscent of van Gogh. On the brown curly mane of hair falls, from the upper edge of the picture, a radiant light. The body is dressed in a blue suit, perhaps reminiscent of the men's tailoring apprenticeship he completed.

Mysteriously, on the right half of the picture, a green head appears in frontal view, which seems to have been attached to the wall on a painting background: a picture within a picture. To the right of it, strands of a curly head of hair are visible, but they do not directly attach to the image. They belong to an indicated female body, which is in a red, sleeveless dress. The left, unclothed arm has the same green incarnate color as the head. The green hand, which is only hinted at, reaches forward to the hand of the woman in the blue suit, which is tucked into the jacket pocket, but does not touch it. Nevertheless, a touching gesture that stimulates to think up backgrounds about the meeting of the two people. Against the vividly painted, bright background, the color combination of blue, red and green sets a nice contrast.

Carolin Kropff, who lived in Madrid for three years after studying art, went to the Prado almost daily to study Titian's paintings. With the explanations of the art historian Theodor Hetzer (1890 - 1946) about the color in the paintings of the Renaissance artist, she came to her own views about her personal painting and her handling of color. Following old master painting techniques, she mixes her own painting materials, which she applies in several layers.


On the left wall opposite is the joint large-format painting by Carolin Kropff and the British artist Felicity Brown. An irritating figure with a multi-colored cape dominates the work. The face is only very vaguely indicated under the hood of the cape. Darkly painted areas are interpreted as eyes, nose and mouth, at the same time the sinister figure appears to possibly not represent a human being. A disproportionately large hand rests on the knee, of the presumably seated figure. The joy of experimenting with color is also clearly evident in this painting.

This collaborative work was created during the two artists' first Being Eve Journey through New Mexico in 2017 and is part of a comprehensive and still ongoing series of works. The exploration of textiles, fashion, and painting culminated in a type of portrait work during the trip with self-designed capes and dresses. At the end of the trip, the two painted the picture together. The textile and the figure merge together, where the figure seems to dissolve.
Signed by both, however, it is impossible to tell who put which brushstrokes on the canvas. The painting appears homogeneous 'from one cast'.
The entire composition is atmospherically very condensed. As a viewer, one is unsure whether it is a depicted reality or phenomena of ghostly thoughts. The work does not reveal its inherent mystery and can both frighten and inspire.


The works of Martin Holzschuh dealt with memory.
He says that he sometimes received requests for portrait work, which he did not always want to carry out. A stewardess known to him, however, he wanted to paint very much: he sketched her in the studio and later painted first from the sketches, but increasingly from memory. Memory is always fragmentary and subjective. Thus, ideas of the painter get into the image of the portrayed.
The dark color palette for which Martin Holzschuh's painting is known can be seen in both pictures.

The slender transverse painting above the two doors at the end of the room shows a seated figure with outstretched, awkwardly crossed legs. The disproportionately large head draws the eye and disturbs at the same time. The loud red that marks both mouth and eyes is repeated in patches across the body, making the person look vulnerable, but without the red marks resembling injury. The rich brown in the background reinforces the somber mood.  On the feet, the red is found in the form of pumps - an indication of a chic and feminine style of dress. The left hand is raised behind the head to lean on - the figure seems to stretch out comfortably on a divan. The woman depicted cannot be clearly associated with a stewardess, but Martin Holzschuh's story perfectly complements the narrative of the works.

In the Frankfurt artist's second work, his female figure is captured by a dark color spectrum of green, blue, purple and black-brown. The enormous head on a body with legs crossed and the raised left hand is reminiscent of his other work. The body appears as if imprisoned on the, this time smaller, canvas. The head is depicted with red incarnate and red hair. What is striking about this painting is the painting ground made of coarse burlap. With expressionistic and intentionally coarse brushstrokes, a paint application has been created that allows the rough structure to shine through. This gives the painting, as a contrast to the strong colors, a form of permeability.
Holzschuh has constructed his figures two-dimensionally and does not depict details. The colors seem to design the forms, which approach a reality without representing a recognizable individual reality. As a viewer* one is asked to render the person in concrete terms. His painting is reminiscent of the Bad Painting of the so-called Junge Wilde of the 1980s by Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen and Rainer Fetting. Today, the color-intensive compositions no longer seem as provocative as they would have been back then, but reveal emotionality.


The drypoint etching, which hangs as an elongated sheet on the right wall opposite, seems to take up figuration. However, two heads can be made out. The body almost disappears behind an abstract tangle of lines. The print shows an expressionist expression as well as his painting and is a coherent complement.
In addition, he shows a small framed work with a dark head in profile, which is also a drypoint etching.

