The “Black Portraits of the Soul” sculptural series mirror Gisela Berk’s journeys into the endless inner abyss of the soul.
In search for her spiritual roots and identity, she became enraptured by the infinite space of the soul, as if pulled by the core of a black hole. It is always also a way back home – in the sense of Novalis’s inquiry “where are we going?” It is precisely a return to the soul itself, where several divisions have been removed. Were she to have arrived there and completely merged with it, her mythical figures would not be standing here before the viewer. Along her path through the multiple layers of the subconscious, she threw out several anchors exactly at the points that offered her the greatest potential for identification. – At least presently on the islands of Greek myths, souled with the archetypal symbolic figures of an Oedipus or a Hermaphrodite.
She interprets her outlook on the world through these soul-like forms. She favors the mythical level over the scientific, also as a way of life, because she knows that the inner world bears everything. It simply needs to be skimmed. With her aversion to an experience of nature purely through analytical eyes, she is in good company with great thinkers such as Capra and Carl Friedrich von Weizsaecker, differing only by the expression of her intuitively gained experiences and reflections through 3-dimensional assemblages made of the basic materials of cement and nettle. The motifs and choice of themes clearly display her other passion - acting.
The all-devouring surface color black appearing like a Mayan shroud is but a cover that soon draws the eyes towards the bizarre form of her Oedipus and Hermaphrodite entities.
The two works presented here as an example, appear ironically broken. They have not been created in affirmation of psychological tradition, but are rather more an expression of a large subjective inquiry that, in a whimsical quirky manner, leaves much open and allows for completely new interpretations. Thus, you are compelled to ask, when a female and a male bust are positioned face to face, as if narcissistically looking into a mirror, whether both Hermaphrodite and the nymph Salmacis are seeking the advice of Narkissos or Narcissus before they ultimately merge into manwoman.
What is before the fusion in one sculpture is once again divided in another, this time with Oedipus. A female torso with legs spread wide open pointing upwards and a distinctly much smaller male torso with a hat covering the face portray Oedipus in a helpless victim role. Both parts are fixated in respectful distance to each other on a pedestal-like stool, eternally split into an irreversibly divided whole. These works were created using everyday objects alienated from their normal functional context.
Educational and research travels and her participation in the theater festival in Burkina Faso have awakened Gisela Berk’s interest in African cult traditions and Shamanism. Some of her work was inspired by the simplicity of African art such as Magic Bird that stands like a mask on stilt legs with glowing orange eyes. Her journey both inwards and outwards continues.