The color “gray” counts among the non-colors, and usually announces conceptuality. For instead of the medium of “painting,” traditionally defined by the use of color, of contrasting colors, differences in hue, etc., the much more decisive question that arises is how this medium was employed. Numerous painters since the war ranging from Gerhard Richter to Albert Oehlen have either programmatically produced gray paintings or gone through phases of monochrome gray painting, whose conceptual appearance, interestingly, permitted precisely an increase in gestural application and “smearing” of paint. Yet “gray” also preserves the semantics of photography’s gray graininess. Thus, Birgit Megerle’s new paintings, dominated by shades of gray, signal that they are based on photographic originals. Yet the latter were not transferred one-to-one but transformed into pictorial arrangements that come across as extremely artificial, being composed of various movable pieces (figures, urban spaces, architectonic fragments). They are distantly reminiscent of the stark spatial divisions in de Chirico’s paintings, just as the figures, as though stenciled, communicate with the aesthetics of the Neue Sachlichkeit. Yet the dull, cool, seemingly foggy and opaque color application and the shades of gray also create the impression that all life, all vitality has been positively drained from these paintings Megerle in this respect opts for a certain degree of reclusiveness.
That is not to say, of course, that she is not equipped with an international network of artist friends with whom she regularly cooperates and has group shows. At the same time, she stakes her production on paintings that, at first glance, cannot be brought in immediate connection with her life or her person. At closer observation, however, this production of images has much to do with the position she holds in a certain socio-economic and urban context. Friends make appearances, and the limitations and hardships entailed by life in an urban environment are addressed metaphorically (as a world of concrete that feels claustrophobic, or walls one constantly comes up against). Beyond a sort of wall of silence that these paintings erect simply because they do not, despite their figurative character, present a narration we could immediately comprehend, it is the social compulsions and possibilities surrounding us that are negotiated in these paintings.