Frieze opens in London this week and we’ve got a sneak peek into the creative life of Renate Bertlmann. Bertlmann’s work features in Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics, a new section this year at Frieze, dedicated to women artists working at the extreme edges of feminist practice since the 1960’s.
Bertlmann’s practice is dominated by issues and themes surrounding sexuality, love, gender, and eroticism within a social context, with her own body often serving as the artistic medium. She actively confronts social stereotypes assigned to the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, using as her props fetishistic objects – dildos, condoms, pacifiers – to subvert our expectations and perceptions.
All images copyright the artist. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery.
WIA: What are you doing today?
RB: Answering emails
Tell us about your creative process.
I don’t know much about it, except that it is a kind of listening to the unknown.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
Thinking, reflecting, meditating I do everywhere, putting all into practice I do with my computer and in my studio.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
Every project I am just working on is the most exciting one.
What made you decide to become an artist?
It was not a mental decision, something unknown, indescribable has forced me.
What are you currently working on?
On at least 10 different projects.
Do you listen to music while you work, and if so, what’s your soundtrack?
No, I need absolutely silence.
What are the key themes in your work?
Love, sex, crime, religion.
What would you like people to notice in your work?
What attracts you to the mediums you work in?
Its suitability for expressing my ideas, for instance, latex for molding my „Tender Touches“.
What equipment could you not do without?
Who or what inspires you?
It is very different: It can be a fabric, another time a smile of a child.
How does gender affect your work?
It expresses itself in the form and the content of my work.
What’s your favourite gallery, or place to see or experience art?
I have no special place for that.
If you could own one piece of art, what would it be and why?
A painting of Agnes Martin, because it emanates pure, vibrating silence.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be, and why?
I would rather prefer to work together with a witch doctor of another cultural environment, like a shaman, to learn how she gets access to her creativity, her pregnant ground.
Is there an artist, movement or collective you’d like to see re-evaluated, or a contemporary artist who is underrated?
All women artists from the ancient times until today.
What’s your favourite colour?
Bertlmann lives and works in Vienna.