The title of Wolfgang Betke’s painting could as well serve as an excellent heading of a feature article reflecting the social turmoils we are currently going through:

Who do we wanna be after this?

As multiple the answers to this question are, as multi-layered is Betke’s work. 

Wolfgang Betke

Who do we wanna be after this?

There are sharply contoured sections and amorphous colour fragments, expressive brush strokes and precise details. When seen from a distance, these elements assemble into a face, whereas the very center of the picture is dominated by a white-coloured space, instead of a nose. This segment as well as the visible texture of the canvas around it are evidence of the use of an orbital sander. Betke indeed applies this tool to rework his paintings over and over again. 

Ultimately, his works are compositions of countless layers – the paint sanded down and applied again, – while the deepest ones are hardly palpable, but nevertheless visible traces, like in a palimpsest. Hence, layered time. The first applied layer of the paint lays years behind. What follows is a permanent encounter with what has just been painted and at the same time the contemplation about the next steps. Who do we wanna be after this? If this is indeed a portrait then it exemplifies, as unfathomable it appears, the disruption and vulnerability of human subjectivity, which is never completed, but evermore becoming.

Aurel Scheibler

Schöneberger Ufer 71, 10785 Berlin • • tel +49 (0)30 25 93 86 07

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