Peter Merten, art historian and cultural scholar about Jana Dettmer
Jana Dettmer, a successful corporate lawyer, has also been active as an artist and arts promoter for many years. She is one of those fortunate few with a lifelong passion for art who has managed to establish herself as a professional artist.
It’s not enough just to be interested in art, of course – you also have to have talent if you want to meet your own high standards and those of art lovers. Both are true of Jana Dettmer. After having dedicated herself to the arts all her life, she decided during a phase of personal questioning to venture an additional career as an artist. She proceeded to take courses at an acclaimed art academy to hone her skills and offered to work as assistant to renowned artists she was already in contact with so that she could delve deeper into the versatile possibilities and opportunities for undertaking her own artistic activity.
Mastering this mammoth task ended up benefitting Dettmer three times over: it helped her find her way back to personal self-fulfilment; for her work as a lawyer it opened up new ways of seeing that enable her to empathise even better with clients’ concerns; and as an artist it raised her awareness for how mastering techniques and developing aesthetic ideas give her the power to both shape her own life and have a greater impact on those around her.
Questioning the meaning of life is evidently the sole preserve of human beings, because only we are equipped for self-referential reflection. This realisation, which often only comes to us when we engage with the arts outside of our usual everyday activities, makes the significance and the added value of art tangible to the attentive observer. People tend not to spend time pondering the meaning of life as long as their lifestyle gives no occasion for doubt or questioning. But when events occur that can no longer be integrated into their existing notion of meaning, this may lead to an existential crisis. Once an individual has managed to cope with a critical event that led to a loss of meaning, however, that event will suddenly make sense to them. A major difficulty in dealing with questions of meaning in life is the fundamental faculty of the human mind to call into question a point of view once assumed valid, or to change its judgement at will.
It is against this backdrop that Jana Dettmer plays her dual role as lawyer and visual artist, asking: What can art actually do for me and for others? Her starting point is Joseph Beuys’s declaration: Everyone is creative and can be an artist – if they are willing to risk constant confrontation with their own ego. Dettmer’s own artistic development has led her toward an increasingly intensive examination of the power of colours and their meaning for our psyche.
She thus sees her role in art as that of a mediator with the opportunity to communicate with other people unfiltered through the work of art, thereby perhaps exerting a positive influence on their lives. Until modern times, working as an artist was the preserve of a privileged few, whose works could only be called art once designated as such by their clients. In the past, people used the neutral term “work”, and it was usually only at the moment when the client or collector passed judgement on the work that it became art. Today, the process is more democratic, because anyone can potentially participate. Anyone can make art – provided they have something to say. The message is what turns a work into art. The more exciting, the more profound that message, the more interesting and thus better the art. A deep engagement with colour is unmistakable in Jana Dettmer’s oeuvre to date. Figurative elements are rare, because her world is devoted to the magic of atmospheric perception. Her dedication to mastering new artistic techniques to perfection has been a boon to her paintings. Although the pictures appear abstract, worlds open up therein that evoke for each viewer a very personal meaning.
From the contemplation of abstract art, people have realised that it is possible to render interior psychic processes visible through artistic means. What could not be expressed in representational images had to be interpreted, or could be understood only by asking the artist. The task of art in the twenty-first century will be above all to advance this development. This includes, first of all, giving as many people as possible access to artistic work and thus to a form of non-verbal self-expression. And it is equally important to learn and to teach people how to understand themselves better through an engagement with art, and how to draw important conclusions from this engagement for their own actions.
It is no wonder that women were the first to devote themselves to atmospheric relationships as a field of knowledge, in the process also allowing men to explore their emotional world. Sigmund Freud would not have been able to gain his insights into the life of the psyche without the many willing women who divulged their most secret thoughts. Step by step, scientists set out to investigate the world of consciousness and the unconscious. Women may therefore be better able to make associations regarding how thinking actually works, how we deal with mental states.
In her pictures, Jana Dettmer traces the slightest of seismic movements. With her art she finds ways to give shape to these often invisible atmospheric sensations. For her, colours, especially the infinite nuances of monochrome shades, are not only a means of aesthetic refinement in the fine arts but also a practical way to breathe life into spaces, to help others feel a connection to them. To this end, she also deliberately takes on projects that go beyond the individual work of art.
The conventional distinction between fine and applied art therefore continually astonishes her. Dettmer takes issue with this differentiation at least in one point. Under the pretext of elevating the fine arts to a rarefied realm, art tends to be banned from real life, just as calling women “the fair sex” attempts to keep them at an institutionally entrenched aesthetic or moral distance and thus banish them from where things are really happening.
The fact is, however, that the versatility that abstraction allows offers Jana Dettmer a prime opportunity to communicate with others through the colours of her paintings and graphics. The artist invites all those interested in art to take part in this dialogue. Because she expresses her personal feelings and perceptions in the poetry of colour, her art can actually make a difference if it reaches people who feel motivated by it.
This is what makes Dettmer’s art so interesting and such a wonderful enhancement to both private and public spaces.
1965 born in Braunschweig, Niedersachsen
1984 – 1990 studied law and business administration
1990 – 1999 stayed and worked in the USA, study trips in Europe and overseas
1999 – dato independent insolvency administrator with offices in Cologne and Bonn
2013 – 2015 studied painting, Freie Kunstschule Köln
2016 established the art platform KunstStücke by Dettmer
Since 2015 autodidactic further trainings, assisting and working with diverse artists (Michael Jansen, Heinz Zolper, Christos Karas u.a.).
Focussing on monochrome painting, engaging in esthetical, pychological and philosophical meaning of colours. Starting strong exhibition activities (Discovery Art Fair Cologne, ST-ART Strassbourg, Artforum TAS Athen).