Jessica Buhlmann

Collage Paintings on the Liberties and Quest for Meaning of Abstract Art

Works Bio

Please see the paintings of Jessica Buhlmann in our exhibition “Constructivism, Mostly

collage paintings

Jessica Buhlmann’s collage paintings are musing about the liberties and the quest for meaning in modern, abstract art. Her forms derive from geometry and nature, and they live on contrast: sometimes tiny, sometimes expansive, the surfaces both flat and plain as well as strongly structured. In a sense, they are objets trouvés: just as the early collagists reached for newspaper clippings, Jessica Buhlmann collects forms and structures.


The individual shape as well as the overall composition is developed intuitively and associatively during the painting process: “I don’t know at the beginning of the work what it will look like at the end,” says the artist, “and I don’t want to know either. She lets herself be surprised – and thus surprises us, the viewers.

Brushes are hardly found in this painting studio. The artist pours the paint mixed from oil and water onto the canvas. Or she presses the oil paint directly from the tube onto the support and works with the putty knife, “so that the paint has a body”, as she says. Adhesive tapes build the first structures; if these tapes are subsequently torn off, hard edges are created that look like reliefs.

Jessica Buhlmann installing an exhibition

In the composition, the one intuitively follows the other, associations play a major role. Cracks or stains emphasize the randomness of carefully planned designs. “My works are unpredictable, growing intuitively from an organic process of improvisation, not only including, but often privileging imperfections and accidents.”

Post-war european modernism

The pictures seem like a summary of classical modernism: Cubism, Constructivism, Surrealism, the principle of the collage – Mondrian or Matisse, Jean Arp, Paul Klee, Henry Moore or Mirò: all of this resonates in the works. But even more than the classical one, it is the modernism of the post-war period that is apparent: not the emotional-expressive American action painting, but the more rational European one.

After the liberation from the constraints of the dark thirties and forties, an abstract art was created that is characterized by great artificiality: it is illogical, surreal, detached from reality, with selected “ir-rational” forms and rarely pure, mostly modulated colors: typical are a grayish thin blue, a pale pink, a dull yellow.

Willi-Baumeister, Dialogue Red-Blue, 1951 collage painting
A prime example of post-war modernism: Willi-Baumeister, Dialogue Red-Blue, 1951

Another sign of liberation from the troubled times is a certain lightness, even cheerfulness and irony, as expressed in particular in the mobiles of Alexander Calder or the comic-tragic figures of Joan Mirò. One of the most important German artists of that time is Willi Baumeister, whose works contain the aforementioned qualities in an exemplary manner.

All of this finds its reflection in the work of Jessica Buhlmann. And there is something else: Jessica grew up in an artists family in which not only visual design but also music was omnipresent. Thus, before studying art, she studied musicology and composition. This element of musicality and rhythm is also present in her paintings: just as freely as the individual elements in Calder’s floating sculptures, so the forms and colours in the painter’s pictures move around.

Jessica Buhlmann’s collage paintings in our show “Constructivism, Mostly

Yet for all her proximity to the art of post-war modernism: as an artist of the 21st century, her understanding of freedom and creativity is different: her focus is not on political-ideological, but on artistic-creative freedom. She can, literally, do whatever she wants. She is so free and chooses the most senseless forms, the most impossible colours, the craziest combinations. Some things are as “weird” as jazz, which was very popular in the fifties. Contrasts play a special role: the formats and structures (less the colours) are highly opposed.

the meaning of art

With her so pointedly illogical, irrational, even absurd picture design, the artist is getting involved with the – often caricatured – favourite question of the audience in the fifties and sixties, who often stood helplessly in front of the works: What is this, what does it mean? Jessica Buhlmann adopts this question and makes it her subject: it’s about the search for meaning in modern, abstract art. In her answer, the artist turns her gaze away from the finished product and towards the process: the “meaning” of art is that the artist is making it. That is her freedom.

Please see the paintings of Jessica Buhlmann in our exhibitions Constructivism, Mostly and Abstractions: Painterly, Diverse…

You might also visit the sites of artists working similarly: Clemens Behr, DAG, Forster Herchenbach, Christopher Sage, Bernhard C. Striebel and Jinny Yu. And please visit our digital show “Constructivism, Mostly” with works by this artist. For the artist’s objects please see her entry on cargo site.



