Conversation with Verónica Lehner

The materiality of color

Verónica Lehner literally brings color into space. By creating sculptures out of paint, she moves between the media of painting and sculpture. In an interview with Art.Salon, the artist talks about the spatial effect of color and why randomly found objects are an ideal basis for a work of art.

by Marén Cohen Monroy, August 10, 2022
Veronica Lehner im Atelier
Verónica Lehner studioview

Verónica Lehner's experimental working method is reflected in the complexity of her works: for example, the artist hangs long strips of elastic acrylic paint in the room, creating almost fabric-like installations that stand in a self-confident relationship to their surroundings with their strong coloration in greenish yellow, salmon or black. Another time, Verónica Lehner shows elastic-soft paint draped around geometric steel pieces that almost seem to melt with them. This impression of the fragile, as if the work could dissolve or change at any moment, runs through her entire oeuvre.

It is therefore consistent that the artist's latest series of works focuses on the traces of the process of creating her works. In the process, she covers large-format canvases with a small frame, creating long borders on the sides. The piece of canvas is painted, then the frame is moved to another place on the canvas and then the newly created work ground is painted. Through this process, several paintings are created on one canvas, which are closely related to each other; the numerous traces of processing on the paintings thereby make the production steps visible. In this way, Verónica Lehner's series of works questions the spatial as well as the ideological boundaries of a painting.

Born in 1980 in Cali, Colombia, the artist lives and works in Berlin, where she completed her master's degree in spatial strategies at the Kunsthochschule Weißensee in 2009. She has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Germany, Colombia, the US, South Korea and France.

Veronica Lehner Gemälde Intersecciones 4
Verónica Lehner - Intersecciones 4, Painting 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 130 x 200 cm

How would you describe your art?

In my work, I mainly explore space and its relationship to the material and the pictorial. I make a kind of extended painting that meets spatial aspects such as architecture or the body, playing with different materials such as the paint itself, found objects, ceramics, glass and metal. In my work, I try to collaborate with it and be guided by the material to constantly rethink painting and discover other processes.

How do you start working? How does your individual process begin?

For me, the first step is usually getting to know the space. Aspects like the materiality of the space are important, as well as the atmosphere and the relationship to the body. This is especially important when I can work in a public space or exhibition venue and the work is derived from that, but I also try to incorporate the materiality of the studio into the work.

What do you use to create color and what do you like about it?

It can be a process of addition, but also extraction of the material. I've done work where I've painted with paint on canvas, but also others where I've removed the paint that was already on the walls with a canvas and glue. In this case, it was like a kind of »theft« of the paint, which also allowed the lower layers of paint to show through. Also, the work became more sculptural in which other materials like concrete or plaster, parts of the wall, were glued to the fabric. In other works, I completely separated the paint from the substrate so that it changed over time due to gravity or even a weighting mechanism.
During the artistic process, I find it fascinating how the colors draw attention to themselves and how the gazes cross between the viewer and the material. There is a lot of performativity in color. On the other hand, I also find it fascinating how one color calls to another, creating a constant flow of possible colors. It never ceases to amaze me how one color, when laid over another, changes, and when you remove parts of one color from the background, the colors that appear underneath change the entire painting.
I also find it very interesting that in German, unlike in Spanish, there is no distinction between the color and the liquid material of paint, because sometimes I think that color is a material in itself.

What influences your choice of colors?

My color choices are mainly influenced by the colors that are already in the space: Traces of previous works; the color of materials left in the studio, such as tape or fabrics; the colors that appear when the wall paint is taken down; the colors I perceive on the way to the studio, for example, from buildings or from the traces people leave on the walls. Likewise, as I said, colors always evoke other colors by association. For example, complementary colors relate to each other, or the bright colors in advertising evoke dirty colors that contrast with them.

Is there an artist or art movement that has particularly influenced you?

There are many artists who have influenced my work at different stages of my life. One of the first was the Colombian artist Danilo Dueñas, who was my professor at the university in Colombia. He works with found objects and establishes relationships between painting and space; or perhaps it would be better to say he establishes relationships between painting, its materiality and the world around us. Daniel Buren's early works, in which he transforms painting into a visual tool inserted into public space, were also the catalyst for some of the ideas about painting that I have been exploring (especially when I wrote my master's thesis, »Spatial Strategies«, at the Berlin-Weissensee School of Art on painterly processes as spatial strategies). The ephemeral and processual nature of Prof. Bente Stokke's work, also made a strong impression on me at the time. I am very interested in the work of Hélio Oiticica, who relates painting to architecture, but also to the body and context, as well as the organic and material-rich work of Eva Hesse and Delcy Morelos. Recently, as I have been exploring the performativity of painting, I have been paying close attention to the work of Nina Canell, who emphasizes and makes visible not only the process but also the materiality of objects and spaces.

How are the colors of your work meant to be perceived?

In my work, colors do not function in a symbolic way. It is a material, concrete process rather than the creation of meaning or narrative.

What color has your world?

My world does not have a specific color, the only thing that is certain is that the place where I am has a great influence on the color of my work.

At what moment do you find the light the most beautiful?

It depends on what I'm doing, but I think that every light, season or time of day has very specific characteristics that can be very interesting and trigger different actions. But I definitely find it easier to get out of bed when it's sunny!

Do you have a favorite color?

Lately I've been experimenting with fluorescent colors and combining them with warm and cool grays. But that changes quickly depending on where I am and what colors I encounter.

If you weren't an artist, what would you be?

Actually, when I was a teenager I wanted to be a famous rock star.... but well... I probably would have been better suited for a profession like that of a scientist, which, like the artist, is very much based on observation, perception and experience of the world around you. I'm a pretty curious person. But I'm also a person who likes to be with others. So it's always nice to alternate art and pedagogy.

Name: Verónica Lehner
Date of birth: 12.10.1980
Place of birth: Cali, Colombia
Place of residence: Berlin
Instagram: @veronicalehner


Veronica Lehner Installation Site-ing
Verónica Lehner - Site-ing, Sculptural installation 2022, Acylic paint, 8 x 1,30 x 3,50 m
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