Ellen Strasser is a German painter currently sharing her time between Munich and her studio in the beautiful Italian countryside of Castelnuovo di Porto by Rome, where I am lucky enough to visit her for a couple of days now.
We were close friends while studying in Munich, Germany, and although we don’t meet very often we have remained very good friends all these years. Ellen studied painting while I studied Photography . I used to love spending time in her studio with the smells of oil paints, and the longing back to that studio has been with me for these last 25 years and probably finally got me to start this course!
She has an amazing studio space flooded by light- with some pictures of us 25 years ago 🙂
She is working both with large oil paintings and smaller paper works that are collages which are a combination of drawn elements and found items.
I have always just loved her art!
One thing that I am very inspired by is the joy and spontaneity with which Ellen approaches the painting. She starts with abstract shapes and colours and then keeps turning the canvas around looking for shapes that become meaningful.
Today we were turning this big canvas in all directions, with some pink plantlike background growth and bright yellow dragonflies/ fairies/ blossoms appearing.
The grey black painting to the right was one of her favorites painted in Germany, but in the transport to Italy, the plastic wrapping damaged the canvas. Ellen saw this as a happy accident and emphasized every dot caused by the wrapping, till it changed the painting to some more print like art work:
These two paintings are not finished yet. The blue and pink one is a collage on canvas, the orange one is one of the very rare figurative paintings Ellen is doing. Mostly she works in rather abstract paintings with some recognizable shapes appearing, angels, birds, flapping wings, but the shapes or subject matters are never clearly defined.
There is always something dreamlike or romantic in the paintings, but then some other element will add something slightly disturbing- the shape of the head is not quite human, a cage on the throat of the bird, the pink flowers morphing into something threatening, flesh eating perhaps. Besides the simply beautiful colours , these contrasts are what attracts me to her paintings. There is always an in-between, an unsettling sense of unfinished or not yet understood , that attracts me.
In her collages, Ellen uses both some personal drawings and some cut out images from magazines that she sometimes paints over. It was useful for me to see how lightly she deals with ready made images and draws all kind of different separate elements and then just sees if they fit, like a puzzle.
I am just so happy to be here these few precious days. Besides it being wonderful to connect to a dear friend, I feel so inspired by her art and her way of working !