Jessica Buhlmann was born 1977 in Potsdam, she lives and works in Berlin. 1998-2005 she studied fine arts at the Universität der Künste, Berlin, with Klaus Fussmann and Henning Kürschner, 2005-07 master class. 2002-03 recipient of the Dorothea Konwiarz grant, 2014 winner of the Art Karlsruhe award. In 2017 she spent two months of research in Kampala, Uganda.

Solo shows

2020Geomancy, Galerie Nicola Gnesa, Munich
2018Waves Hints Offset, Galerie 1214, Berlin
Contingent Views, Galerie Strzelski, Stuttgart
Somatic Variations, Kunstraum 34, Stuttgart
Garden Rain, Galerie Nicole Gnesa, München
2017Pala, Galerie 1214, Berlin
Shapes and Spaces, Galerie Anja Knoess, Cologne
2016Morphology, Galerie am Klostersee, Lehnin, Brandenburg
2014Resonant Bodies, Kunstverein Reutlingen, Reutlingen
2013New Abstraction, Studio d’Arte Cannaviello, Milan
2012On the Cusp, Galerie Anja Rumig, Stuttgart
Reciprocity, SOX, Berlin
2011Zuspiel, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, with Franziska Goes
2010Out There Is Always a Construction Site, Zern, Berlin
Taken for Stranger No 8, Appartement, Berlin

group shows

2020De rerum natura / On the Nature of Things, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin
2019Tapemodern #27, Berlin
A Monument for Wolfgang Neuss, Haus am Lützowplatz, Berlin
September in Berlin, Hammerschmidt + Gladigau, Berlin
Alternative Facts, Laura Mars Gallery, Berlin
2018The Language of Forms, Galerie OQBO, Berlin
En bloc, Galerie Nicole Gnesa, Munich
Shapel, Galerie Burster, Berlin
In Interim, Galerie K’, Bremen
2017Love Triangle, Galerie Domeij,  Stockholm
On Painting, Galerie Axel Obinger, Berlin
We Call It Work, Opere Scelte, Turin
2016Surf, Galerie Hartwich, Sellin, Rügen
Berlin-Klondyke, Maribor Art Gallery, Maribor, Slovenia
Inscape, Kunsthaus Erfurt, Erfurt
2015Les Miniatures, Nicole Gnesa, Berlin
Rauschen, Galerie Alte Schule Ahrenshoop, Ahrenshoop
The Queen Is Dead, Codex Showroom, Berlin
Berlin-Klondyke: 1st Berlin Edition, Salon Dahlmann, Berlin
Spectrum One, Eigenheim Galerie, Berlin
Works in White, Schau Fenster, Berlin
2014L’oiseau présente: Be Abstract, Kunstverein Schwaebisch-Hall, Schwaebisch-Hall; Ballhaus Ost, Berlin
Die Leipziger Edition, Wiensowski & Harbord, Berlin
Bento Box, Anja Rumig, Stuttgart
2013Orte/Nicht-Orte, Kunstverein Uelzen, Uelzen
New Abstraction, Interno, Cremona, Italy
Berlin-Klondyke, Hipp Halle Gmunden, Gmunden, Austria
Salondergegenwart, Lippeltstraße 1, Hamburg,
The Artist As Curator’s Art Vol. 3, Schau Fenster, Berlin
Kunst und Release, EnBW Baden-Württemberg AG, Stuttgart
Berlin-Klondyke, Werkschau Leipziger Spinnerei, Berlin
2012Die Heimsuchung, Galerie Knut Hartwich, Sellin, Rügen
Berliner Salon Part II, Kunstverein Meiningen, Berlin
Release, Energie Baden-Württemberg AG, Stuttgart
Montage, Schau Fenster, Berlin
Painting Beyond, Maerzgalerie, Berlin
Kein Winterschlaf, Galerie Anja Rumig, Stuttgart
North-East of Heaven, Galerie Hartwich, Sellin, Rügen
Berlin-Klondyke, Kunstverein Pfaffenhoven, Pfaffenhoven
2011Peer to Peer to Peer, tête, Berlin
Berlin Status I, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin
Berlin-Klondyke, Odd Gallery, Dawson
Klee.Astali/Peirce.Buhlmann, Runfola, Friedenstr. 16, Berlin
2010Berliner Zimmer Genossen, Berlin Funkhaus, Berlin
The Visitation, Galerie Hartwich, Sellin, Rügen
Crefelder Gesellschaft für Venezianische Malerei, Galerie Börgmann, Krefeld
The Universe Is Not Your Friend Babe, Galerie Erika Deak, Budapest