NJE Profile Feature: Silke Berens

As a Namibian-born artist of German descent, Berens’ (b. 1974) most recent solo exhibition, ´Brothers in Arms´ examined the perpetuation of the heroic soldier narrative spanning more than three generations of the artist’s family, with her grandfather, father and brother having served in the two world wars and most recently, the Liberation War fought on the northern borders of Namibia.

The artist is largely excluded from this narrative by nature of her gender and functions as observer and witness to the embodiment and enactment of the ‘noble warrior’ and ‘comrade’ archetype within the construct of warfare. She perceives both senselessness and absurdity in the much-extolled virtues supposedly achieved by participating in combat: Honour, glory, sacrifce to a greater cause and the compliance to time-honoured masculine norms such as manliness and patriotic duty. Prompted by the specifc experience of her brother’s active service as a conscripted medic in the South African Defence Force, fighting soldiers of the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO), Berens reflects on the existential question: what value or meaning can possibly remain in warfare’s notions of brotherhood, courage and honour, when the outcome consists of hearts and minds irrevocably broken and damaged?

Berens is a teacher by profession and is currently studying towards a Psychology Honours degree at the University of Namibia. Since completing her fine art qualification, she has exhibited in numerous group and solo shows in South Africa, Namibia and Germany. Her work is represented in private, corporate and public collections in South Africa, Namibia, Germany, and England since 1998.

Berens works primarily in oil paints, from a source of personal experiences and contexts. Her artworks are typically marked by a tension between figuration and abstraction. The use of texture, layering, and intentional obliteration characterise a spontaneous and intuitive approach. She is currently employing mixed media to explore themes connected to the manifestation of trauma, by examining narratives of individual and collective memory and myth.

 

  Installation from ‘Brothers in Arms’ (2017),  Silke Berens, Oil on paper and plastic tanks and trucks, NFS. 

Installation from ‘Brothers in Arms’ (2017), Silke Berens, Oil on paper and plastic tanks and trucks, NFS. 

  Relics,  Silke Berens, Ink, collage & oils on watercolour paper, 410 x 540mm, framed R 6 720.00 excl. vat

Relics, Silke Berens, Ink, collage & oils on watercolour paper, 410 x 540mm, framed R 6 720.00 excl. vat

  Collateral Damage,  Silke Berens, Ink, collage & oils on canvas, 500 x 700 mm, framed  R 10 080.00 excl. vat

Collateral Damage, Silke Berens, Ink, collage & oils on canvas, 500 x 700 mm, framed  R 10 080.00 excl. vat