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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Bettina Sellmann

My portraits are mostly based on images that I find in magazines. These sources I transform by feeding them through my own sensibility, thus "refilling" these "shells" of people with meaning. My portraits are about human experiences, difficult to define emotions, about memories of different times and mortality.


I apply the graphite in my drawings by use of pencils, but also my hands, erasers and tissues. In the same way I use brushes, but also sponges and airbrush in my paintings. These techniques result in making the image appear artificially produced, rather than handmade, to parallel the unlikely media sources I use to convey my personal experiences.


Often a perfectly composed image can capture reality better than reality itself. I am interested in the moment, where fashion-, consume-, glamour world and my own personal vision collapse. I correspond color to these unlikely media sources. The paintings seem to melt on the surface. It is in this split second after perfection, where things start to look uncanny and distorted that the paintings begin to resolve. Our experiences become clichés, our lives fictions used to describe actual feelings. Our heads are full of images from the outside, but that does not make our life less real. I would like the viewer to feel attracted to my paintings and detached simultaneously, to 'believe in them although they are unbelievable'.

vision / childhood images / classics

Some images have been in my head since my childhood. I know exactly what they look like and I recognize them when I draw/paint them. I call them classics because they seem so universal to me. A constant scanning of my life and my experiences is necessary to stay in balance. This finds its way into my work, but in ways and following a logic I do not understand. The more I let myself be, the clearer I see the contents of my work. It is not an intellectual position about pre-composed images or appropriation. Some images directly affect the nervous costume; they seem like already existing imprints.


Hunter College, New York City, USA (MFA)
DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) - Year Stipend
Skowhegan Summer Residency Program, Maine, USA (Full Scholarship)
École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (Erasmus Grant)
Städelschule Frankfurt am Main, Germany (Master)

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