Adjacent to this, on the wall opposite the entrance, is a watercolor painting on paper by Monika Romstein. A woman with long dark hair kneels to paint a paper lying on the floor. A blond figure in jeans stands to the right and contemplates the situation. The painting appears sketchy, but it is the fragile impression created that invites a closer look. Quick brushstrokes depict the scenery without it being recognizable what is being created on the ground.
The painting was created as a reflection on photographs of Andy Warhol in his studio. Is it an allusion to the painter genius that is admired? Is the painting person with the long hair the artist herself? A question that remains unanswered. Monika Romstein repeatedly paraphrases icons of art history in her works. There is a wink in these references, as the artist questions the narrative of the painter genius.


Her painterly work on wood alternates between abstract and figurative. In terms of color, the free painting on almost black ground in light tones. It appears strong and delicate at the same time. On closer inspection, the face of a woman can be seen. Expressive brushstrokes in yellow with a touch of orange blaze upward like flames that seem to have set the head on fire. The face is hidden b
The light drawing on a brown DIN A4 envelope has a completely different effect. As a sender, the text Ville de Marseille with the city coat of arms is printed on the upper corner, which helps to emphasize the sketchy nature of this drawing. The two yellow birds on indicated branches give the sketch a cheerful feel. The cover has been rotated 90 degrees to sketch the four people shown side by side in a half portrait. They appear to be sitting on a bench and are engaged in lively conversation. Apparently in a good mood, the figures convey an intimate togetherness. The open drawing style is elusive and at the same time charming. The positioning of the drawing high above the entrance door in front of a window, was chosen by the artist herself, and prevents a closer look from close up. The view from below must suffice.

Britta Kadolsky's portrait compositions were created from admission tickets to art museums and supplementary drawings. Fragments of the tickets, often with portraits from the respective exhibitions and text segments, expand the collage with her own portraits and text. The specific composition developed in the course of the work process: after the selection of the ticket and their positioning on the cardboard, the drawing, adapted in style, completes the composition. The completion by text also arises during the process.
The colored work on the kitchen wall shows a collage of tickets for a Titian exhibition at the Städel, ticket fragments from a Rehberger work for the exhibition Home and Away and Outside, and a ticket part of the Daniel Richter exhibition, both from the Schirn. The compilation is complemented by a self-portrait in felt-tip pen. On the left side, the bust portrait shows the blue dress of a Belle Donne by Sebastiano del Piombo with décolleté and chain, which was supplemented by drawing on the right side.


On the small work to the left of the entrance door, Philip Guston's red fingers point downward from the top of the image. Fragments of the text have been shortened and added to Pau me gusta.  The fingers point to snippets of text from the exhibition Medea's Love at the Liebighaus. The portrait in half-profile drawn centrally in the picture is in watercolor. The composition is extended by an entrance ticket of the Caricatura Museum with the concise silhouette of the moose (new Frankfurt School: 'The sharpest critics of the moose, used to be some themselves').
In these compilations I combine my devotion to art, my fervent desire for museum exhibitions, my passion for the genre of portraiture and my love of family. Several small tableaus were created, Corona-conditioned at home, which are the basis and template for large-format paintings in acrylic. Even if the pictures are not always complemented by portrait drawings of me, the compositions are nevertheless always self-portraits.

The small watercolor of a red-haired woman's head in profile achieves its particularity through additional sewn-on lines in red. They emphasize certain parts of the portrait and unite with the delicate painting. The ends of the threads hang down a few centimeters from the paper. The combination of painting with the brush and drawing with the thread came about through Carolin Kropff's inspired exploration of textile art.


All artists are represented with further works in the studio. There is another joint large-scale painting by Carolin Kropff and Felicity Brown: Being Adam, which was also created on the joint Being Eve Journey. It depicts a greenish figure that appears to be dressed in a cape. The work also hints at the artistic, textile works of the two. The painting is not (yet) signed. Two corresponding monotypes - one by Carolin Kropff and one by Felicity Brown - are on the large back wall of the studio, covered with a light-colored fabric. There also hang the self-portraits by Martin Holzschuh mentioned at the beginning. The drypoint etchings, done in brown, show a serious face filling the printed surface.
The picturesque Rainbow Dress by Felicity Brown adorns a mannequin and represents a self-portrait of the British artist. The photograph on the wall behind shows her wearing the dress. In the center of the studio, a painted canvas by Monika Romstein hangs from the ceiling on a nylon thread - a face appears behind delicate branches.
In addition to drawings by Carolin Kropff, other collages and stitched portraits by Britta Kadolsky can be seen on the walls.

The project ABOUT PORTRAITURE will be continued. We want to continue to get together to talk about the many aspects of the subject that have not yet been reflected upon. For example, a conversation arose about open mouths in portraiture: they hardly exist in art. As soon as one tries to paint an open mouth with teeth flashing out, one realizes why. It almost always turns out to be a grimacing, distorted mouth, reminiscent of a clown's face or a caricature. Why this is so, we can consider at the next meetings. We also want to take another look at portraying each other - a planned project that has yet to be realized. We also want to focus more on the topic of self-portraits. In the meantime, Felicity Brown's works have arrived from customs and could be shown in the next exhibition.




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