Exhibition text

On November 17, 1921, the painter Ursula Schultze-Bluhm, who went by the name "Ursula", was born in Mittenwalde (Brandenburg). She died on April 9, 1999 in Cologne. In her generation Ursula was one of the still very few women in art. In her painting she is unique. Own and the obsessions as well as aggressions of others she sublimated into a representationally designed world from the delicate ink pen drawing to sheer tearing form and color in the large painting to the third dimension in soft materials, such as fur, but peppered with tacks and razor blades, which could develop from the surface to reliefs or to independent sculptural formations, her "assemblages", or - around 1970 - even to room-filling as well as room-filling installations, then still called "environments".

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Ursula experienced the decline and collapse of Central Europe at first hand in her formative third decade of life. She helped to shape the reconstruction as an employee of the Amerika-Haus in Frankfurt am Main, where she met the painter Bernard Schultze, whose life and work companion she became with admirable intensity until her death. In 1950 she began to paint, starting from the two-dimensional abstraction of Willi Baumeister, for example, but after a short time found a personal concretion in the field of tension between naive painting, art brut and Informel. Despite fifty years of working with Bernard Schultze in the same room, the positions of both never approached each other, but rather developed individually in constant discussion and confrontation. Ursula created her own "individual mythology" as a woman, which makes her appear lonely and large in her generation of artists, still completely dominated by men.

Experiences and obsessions, reality and dream, the real and the imagined coagulate in sharp drawing of naively caricatured form and the most violent, dissonant color. Through this Ursula opens her inner self and at the same time spikily hides and defends it, just as she later hid tacks and razor blades in the fur parts of her large assemblages so that no one could get too close to her vulnerable heart. This and the art - her husband's and her own - she defended militantly to the end.

Whether one can really believe her touch of lyricism in "Papillon" from 1962 in this exhibition, the second part of the title "qui est un Icarus" immediately calls into question and fairy tale like in "Drei einsam im Kaleschen-Meer" from 1963 reminds with "lonely" immediately of the many open and hidden cruelties of the fairy tale world as also in "Vogel und das Lustschlösschen" from 1971. Behind these are concrete experiences, as in "Die Alte von M." (The Old Woman of M.) from 1966, whom Ursula saw quite suddenly sitting on a high armchair in a backyard during a visit to her birthplace there that year, and who could still tell her stories from the time of her birth. "In the Café" from 1989, the artist encounters the horrors of alcohol and nicotine in the form of a dangerous giant insect shimmying down from the ceiling between her and the glass and cigarette. The ashtray on the table of the smoking drinker is even labeled as such, perhaps so that it was not missed. For their perception was often subject to violent sensory illusions, which could turn the people near them into monsters, as in "Le grand diner des petits monstres". Perhaps the "petits monstres" were also children, to whom the childless artist had a highly ambivalent relationship ranging from touching affection to downright spooky aversion.

She encounters "fine society" in all its bizarreness in the sovereignly stilted "Impératrice des Indes" of 1995, perhaps only an upturned contemporary, in the chance meeting of "The Woman, the Bird and the Toad" in 1996 or a "Bizarre Trio" in China as well as a giant dog in "Welch eine Begegnung" and figures draping themselves "Around a Swan" in the same year. If these observations were rather ironically commented outlandishness of people and situations, the society shapes itself again more abysmally in "The Two Sisters" of 1997, which obviously have little in common, and the "Terror Masquerade" of the same year in the form of the masks of the choir in the Greek theater, the masks of the dance of death of Mary Wigmann or the shivering figures in winter expulsive spring parades of the Alpine countries. At the end of the exhibition the painter gives a review of "A fine society".respectively their heads of strange multiform.

Not only in terms of content does Ursula go completely her own and independent way, but she also draws her means of expression and her stylistic possibilities from herself alone. There are neither models nor anything comparable. This is astonishing and probably the reason why her work has not yet received the attention in the art world that it deserves because of its originality and quality. Ursula herself, the fighter, was quite aware of these facts as a matter of course. Unfortunately, she was not able to live to see the ninth decade of life, which is often so essential for women in this situation today. Our friend died very suddenly for all of us on April 9, 1999 in Cologne.

In 1991 we showed a retrospective of Ursula with catalogue in Campione d'Italia and in 1998 in Wichtrach/Bern a double exhibition together with the work of Bernard Schultze. This time our Ursula exhibition is in the context of the parallel exhibition "Women", both in the gallery's main building, a reference to the enormous active and passive role of women in the art world, a reference that should perhaps once again reduce the still latent machismo to absurdity a little more.

Shortly after our 1991 exhibition, our unforgettable fellow student Sabine Fehlemann showed Ursula's life's work at the Von der Heydt Museum in Wuppertal, the Stadtmuseum Cologne, and the Kunsthalle Bremen with a comprehensive catalog book published by Hirmer-Verlag in Munich. The equally unforgettable curator of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Evelyn Weiss, published the fundamental monograph on Ursula in 2007, also by Hirmer-Verlag in Munich, with her own contributions and those of Heinz Althöfer, Barbara Herrmann, and Christa Lichtenstern, as well as an index of all of Barbara Herrmann's works.

Wolfgang Henze


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