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Gigantic splashes of paint for new office building

“Vollkasko” is the title of Christine Streuli’s Art in Architecture project. The title is the Berlin-based artist’s tongue-in-cheek allusion to Helvetia and simultaneously launches a visual dialogue about freedom, art and value. In this interview, the Swiss artist tells us more about her work and how she hit upon the idea of covering the wall of a new office building with oversize splashes of paint.

27 April 2021, text: Mirjam Arnold, video: Helvetia

Christine Streuli, what was so attractive about this project that you were prompted to accept the commission?

The commission was a new challenge: it was the first opportunity for me to create a work that functions not only on each level of a building, but also in its entirety. That’s rare. Normally, you have one contiguous wall in front of you. I was delighted to be able to take on the project because the starting point had a lot to do with my work: fragments, space, corpora and structure are among the most interesting components of painting for me.

The building’s façade already lends it a very distinctive structure. How did you approach that?

I like immersing myself in space and spatiality. The building really does have a very clear linear structure. When I saw that, I quickly realized I wanted my artwork to run counter to that. Something amorphous and vertical was needed to break up the rigid structure and organization.

You decided on spots and splashes of paint. Where did the idea come from?

Spots and accidents with paint are inherent in the painting process. I encounter splashes of paint in my studio every day. I got excited by the idea of transferring such coincidental, accidental splashes of colour to a building façade. On my regular walks through Berlin, I often see explosions of colour on the walls of houses; that was a particular inspiration for me when conceiving this work.

How did you actually make the artwork?

It began in my studio – with actual paint being splashed around. The splashes of paint from my workroom were digitalized, enlarged to scale and finally transposed onto the spatial characteristics of the new building. Whether art is in architecture or a studio, the topics are the same: surface texture, depth, form, movement and colour.

You’ve now transferred this colour to the walls, both literally and illustratively. Splashes of paint can be the result of artistic accidents, and when walls are splashed with paint we sometimes talk of vandalism – is that why your work is entitled “Vollkasko” (Fully comprehensive)?

It’s much more exciting to ask questions than to answer them. Is the paint in this case decorative or a disfigurement of something recently painted white? Was something destroyed and has lost its value or did the paint splashes create something new and valuable? The work raises questions like this and demonstrates that even an aggressive act can create, or result in, something new. This establishes an explosive relationship to the venue. After all, it’s the building of an insurer, who insures the value of objects when they are disfigured or destroyed.

There’s more of Helvetia in the artwork than you might realize at first glance.

The work wasn’t meant to do without colour altogether. In the background you can see a striped pattern that dovetails with the discourse on structuring. Among other things, you can make out Helvetia’s three corporate colours. But it’s not simply the patron’s printed-on logo. The idea to take up these three unusual colours came from me personally and I made sure I had my way. It’s interesting to experience the reflex an idea like this can trigger, namely understatement – something I consider typically Swiss: “We don’t want the public to think we have something to do with the work”. In my opinion, there’s no reason why the logo colours shouldn’t be represented; I even think they should – but in a discreet, tongue-in-cheek manner. And to anyone who’s unsure about that I would say: the explosion of colour in my work does not even spare Helvetia’s three corporate colours.