It was the first time I’d sat for a portrait painter. I’d had my picture painted in New York many years ago by the artist Claus Castenskiold, but that was based on a photograph and was therefore after the fact. This was the first time I’d actually sat in studio where I could observe the artist at work. Mandy had invited me to sit for her the night before, after she had visited the concert in Dresden which I played with my violin player, Pavel Cingl. I have to admit I was intrigued. No one had asked me such a question before, and my vanity allowed me to feel a little flattered. But my main thought was that it could be an interesting experience, one which would enable me to see myself through the eys of a stranger, to see how their view connected with my own self image. A certain amount of alcohol had been consumed during and after this concert, so when Mandy picked me up the next morning to drive me to her studio, I was feeling a little light-headed. The bright sunshine didn’t help, and it was a relief to walk into the cool, shadowy depths of her studio. The walls were covered with portraits of other people from other times, some fairly recent, others from longer ago. Mandy gave me a brief tour, explaining who the characters in her pictures were, sometimes narrating a fragment of a story behind one of them. After offering me a cup of black coffee, she sat me down in a comfortable chair, then changed into her work clothes and began sizing me up. She worked rapidly and rhythmically, casting quick glances in my direction from behind her easel while sketching the outlines of my features. I soon fell into a kind of revery, a trance-like state induced by too many drinks, too little sleep and the need to keep sitting upright in the same position. Sometimes I’d really float away, and through half closed eyes I could see Mandy furiously at work, as if I were viewing her from across a huge distance of space and time. Every now and again she’d shake her head with impatience, as if she were having trouble getting her interpretation of my appearance onto the canvas. Sometimes she’d appear to rub out a portion of it, and I found myself wondering if I would find the image she created flattering, disturbing, or painfully honest. As the sun slanted in through the high windows, time seemed to slip sideways into another dimension. Still Mandy continued to work, sometimes smoothly and precisely, at other times stabbing at the canvas with her brush as if she were attacking it. Again I found myself wondering what the result of all this frenetic activity would be. Sometimes she’d take a step backwards to look at the painting from a distance, comparing it to the physical me sitting in the armchair ten metres away. But then she’d “tut-tut” with annoyance, shake her head and return to the canvas to rub something out, or change a particular detail. Finally, though, she seemed to be satisfied. Not a hundred per cent satisfied, but as if she were sure that she’d done all she could do, at least for the moment. As she told me to relax, that the sitting was now over, I checked the time and was astonished to find that something like 90 minutes had passed since the sitting had begun. In some ways it seemed much longer, and in other ways much shorter, as if the whole experience had taken place in the blink of an eye. My view of time seemed to be slightly distorted, as if I were looking down the wrong end of a telescope. Though Mandy told me that she hadn’t completed the portrait to her satisfaction, she said that she’d finished for now and would work on it again at some point in the future. As for my impression of the painting itself – well I have to say that it showed me in a way I hadn’t expected. I don’t consider it was intended to be a realistic rendition. While it is certainly recognisable, there is a certain amount of subjective expressionism at work that I find really interesting. I’d say it’s quite a dark, and in some ways disturbing interpretation. This expressionistic quality was only heightened in the finished picture which Mandy mailed to me some weeks later. In it, I look a little bit demonic, the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley late at night. Maybe a dock-worker after a pub crawl on the waterfront, maybe a trucker, maybe an off-duty circus performer. Whatever the case, there is definitely more than a hint of criminality around the eyes, something a little dangerous or threatening. But it’s an intruiging image, one that makes you think, and there is something elemental, even archetypal, about it. It doesn’t exactly keep me awake at night, but it has certainly given me something to think about while adding another layer to the onion…
Phil Shoenfelt, Musiker, Prag, März 2009
“I want to be a painter!” This thought has been with her since the moment she learned how to think. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the huge political changes of the time meant that routes into art were often indirect. Thus, for example, Mandy Friedrich began her working life in horticultural jobs, trained as a florist then proceeded to study at the College of Design in Plauen. During this period, she produced landscapes, portraits and figural paintings. In 1999, she began her studies at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts under the tutelage of painter Professor Siegfried Klotz and graphic artist Professor Elke Hopfe. This is the point at which Mandy Friedrich became a ‘thoroughbred painter’. As one of Professor Ralf Kerbach’s master students, she began working on the themes of dance and dancers, music and musicians. She became a freelance artist in 2007. That year she also won the Freiberg ‘Kunstförderpreis’ (Award for Art). The subject for Mandy Friedrich’s art is the person, the portrayal of the human being. She feels committed to this, and reproduces the theme repeatedly. The painter predominantly chooses as subjects people whose aura suggests to her that they have “unfathomable depths”. A small picture from 2002 gives an early indication of the direction her painting would take. A ‘Mädchen’ (‘Girl’, see illustration page 65), possibly the artist herself, sits in the middle of a nondescript room, lost in selfabsorption. Areas of blue and violet form the compositional scaffolding around her. Her red hair and the yellow dot on the back of her chair make for a taut colour contrast. The work seems to be keeping a secret, to be a dream full of sadness, drama and internalised sensibility. Later portraits are of people whose total immersion in a particular moment fills the whole picture. The subjects’ attitude, their pose within the illusionistic space, their guise and character are revealed. She holds up a mirror to the subject of the portrait, sometimes presenting them with surprising facets of themselves und their surroundings. Mandy Friedrich painted several self-portraits of herself as a dancer. For her, dance is a primordial, unleashing, wild transformation of feelings in a direct, intoxicating way that brings sensual pleasure beyond rational understanding. Music has always been part of her life, so it is no surprise that she took artistic inspiration from it, got to know various bands in Dresden and even formed the band ‘Krapplack’ with one of her old student friends. Thus was born the series of pictures entitled ‘Never too loud – Rockmusik’. Many of her pictures from 2006 and 2007 reflect her experience of the stifling heat, the crashing noise, musicians bathed in sweat, the multicoloured stage lights. These ‘wild pictures’ contrast with her ‘still portraits’, but these too hint at the subjects’ visual aura, their intrinsic being, as difficult to grasp as it is to describe. Mandy Friedrich is fascinated by the primal wildness in everything – humans, nature and animals. Motifs of dead animals appear in her work, perhaps modelled after Chaim Soutine’s pictures of animal cadavers. She also portrays wild buffalo, llamas and wolves. Her landscapes express moods she has experienced and her search for stillness. She looks for the aspects of nature with the power to move us: the sun breaking through the clouds, storm clouds rolling by, rain falling, storms at sea, the unearthly colours of the dark and the endless breadth of a landscape. Like a tune, a scent or a taste, Mandy Friedrich’s painting sometimes triggers memories of a long-forgotten experience. Her pictures have a distinctive vitality and dynamism. They arise from her spontaneous approach, alternating glaze and impasto as she applies colour. This makes the figures look as though their physicality has been formed by the mass of paint. They are compositions created with expression and mood, living inside the colours, without linear definitions. With energetic brushstrokes and an edgy, urban style she paints with a high level of artistry and a ‘neat’ palette. Sensory experiences and recollections from nature are adapted through the medium of expressive, meditative painting into an artistic reality that exists alongside the ‘real’ reality. Max Liebermann once said: “The naturalist who paints strictly in line with nature is not an artist. The true artist is one who portrays only that which his imagination sees in nature. For this reason, his specific artistic imagination must be all the stronger; the closer he is to a sensory impression of nature, the more he is a painter in the true sense of the word.” The paintings in this catalogue leave us in no doubt, that Mandy Friedrich has the necessary artistic imagination to be considered a painter in Liebermann’s sense of the word.
Jürgen Szajny, artist and art historian, Werdau