Laura Aberham

In a vibrant whirl of colour

Photos: Natascha Romboy

Wuppertal. Even if the sun had not been shining, I am sure that, the moment I entered Laura Aberham’s study, an impression of glorious light would have been created. Bold, vibrant colours wherever you look and an artist who appears to be brimming with positive energy.

Views of the studio

After she had studied with Jürgen Drescher and Katharina Grosse, she completed her degree at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf as the star pupil of Ellen Gallagher. Immediately after the degree, the Düsseldorf gallery owner Rupert Pfab added her to his program. This was followed by solo exhibitions in Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and London. Sometimes all this seems still unreal to her….

“I had tried to imagine what it would be like to be able to exhibit my paintings in beautiful gallery surroundings. But when this actually happened so quickly, it felt almost unreal. But then, at some stage, I simply felt proud”, she told me, radiant with joy.

The paintings are exclusively abstract. The colour combinations are literally explosive, hypnotically drawing you into the painting. Is such an effect capable of being planned? While asking her what influence the studies at the Kunstakademie had on the development of her works, I am trying to figure out an answer.

Examples of paintings in her studio

Laura: The time spent there had a strong influence on me. After the orientation period, I first had to deal with the frustration of not having been accepted into any of the classes. So, I was very happy, when I was accepted into the sculpturing class of Jürgen Drescher during the winter semester. Looking back, this was very good for me. I learnt to understand and deal with space differently. He encouraged me to break out of the two-dimensional mould and work in a more sculptural manner. For instance, one of the works which developed on the basis of this structural approach, is hung there (see Fig. below).

Example of a sculptural work

And Katharina Grosse then encouraged you to experiment more with colours? It is not difficult so find parallels to her work.

Laura: Not directly. Initially, the very strong and dominant personalities in her class were the reason I, as a novice, had to assert myself in order to be seen. That required increased self-confidence, and Katharina Grosse encouraged me in this. Regarding any influences of her work on mine, the fact is that it is the immensity and intensity of her works that deeply impressed and shaped me. But I never wanted to paint exactly like her. While she works very conceptually with painting and often includes both the room and the viewer, it is more important to me to concentrate on the restrictions posed by the picture frame, or, put differently, on the two-dimensional space of the canvas. What our works have in common is the use of loud colours and abstractions.

So, there is no conceptual thought behind your painting?

Laura: No. I am a painter through and through. I stand by that. I find the involvement with colours, shapes and surfaces extremely exciting, it continuously opens new areas of experimenting, and I consider this to be enough of a task. I want my paintings to appeal by themselves and to function without any textual supplement. They may simply spark a positive feeling.

How do you then approach a new work? Do you work from references or do you start with sketches?

Laura: No. Neither nor. I work without any plan, purely intuitively, following my feelings.

So, you get into the studio and think” Today is a day for yellow?”

Laura: Exactly (she laughs). Sounds relaxed, but it is a strenuous, very intense process. It means a submersing into the colour, into the movement of the brush, the infinite possibilities of painting and, of course, also my own world of images and space. I love the unpredictable possibilities of chance. As I am now aware of what I am able to do and which possibilities I have, the result is somewhat controlled at times, of course.

… Work in progress (Image bottom right: ©Morris Aberham)

The dynamics in your paintings allows the conclusion of enormous intuitive powers. Don’t you therefore always need a huge canvas?

Examples of smaller sizes

Laura: No. Not necessarily. I also enjoy working with smaller sizes. They offer an opportunity to try out something new that I can transfer later to bigger formats. This enabled me to become familiar with PVC foil, which later became the substrate of my MUR BRUT 16 installation in the parking garage of Kunsthalle Düsseldorf. Two aspects were exciting: The effects becoming available regarding the layering of several surfaces. And painting with varnish which, because of its consistency, resulted in a completely different effect from oil and acrylic paint. That gave me the idea to crunch the varnish up once it was dry and use it also as a structural component.

Initial experiments with foil and varnish (Photos © Morris Aberham), on the right: dried varnish on the surface of the canvas

Talking about Kunsthalle. With your installation you created an intentional antithesis, both from a colour and a material point of view, to the spatial situation of the parking garage. So, could one say in this case that the work was conceptualised?

Laura: Yes, to a certain degree. In this particular case I reacted to the room with my painting. But this had mainly emerged from the fact that it had not been possible to paint on the wall in there. I was therefore forced to develop a novel idea, but I still had to be true to myself. There is no way, however, that this work suddenly puts me into a position that makes me an installation artist….. (she makes a dismissive gesture).

Installation MUR BRUT 16 in the parking garage of Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (Photos: ©Morris Aberham)

It was interesting to see light illusions in this installation which are typical of your paintings; here, however, they were caused by the foil and the layering. Do you create these kinds of illusions in your painting in a planned or in an intuitive manner?

Left: Example of light illusions created through painting

Laura: They emerge while I experiment with colours and colour compositions, often through gradual repetitive layering. But sometimes also simply by leaving out some colour if I feel that a particular painting needs a little less colour.

Why did you decide to go abstract?

Laura: I love to immerse myself in visual impressions. I am interested in matters between and behind the things of the visible world surrounding us. The abstraction enables me to develop forms of representation of this transcendental level. I want to create paintings, which are both an event and an experience and which – optimally – open a window beyond the visible world.


In conclusion, is it possible to answer the question whether the lure of Laura Aberham’s paintings is planned?

She works purely intuitively; this, essentially, excludes any form of planning within the creative process. How, then, does she achieve the desired effect?

The positive effect of the abstraction must first be highlighted as an essential component. She allows herself to give full scope to her own imagination and to play with her own power of imagination.

But it is not just the abstraction. The lure of the paintings is achieved particularly by way of the spatiality, the dynamics of the setting and the composition of the painting. Which Laura Aberham creates with the skilled handling of form and colour. In this manner she succeeds in intuiting the transcendent component of her paintings and become active.

Actively creating her own worlds beyond the visible worlds using a vibrant whirl of colour…..

More Information
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