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Sabrina Pohl : Artist who sees beyond the visible

Deviprasad C Rao

21. März 2023

An exclusive interview with Sabrina Pohl during the preparation of her online exhibition titled BEYOND THE VISIBLE.

DM: How did the interest in art evolved in your life and what was your response to them?

Sabrina: I was born in Ludwigsburg, which is a city near Stuttgart in Germany where I now live and work. In my childhood I loved writing books and spending a lot of time outside in nature. I loved watching animals or playing with them. I still love writing and actually my love for animals hasn't changed much. I think as a kid you just try everything, always looking for some kind of play opportunity somewhere, how to make one thing even better or funnier. Where can you build a cave? How high can you climb on the tree? What other tricks can you teach the rabbit? Perhaps it is this curiosity that drives creativity and has driven it in my case. Of course, I enjoyed sewing and painting as a child, but this spiritual approach that I now take with my art understandably came much later.

For me, the art I make is spiritual. It is a spiritual art that strives for the essence, for what remains when everything is subtracted. And this essence I find for example in nature or when I go back to the origin of the experience. For example, I have a drawing called "Promise". Thereby I follow the essence of a promise; my promise; a promise that was given to me etc. The chain of interpretation is long and can be continued indefinitely. I also see the point of view why many people are dismissive of spirituality. Or even reject the concept of the soul, which I often actually want to express with the mention about this essence. There is no right and wrong here. I only follow a path that I have recognized as true for me and with that I do not want to dispute the truth of someone else.

Meanwhile art helps me to express my language and to understand myself and the world better. In my case, the contemplation and examination of abstract art was very formative, because I felt so truly understood and seen. Abstract art is a language that I use and that fulfills me when I come across it and can read and understand it. I can read from art itself who I am at the moment. I understand works of art like mirrors or projections.

In the end, it is always this huge interest in the world and in people that drives me and has also brought me to art. And this genuine interest in others leads to a better understanding of oneself. I would say of myself that I am a person who has many questions. "The real study of mankind is man", is a quote from Goethe, which I often think of.

DM: Creative inspiration is what an artist always look for to create. What inspires you to create what you create?

Sabrina: I was always since childhood driven by a feeling of „wanting to go home“. It stopped later in life after an intense confrontation and exploration of oneself why I always felt that way. I could transformed that feeling into a desire of striving to be in a state of real belonging. And I came as close as possible to this feeling in the creation of artworks that spoke my language. My discovery of that language came primarily through exposure to other works of art, but not necessarily to another artist. I have always loved going to museums to engage in a visual exploration. I was not beforehand interested in the story behind the art, but more in which image I could connect with. I would say I was lucky to be able to experience that sense of truth through art. And once you've felt the truth, you focus your whole life on wanting to encounter that truth again and again.

DM :  In general, how do you arrive at creating an art work?

Sabrina: I'm interested in natural, simple things. Like a walk in a forest or a sunset in a clearing. By simple things, I mean an attempt to get as close as possible to truth. And for me, truth lies within matter; I don't just want to represent its shell, that is, its appearance.

My drive is a confrontation with what really is. By this I mean to depict my engagement with my reality in a new medium and translate it into my language, which is a visual language. I want to get back to the original essence and push through the veiling. This observation does not need a realistic image in my artworks. The use of Abstraction dissolves fixed structures and simplifies my perceived environment. Through this dissolution and reduction, I can create space in which the things I observe can unfold. To describe it in words it is always so incomplete and it can be interpreted quickly differently, which is also perfectly legitimate, because it’s also a part to be able to take infinitely many ways. In my work, this reduction of figurative elements is essential to categorize and classify as little as possible and I want to expand this space of interpretation as much as possible. My abstract works act as a data storage space. A simplification. A decoding. But above all they are a language.

DM:  What are the creative process you deploy to create?

Sabrina: I love working with paper, crayons and chalks. I prefer dry materials like crayons or graphite, which are very easy to smudge by hand on the paper to build up layers. The layering is crucial in the artwork. One layer after another is put on, by adding and taking away. In the process, the foreground becomes the background again and again.

