Series of Works


Object, installation, work on paper, painting

1990 to 1994

o. T. (30.05), 1991 to 1992, detail

The fossilised sedimentary rock lignite (also known as brown coal), along with the pigment Cassel earth which is extracted from it and the ash that is its residue, was of longstanding interest to Maja Weyermann, and featured in her paintings, drawings, installations and objects.
The coal pigments are applied to paper or primed canvas with broad brushstrokes, combining with the fluid colour pigments, which are mostly brown. As Weyermann saw it, it was “the independent existence of things” that interested her about lignite. “They communicate with us when we turn to them, I’m convinced of that."1 As a fossil fuel, industrially extracted raw material, and loose and powdery painting substance, the material possesses various layers of meaning that Weyermann contemplates in her activities as an artist; in this case it is caricaturing the promise of eternity that painting makes by taking the history of lignite extraction as an example: “The lignite works are about investigating painting as an art form burdened by its own tradition. Skilful painting techniques attempt to redeem a claim to eternity. I find that problematic; what can even be ‘eternal’? And why?”2 The independent life of this material conceals the structure it has been given by human hand, in the case of the ash paintings giving the painting surface a cracked, porous patina that seems to inscribe “the information about its use, burning and dissolution”.3 Weyermann provides the material with space in the Braunkohlebildern [Lignite Pictures]. The viewer is subjected to the ambivalence of beauty and destruction – the material’s warmth and energy-giving characteristics are heard as much as the aspect of the environmental destruction that results from extracting the coal.

1, 2, 3 Weyermann, Maja: “Gespräch von Maja Weyermann und Klara Schmid (Kunstwissenschaftlerin)” [Conversation between Maja Weyermann and Klara Schmid (art theorist)] in: Goldrausch Frauennetzwerk Berlin e.V. (ed.), Maja Weyermann: Braunkohlearbeiten 1990–1992, exh. cat. Berlin 1993, unpaginated.

Artworks (40) in the Series

Updated December 19, 2022