Bernard Foell’s career as a visual artist spans well over 30 years. Autodidact as an artist, but widely educated and resourceful like few of his peers in bohemian Berlin, Foell was first active as actor and director in West Berlin’s anarchic super 8 film movement of the early 1980′s, “a creative Berlin which to this day exerts its influence on German pop culture and beyond.”

As Chrisaphenia Danai Papagrigoriou noted, to these artists, super 8 was not a random or stylistic device, but a deliberate punk choice for an obsolete cheap creative tool, one used without any kind of academic approval or external support structure, evolving mainly in Kreuzberg’s bars, artist-run art spaces, clubs and run down backyards.

Many artists of this time and place worked with any medium available, declaring themselves “Geniale Dilettanten” (ingenious dilettantes). This scene’s love of trash and disregard for distinctions between high and low culture is still apparent in Bernard Foell’s paintings. As is Foell’s love of Art Vache (“bad art”) as practiced by painters like Magritte, Picabia, Polke, Lausen, Kippenberger and the Oehlen brothers.

Bernard Foell first used collage and graphic art compositions while designing hand-made posters for super 8 film events in the early 1980′s. This interest in graphics subsequently led him to produce cutout and stencil art works. Since the early 1990′s, he has been painting predominantly using stencils, long before Street-art made this technique trendy.

Instead of using museum art as reference, Foell strictly uses found imagery from the mass media, lowbrow sources such as Italian porn comix, pulp literature, and the covers of the many records he collected over the years as a DJ. in Berlin’s art- and punk/new wave scene. To label his paintings as simply Pop-art, would not be quite correct however. Foell’s practice of incorporating political and societal themes; decontextualizing and re-presenting politically incorrect images in unexpected ways may rather place Foell’s work in the tradition of New York’s “Pictures Generation” such as Richard Prince, who can be said to question and process darker sides of pop culture in a more critical attempt at “talking back to the media” than Pop-art was willing to.

Ideological strife and warfare are recurrent subjects in many of Foell’s works since 9/11. Asked about the main preoccupations of his art, the artist cites philosopher Eric Voegelin’s “pneumopathological deformation” of reality where it morphs into ideology, psychosis, and violence. This theme is not only taken on pictorially, but also technically in the way imagery is deliberately shifted, distorted or destroyed.
Religious themes can also be found in Foell’s work. The painter was educated by Franciscans, which the artist describes as the most hippie-like of the Christian orders, ascribing to them an aversion to industry and business, and citing Pasolini’s movie Uccellacci e Uccellini as an ode to Franciscan poetry and radicalism. Like Pasolini, Foell’s progressive political stance and atheism are informed by catholicism.

Juxtapositions of artistic multiculturalism, trash, politics, and skepticism may well symbolize the whole of the artist’s work.

Bernard Foell has exhibited throughout Germany; in Rome, Vienna and Liverpool, and took part in the M.A.I.S traveling exhibition series. The artist is also active as curator, for instance of the series of Club-art shows at the Haus am Lützowplatz and has independently curated and organized several group shows in Berlin.

Text: Somos


Short biography:

1954 Born in Stuttgart

1961 – 1970 Klosterschule der Franziskaner in Schwäbisch-Gmünd

1971 – 1973 Study travels troughout Europa, works in literature

1974 Move to West-Berlin

1976 – 1981 Works as DJ in various locations

1982 – 1987 Active in experimental cinema, performances, co-founder of the Interfilm Festival, co-founder of the Super-8 film collective Best Boys Connection

1988 Fragment of the novel Choral und Abgesang, first collage works on cardboard

1990 First works on canvas

from 1991 Exhibitions throughout Germany

from 1998 active as curator for amongst others Haus am Luetzowplatz, Studiogalerie, various group shows

2000 Co-founder artist group Künstlergruppe 10.000, Berlin

2002 Scholarship Kriva Palanka, Macedonia

2001 Initiator of the ongoing 18 x 24 group exhibition series

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