The work represents the way that a new generation of artists regarded itself in the late 1960s and early 1970s Jahren, as they sought to break through the limitations of art in many directions, in terms of both form and context. Anna Oppermann’s art articulates her demand to be regarded as an artist on an equal level with her male colleagues. Containing many biographical references, Künstler sein tells of Oppermann’s attitude and how the visual world she created liberated her.
Looking back from Künstler sein, the show also centers on Oppermann’s early paintings, which are being shown for the first time in any museum at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld. She begins by depicting complex spatial situations in the “classic” panel painting format. Her leitmotifs make an early appearance in still-life-like arrangements and interiors. Oppermann composes complicated perceptual structures; vision determines the thematics that would soon be translated to ensembles in three-dimensional space. Gurken und Tomaten (Cucumbers and tomatoes) is a second early ensemble at the show in Bielefeld, bringing the theme of private domesticity as a metaphor for liberation to the public art space.
Oppermann used the term “ensemble” for the works of art that allowed her to make the transition to three-dimensions and move beyond the opportunities for expression that painting provides. The ensembles are composed of a confusing array of carefully arranged individual elements: an object or two, photographs, drawings, newspaper clippings, her own writing, copies of other people’s writings, paintings, notes, photos of drawings, even more notes, a painting of it all in between new photographs. Found objects, photographs, drawings, and quotations from the field of psychology, sociology, and philosophy are treated on the same level as everyday or banal objects. A type of chaos—a world all over the map, through which the patient viewer is gradually able to discern open sightlines and paths of thought. Künstler sein is Oppermann’s most extensive work, full of visual elements. Consisting of more than a thousand components, it literally sprawls throughout the space. It is impossible to perceive as as a whole, because viewers are always torn between observing it from a distance or close up—if you look carefully at the small images and texts, you lose sight of the whole.