A realist painter whose large-scale works blur reality and fiction, Alina Grasmann’s narratives are site-specific, using real places as starting points to seek, like a novelist or filmmaker, an emotional truth about a place. “I always work in series and each of my series refers to a real place,” says Grasmann. “Nevertheless, I never simply depict reality. I think what I’m really trying to do is capture my own feelings that I have in a certain place by exaggerating reality, for example changing the light or architecture by adding or subtracting objects.”
Grasmann works in series, usually 10 to 15 paintings are created at a specific location. The cover image, The Continuity of Parks, is from her Florida Raume series, a depiction of the Sunshine State that seems one step away from the surreal, like the opening of a David Lynch film before reality goes sideways.
“My process is quite time-consuming,” says Grasmann. “I often find out about a place by accident in literature or in a film. Of course, this connection between place and source material prompts me to form my own opinion of the site before even going there. If I can’t get the place out of my head, I travel there. On site, I notice very quickly whether I want to get involved further and maybe dedicate a new series to him. It’s a very intuitive decision. Then I take my time and try to be alone with the place, taking photos and comparing my preconceived image of the place with that of personal experience.”
At home, Grasmann makes a small selection of pictures and works with the photos like digital sketches. She works with it until she likes the composition and content. “As I’m working on the photographs, I’m also working on the conceptual ideas I want to approach and the questions and feelings I have about the place,” she adds. Painting a complete series of 10 to 15 large format works usually takes one to two years.
Although she says that she does not intend to tell stories in her paintings, she recognizes their importance in the development of the images and the reception of her work. Instead of illustrating existing myths about a place, she wants to create space for associations to create new stories. “I want my pictures to be a kind of void in which everyone can become a protagonist,” says Grasmann. “My hope is that viewers will find their own way of approaching my work and can start a conversation with it. I am happy when my work triggers something in the viewer. You might even have just a vague feeling popping up. A feeling can be a story in itself.”
Although she lives and works in Germany, Grasmann has a deep love and appreciation for the United States and especially for the Hudson Valley, which she visits about once a year. Her West of Eden series reinterprets various rooms in Dia:Beacon, placing peacocks alongside Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses and a lily pond in the circular concavity of Michael Heizer’s North, East, South, West.
She comes here at least once a year for inspiration. “I’ve always been fascinated by the American landscape, culture, and architecture, and with the exception of my current series, all of my previous work relates to specific locations in the United States,” says Grasmann. “Most of my works are set here, where new mythologies seem to be constantly emerging.”
For the past three months, Grasmann has been in residence at the Fridman Gallery in Beacon. The paintings she completed during this time will be on display in The Grand Buffet exhibition at the Fridman Gallery from June 11 to July 30.