At the beginning I have no concrete image in mind that I pursue. Color and form selection happens intuitively in the process. There is a trust that the image will develop itself. You could also call it intuitive painting. It gives me great pleasure to give intuition space to work. This strengthens it and at the same time it has a stronger effect in everyday life. I think many artists are ahead of others in knowing or feeling things sooner because of their own way of working, this ability to act intuitively is more amplified. I think one of the greatest gifts we have is our own intuition.

DM:  Does subject matter influence your paintings? If yes can you kindly describe, please?

Sabrina: Many of my paintings deal with landscapes. At some point I started to build up a series of abstract landscapes in my work. I especially like the light and the colors, how they change at certain times. Soft blues in the early morning hours or different shades of red at sunset. "The sunset" often appears as theme in my abstract landscapes. I deal with it because it represents truth and beauty to me. I love how the light falls differently in winter than in summer, for example. Depending on what environment I'm in, my color palette adjusts as well. It's not something I consciously plan. It's only in retrospect that I realize that some of the color choices were taken from previous landscape photographs. Somehow you carry everything you've seen and felt with you. And that fascinates me and that influences me.

DM:  How was your journey as an artist so far? Can you describe the challenges that you had to face on the way?

Sabrina: It makes me happy to meet people with a similar sensibility. My work has brought me to the right people. I find art extremely helpful in one's authenticity because it is somehow a legitimate tool to express who you are and in turn you attract who belongs to you. For me, relationships and encounters are the most important and formative things in life.

So it all started with the desire to make fashion. Then very quickly came the realization to be able to express my own perception more strongly through art and in addition, I was also not at all handicraft talented. I have then created in my early 20s a lot of graphics, which was very rare at the time, because actually illustrations with Photoshop were hardly to not yet popular and seen as art but still this work has made sense to me and I saw it that way. Following this urge then opened up an opportunity for me to collaborate with a designer for New York Fashion Week. That was 2017 and the initial desire to work with fashion was fulfilled through this detour because I followed my intuition. Only after that I really did focus on painting.

I studied art history in Vienna until 2020. I also believe that this study has extremely shaped my perspective. And often I forget that, because I look at art with a completely different background. I always want to know how a work of art was created. The motif is actually irrelevant. Then again, I look at art with an abstract eye, seeing areas of color and shapes, looking for a composition and how things interact with each other. I always notice how I am almost blind when looking at art. Because of my own way of working I often forget to recognize the motive or the figurative even if it is obvious. I forget to look for it because it doesn't matter in my world. I scan images by noticing the feeling I have when I look at it. That's why I say that images act as mirrors and I get reflected back what I am. That's why viewing is also a search for congruence with a self. Am I what I am looking at? To what percentage am I that? etc.

DM: What is your opinion about contemporary art and the life of a contemporary artist?

Sabrina: Contemporary art can be helpful in revealing or deepening new perspectives. Personally, I like it when topics are viewed from a new angle or placed in a new context. I admire every artist who wants to express their voice and finds a way to do so despite obstacles.

DM:  What do you foresee your future as an artist and progression of your own visual language?

Sabrina: The own visual language changes over time and with every new thought. Art grows with life and so I am also happy that my work is exposed to constant change and I want to allow what wants to happen. It is quite natural that it can happen when you observe an artist for a long time then at some point you no longer resonate with the artwork. Changes

always happen on both sides. I enjoy entering into this exchange and asking myself who I have become and why I now see this art or my world so differently. That's what I keep thinking when I look at older works of art of mine. It gives me pleasure to observe myself and my work over the years. But I am also happy to have people in my life who have accompanied me as an artist for years and are open to my changes.

I think artists have the potential to develop a more and more intense relationship to their own art over time (and the potential to lose the relationship to it again), which is so naturally understandable for oneself that it can become more and more difficult to understand for someone outside. On the one hand, I make art for myself, because I firmly believe that everyone must take their own place in what they feel called to do, but I also make art just as much for those who are willing to look or trying to find a place to be understood, as it was in my case.

I would like to work on the connection, that the abstract art that I make can perhaps be more easily understood. With doing so, I intend to sharpen the understanding of Abstract Art in general and how I see it.

(As told to Deviprasad C Rao, the curator of the online exhibition “Beyond the visible”)

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