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About Brigitte's Work

the following article is a scholarly look at the work in context of  art history  
by Douglas Fairfield PhD. curator of the Albuquerque Museum of Art.

Brigitte Brüggemann creates art from one place: Nature. That is her wellspring. Her landscapes in oil, watercolor and pastel are not traditional however. They are visual manifestations of a spiritual reality prompted by intrinsic forces in nature and life.

Her creative process begins with intimate communions with nature where, according to the artist, "the inner landscape mirrors the outer landscape." Consequently, Brüggemann's work is highly personal, yet it evokes a universal familiarity. Her pieces are visual comfort zones, places that we have all encountered at one time or another however briefly, and subconsciously we experience a better place.

Brüggemann has traveled to and lived in a variety of places.Born in Stuttgart, Germany, during World War II, she bore witness to the horrors and devastation of military conflict. As a young woman Brüggemann resided in Paris, London and the Bahamas. Extended visits to Africa, Greece, India, Indonesia, the Middle East, Thailand and Bali have put her in touch with places and people that few of us will ever know. In the United States the artist has lived in Connecticut, Washington D.C., Tennessee, Texas and Colorado before establishing her permanent residence in New Mexico in 1990.

Given what appears to have been a nomadic lifestyle one would expect Brüggemann's art to be wildly eclec tic. But at this point in her life and artistic career her vision has become singular, even localized. She confesses as much: "My paintings have been inspired by my garden and the landscape of New Mexico: a place of light and color...when I look at nature I see paint and color."

When looking at Brüggemann's paintings so too does the viewer see paint and color manipulated abstractly; in short this is the formal process of painting. But the inspiration for her work comes distinctively from a world based in reality. Indeed, one cannot help but see expressive notations of birds in flight, flowers in bloom, a gecko in the grass and other tangible contrivances to her garden landscape.In fact, Brüggemann's paintings may be seen as metaphors for life in her garden. Her paintings are fully realized to the same extent that a garden is planted and nurtured to manifest life. On yet another level her work often transcends the garden and may be viewed as microcosms of life in general. The dichotomies of life (the yin yang factor) - light and darkness, peace and synergy, life and death - are instilled within her imagery and are key considerations to understanding Brüggemann's work.

But floating details such as birds and blossoms, even the temples and shrines that allude to her many travels, serve as visual snippets of realities that suggest narrative. Brüggemann calls them "symbolic abstractions." There are incidental marks, shapes, and forms that ground her imagery in a familiar universe. Comprised of things animal, mineral, and vegetable. Or, as she puts it, "Water, wind, cloud, tree and flower are my connection[s] to nature and [together they] represent the cycles of life.

Titles by the artist prompt narrative even more.But her paintings and pastels are not literal translations of the environment. They are emotional sensations put down abstractly regarding the transience of nature. So story telling is best left to our imagination. This is part of the challenge and fun interpreting her work.

For the most part, Brüggemann's paintings border on the nonobjective, not far removed from Claude Monet's (1840-1926) late pond studies at Giverny. And like the French Impressionist's late work, Brüggemann's observations of light and color have taken her work to the brink of total abstraction. Her paintings exist as lyrical contemplations of the most ephemeral phenomena in nature: the flux of color and the passage of time. What we are presented with are externalizations of emotional responses to natural stimuli.

In The Art of Spiritual Harmony (1910) Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) wrote: "As the organic form falls into the background, the abstract ideal achieves greater prominence. But the organic form possesses an inner harmony of its own; its inner note will always be heard."This holds true in Brüggemann's work. Her pieces are decisively abstract, yet one clearly senses the essence of nature as the vital component. The "inner landscape" that Brüggemann talks about - that which is manifested abstractly on canvas-is drawn directly from nature. And the artist communicates that essence via high-key color and rhapsodic brushstrokes.

Interpretations aside, the lyricism in Brüggemann's painting style acknowledges that of Kandinsky's circa 1912, though less forceful. Her marks are romantic curvilinear sweeps that take us from one point to another within the composition.Primary focal points are rare. We encounter nebulous fields - Brüggemann invites us to follow her improvisational mark-making to the edges, even beyond the physical borders of the canvas. This is why she avoids formal framing techniques. She wants her viewer to fully apprehend the extended relationship between image and that, which exists outside of the image.

This is, in itself, a 17th-century Baroque sensibility. And from an art historical viewpoint Baroque space is very much a component in Brüggemann's work. Painted space, that which we see on canvas, is suggestive of space more expansive.

