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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Jörg Madlener: ‘the portrait is ongoing … never finished'

By Carol Montana - reporter/photographer

The artist Jörg Madlener at the Neversink Art Gallery during the opening night of his exhibition “The Jordanian Woman.”
From Dusseldorf, Germany, where he was born, to Hoboken, NJ and Claryville, where he now resides with his wife Midori Kurihana and daughter Alma, portrait artist Jörg Madlener has traveled the world. He is currently exhibiting one of his latest works, “The Jordanian Woman” at the Neversink General Store Art Gallery, where it will be on display through March 28. His work encompasses all of the disciplines he has studied: the humanities, architecture, art and philosophy, as well as his love of music -- the German title for the exhibit being “Die Frau ohne Schatten, (The Woman Without Shadow)” after an opera by Richard Strauss.
Madlener studied the humanities and architecture, then switched to art and philosophy at the Frankfort School. He became a student of Otto Dix, the German painter and printmaker, noted for his harsh realistic depictions of the brutality of war.
Madlener went on to study in Antwerp, and worked as a set designer for both small and national theatres in Belgium, Holland, Germany, and also in Aspen and Denver, Colorado, where he designed sets along with his wife Midori, an architect.
His theatrical designs were for classical theatre including the Greek playwrights, Shakespeare, Moliere and Bertolt Brecht, and all the while he continued to paint.
He traveled to Venice where he did his first group of paintings titled “Death in Venice,” named after the novel by Thomas Mann and movie by Luchino Visconti.
Madlener's fascination with the American artist Jackson Pollock brought him to America. Here he's done portraits of Pollock, as well as landscapes using the abstract expressionist's own technique, “where the brush doesn't touch the painting - you do it all by spitting and dripping.”
Over the course of the next 20 years, Madlener did 32 portraits of the composer Gustav Mahler. “That is my theme,” said the painter. “For me the portrait is ongoing, a series, a sequence, never finished.”
For his current exhibition at the Neversink General Store Art Gallery, Madlener, illustrates a young woman he met in Abu Dhabi. She became his student, and during two months' worth of Skype sessions, he made 72 drawings of her, along with taking 900 screen shots, followed by another 300 drawings and 50 paintings. “The portrait is something that … you cannot make one portrait like you make a portrait of a corporate CEO that is framed, very photographic. The face is something very different - the face for me - when I look at this model - she looks also at me as I look at her - two gazes - I also think I'm painting the future of the face, what will be the destiny.
“I work mostly with photographs and screen pictures, but my training was with a living model - and I still need models to draw from life, but I need many photographs, I need hundreds to make paintings. … It's really in the conversation the face changes constantly.”
Madlener's work can be found in museums the world over including the Guggenheim in New York, the Museum of Modern Art in Brussels, and the Albertina in Vienna, as well as in private collections in Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, France, Spain and many others. He's taught in art schools and universities in Germany and Belgium, and privately in Italy, Abu Dhabi and the United States.
Up next is his exhibit “Cassandra” in Energy Park (a remodeled Cold War bunker in Saerbeck, Germany), and “Elegy for Syria” in Worms, at a festival called Nibelungen.
“I think the relationship between the painter and the model is a very complex one,” said Madlener. “… everybody makes selfies now, but for the painter, it's a new challenge. And for that reason, in the drawings you see movement like a movie.”
The Neversink General Store Art Gallery is located at 4 Schumway Road in Neversink, and is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For additional information go to or call 985-2076.

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