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A Glimpse of Light Amongst Zombie Formalists

Nicola Barth, a German painter born in Mölln and working in Frankfurt am Main, was one of the artists that exhibited in the online exhibition “The Artist Story” that we carried out still in the global plight against Covid-19. Barth, who completed her master’s degree at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt in German language and literature, psychology and theatre, film and television studies, was one of the artists that we selected as a piece in the landscape that configured the exhibition.

In Barth’s paintings, results and processes merge into one. What we see are both a glimpse of a mental process and a result of the physical one. Traces of movement makes gestures perennial and though the frames of the painting constraint it not, allowing our imagination to expand the composition outside of it, the artwork remains equilibrated inside the limits of the canvas.

I have to confess that, in light of recent tendencies in the practice of abstract painting that has been taking place in the last years, fuelled by a social media in which flashy processes and colours guarantee a battery of “likes” and “follows”, I myself have been somehow skeptic of the future of abstraction. These trends give rise to the second generation of Zombie Formalists that we thought were already buried, in which form for the form’s sake, splashes, drips, and lines come to add close to nothing to that which we have been experiencing in abstraction for the last 40 years. But Bart’s work hits difference. Her composition almost looks like strange realities observed through a microscope, a new world yet so close to our own. Halfway between pure abstraction and an organic body that never finishes being defined.

Barth’s works are striking, yet humble in practice, no need for a spectacular process is needed simply because no spectacle is needed. Barth understands the dynamic essence of reality, in constant flow, time and space are expanded in compositions where figures are nowhere, in landscapes where time does not pass.

Only time will tell what’s to become of the hordes of zombies rising from the dead. Will they take over the abstract landscape together with the social media they have already conquered? Or is there space for hope in abstraction after all? Any apocalyptic story is in desperate need of heroes, those who stand up and refuse to accept fate. Barth is one of those protagonists we seek for, who bring us just that glimpse of light to tell us that, perhaps, not everything is lost after all.


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