Incidental marks and swaths of color within her expressionistic compositions guide our attention to a place beyond the picture plane. And that place is nature, a very real place that becomes emotionally activated on a subconscious level. But make no mistake; Brüggemann's paintings are not derivative of 17th -century Dutch landscapes. They are contemporary constructs realized through modernist sensibilities.

Her work is modernist in the same sense as Italian painter Piero Dorazio 1927) described modern painting. Such work, he declares, is "a continuous structure of energetic elements which can appear in different combinations, relationships, scale, and most important, color and light values, closer to the spiritual, closer to the instinct of the modern soul." This describes Brüggemann's art perfectly. Indeed, her warm color schemes and preponderance of expressive, energetic brushstrokes are life affirming.

Physically, Brüggemann's painting surfaces exude the efflorescence of nature. Her use of glaze creates atmospheric qualities of depth, movement and transformation. Opacity is juxtaposed with translucency. High-key colors commingle harmoniously. And her expressive marks suggest Nature's innate disposition for change.

Consequently, viewers new to Brüggemann's work have commented on how she must be perpetually happy or, at least, very content in her life. The artist concedes felicity, but in a light-hearted retort reminds her public that, "I am, after all, German."

 Interestingly, it is the few darker pieces in Brüggemann's oeuvre, perhaps germane to her heritage, that offer mystery and intrigue. Smaller in scale and somber in palette these intimate studies of isolated blossoms incite personal reflection. Not unlike 19th -century German romanticism Brüggemann's dark paintings seek to connect nature with a deeper realm of the human soul. But by no means are these pieces saddening; they instead suggest a more pensive mood, more meditative then responsive in character.

Most often Brüggemann's palette tends toward the warm She incorporates colors that stimulate and induce a positive state of mind. And though the artist is keenly aware of local color, floral hues, mountain tonalities and the brilliant New Mexico sky - it is but a catalyzing effect upon her choice of color that is markedly arbitrary. This is another modernist construct that Bruggemann instills into her work.

Frenchman Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) stated that, "The main subject [in my painting] is the surface which has its color, over and above [that] of the objects."

His use of arbitrary color was visually disturbing to the 19th -century Parisians. Most viewers, except, perhaps, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) and the Nabis (a group of painter in 1888 in which Bonnard was associated), could not conceive how color could preside separately from subject matter. Bonnard's colors were not fixed in time of place. Neither are Brüggemann's color schemes. Her colors exist ostensibly, symbolizing nature rather than imitating it directly.Hence, Brüggemann's work never looks calculated. It asserts itself with a childlike spontaneity resonating with sincerity, discovery, and playfulness.

One can reference Brüggemann's work to the bold experiments by Bonnard, Gauguin, and Kandinsky, among others. The liberation of color, the symbolism of color, a display of emotion via expressive brushstrokes, and the objectification of painting are part and parcel of Brüggemann's imagery. These artistic innovations initiated 20th-century modernism. They now exist as part of the lexicon of contemporary art making. These forces of expressionism are not only seen in Brüggemann's work but compel abstract painting in general.

Finally, Brüggemann's work may, indeed, be traced to artistic antecedents. It can be formally analyzed by way of technique, style, and execution. But in the end one clearly understands its source. Her paintings, watercolors, and pastels are visual celebrations of nature. They are also colorful exhilarations of life. And her message is simple enough:  "To bring joy into people's lives with color and beauty."

© Douglas Fairfield Phd ,Curator Albuquerque Museum of Art

Brigitte Brüggemann's love for art is more than a personal passion. It's a family affair that spans five genearations. Born in 1942 in Stuttgart, Germany, Brüggemann represents the fourth generation of  painters on her mother’s side. Her mother Elisabeth was taught as a young woman by her father Eberhard Schmid, who at the beginning of the 20th Century was a guild master with nine apprentices. Eberhard studied at the Academy of Art in Stuttgart at a time when great changes were taking place in the arts. Brigitte’s sister’s son, Olivier Roquigny, is the 5th generation of painters and musician in the family. A thirty-something living in Paris, Roquigny had his first debut show in Santa Fe with Brüggemann Contemporary in August 2003. His work shows strong kinship to Brigitte’s work in it’s playfulness and beautiful color. Olivier’s work can be seen at:

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© brigitte brüggemann 2006                     last revised april 2006