Artists in Schwabing.

Artists in Schwabing.

Some Anglophones were saying recently how there were no artists neighborhoods left in München, specifically how there were no longer any such enclaves in Schwabing. I think what the person actually meant is that George Maciunas isn’t walking up and down Schellingstraße tossing boxes of junk around, leafleting, or setting up a utopian community in a Hofpfisterei storefront, meaning, there are few obvious visual social interruptions of “bohemian-ness” to the reality that it is very expensive to live or have a gallery space in the center of the city there is sometimes a tremendous, pressured sense of homogeneity in the immediate environment. This is both a true and false perception.

The just-released analysis of the 2011 German Census shows that about 20 percent of München’s population is not native to Germany (probably in the two or three inner rings that percentage is way higher). Not that this subset of the population is more likely to be involved in the arts at all, just not all of one stripe. What does suggest that there is something of an artistic community in Schwabing is, well, the presence of about ten major Kunsthalles and museums, a large university with an art history department, and the most famous and important art academy in the world, the Akademie der Bildenden Künste München (the disregard of some former students for this institution notwithstanding) and all the thousands of students, artists, instructors, curators, writers, and patrons who make these places go…

Anyway, I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of such an artist, a painter who is also a student at ABKM. I actually know Irina Ojovan through one of my many German classes as the kind polyglot (Ojovan, from Moldova and Italy, speaks more languages than I know the names of with super-fluency) always assisting my grammar.

So I came to have firsthand experience with Schawbing artists at a Schwabing gallery a few weeks ago at the opening for Ojovan’s “City Portrait” exhibit held in tandem with “Liebe und Leben eines einsamen Mannes” by Blanca Amorós at Kunstgießerei München / Giesserei Galerie. (The gallery actually specializes in metalworking and sculptural objects but the owners are this summer hosting some guest shows.)

I should interject here to apologize for the terrible terrible awful photograph accompanying this post. I am still learning to use my iphone camera (and by “learning” I mean I think I will bring my real camera from now on to such events). Fortunately Ojovan has a comprehensive recitation of “City Portrait” and other details on her Website. Likewise for Amorós, whose blog features her work plus much better photographs of the very event I am describing by Silvia Malafronte and Silvia Maietta.

Both painters work in varying styles, with Ojovan’s recent series spatially less controlled and more saturated and Amorós’ having produced sophisticated, carefully-coded, retro-at-first-glance screen prints. The work for this dual exhibit suited the gallery space in its relatively small format, minimally or unframed canvas placements inviting close inspection of the facing walls of work. Amorós’ open brushwork gave an added degree of intimacy to intimate but compassionate figural studies. I was very drawn to the tangibility of the paint itself in these pictures yet the texture never overwhelmed the assertive-but-vulnerable humans within each frame.

Ojovan told me that “City Portrait” was inspired by the long München winter, as colorful façades struggled to make a contrast with the unending snow, and that the semaphore-like incursions emblematically represent her connection to Moldova. Without knowing anything of their background, this series of paintings (which are numbered, not named) recall architecture with their geometric precision and uniform, matte paint application; even the “decorations” are composed mostly of squares, chevrons, and wedges with acute or right angles. For a painter who has had previous success with very luminous colors and organic curves, to back off into a more austere palette with a slightly prickly resonance is brave on Ojovan’s part. Maybe München sometimes makes us face the street with less homesickness and more detachment as we resolve to stay…or to make up another fable about Schwabing.