Dr. Heinz Stahlhut

On the Cooperation Between Ulrike Seyboth and Ingo Fröhlich, Studio Talk 2012

Even in times of artist groups and delegating the creative process to third parties, that two artists join together and share a studio in which they collaborate is still something special.

However, that was not always so. From the Middle Ages into the 18th century, it was a usual practice in Europe that in an artist’s workshop, every painter was specializing in a particular motif or a certain genre, and this was then contributed to a joint work. But due to the rise of the cult of the genius in the late 17th century, this practice went out of favor. For modern aesthetics, the work of art created by one individual was regarded a product of western art, while a joint art production was associated with archaic, medieval, or “primitive” non-European cultures. Thus a big gulf opened up between high art, which was associate with qualities such as uniqueness, individuality, and originality, and cooperation in the artistic field.

At the beginning of the 19th century there were already tendencies towards artistic cooperation, for example with the Nazarene movement, founded in 1808 as St. Lukas-Bruderschaft, and comparable artist communities. The function of these groups was above all to support individual artists and strengthen their position vis-à-vis an indifferent or marginalizing society, and to establish an artistic trend.

The reasons for such forms of collaborations are numerous. Zdenek Felix, for example, sees temporary cooperation between artists almost as a condition for artistic progress, giving the examples of the intellectual and stylistic interaction between Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, Le Corbusier and Amédée Ozenfant.

According to Felix, such a cooperation works as a continuous exchange of ideas and experiences in a productive working process, in the course of which the individual part is transformed into another, new self. He cites the example of the cadavares exquis of the surrealistes, whose purpose according to Max Ernst was “intellectual infection.” An intensification of a merely temporary cooperation is a longer or indeed even a life-long collaboration like the one between Sophie Taeuber and Hans Arp.

A further motive for working together is the desire to test how far the shared artistic views really go.

It is no accident that the practice of cooperation was especially increasingly populatr since the late 1960s and 70s, because it seemed then like a transgression of the limits ofindividual production and this an adequate response to the desire for extending the boundaries of the arts.

In conversation, Ulrike Seyboth and Ingo Fröhlich reveal the motives for their cooperation and speak about its character. Even though their genres of painting and drawing differ, and this material difference also means that each artist takes a different approach: Ulrike Seyboth’s pastose, opulent way of painting, which aims at a sensual presence contrats with the seemingly sober conceptual drawings of Ingo Fröhlich, where regular structures dominate.

What both artists have in common is a profound interest in the juxtaposition of emptiness and fullness; the white sheet of paper or the white canvas as a “resonating space” of color and regular structures is for both decisively important. This close affinity apparently makes it possible that one can be a “corrective” to the other and persuade him or her to pause, or give encouragement—an engagement where both become conscious of their individuality.