Born in Bochum, Germany, Schmidt encountered frequent relocations when she was growing up. Her family moved to Vietnam and Thailand before her sixth birthday. Throughout her youth, she studied with various art instructors and when the time came to commit to a career path, she opted to major in architecture at the Polytechnic University of Barcelona. Schmidt has received multiple awards. In 2018 she received the prestigious Columbia Threadneedle Prize for Figurative Art. She also has been awarded with various prizes at the Art Renewal Center Salon. Her works have been exhibited internationally in individual and group exhibitions, among others at the Mall Galleries in central London, at the Salmagundi Club in New York, at NordArt in Germany, at the MEAM in Barcelona and during the Venice Biennale in Italy. Currently she lives and works as an artist and urban planning architect in Bilbao, Spain.
Ana Schmidt graduated from the Polytechnic University of Barcelona, with a MSc in Architecture. She has attended and performed several workshops and is now a member of the Art Renewal Center, as an Arc Living Master.
Ana Schmidt creates paintings which explore the dimensions of the outcast landscape, of the abandoned, of what Man leaves behind. In the artists words:
“My paintings are realistic depictions of urban landscapes. I navigate manmade spaces to discover subjects of intrigue; then I record these detailed reflections of modern life, showing crumbling pavements, broken walls, graffiti-tags… In these images, the stuff of daily life counts as the subject, the “something” of the picture. Ordinarily we pass these objects by. We don’t give them credence as visual subjects for art. My paintings include abandoned spaces, rubbish and decay, objects that would barely constitute proper subjects for paintings. The landscapes I paint are often on the edge of cities, normally quite unattractive. They are places that have outlived their original purpose, to leave only traces of human activity. Although I prefer to work on landscapes of my surroundings, it is not factual information about a specific location, that I am interested, but allegories and reflections of modern life.”
In a world where the city has become a symbolic place of connectivity by the means of technology, this has also become a place where the unity of a community gets harder every day. With this in mind, the artist chooses to paint environments of post-industrial cities, a place which bears many meanings, “a place of mutant and nomadic meanings”.
Focused on the urban landscape and its experience, the artist’s work rescues the non-places of the metropolis; exploring the forgotten, and giving it a new meaning. With a belief that street art changes the way a city is experienced, collective territories are a result of this intrusive interruption of the commercial aspect of a city. Despite representing areas of Bilbao, the paintings do not intend to be realistic in a purist form, but to be reflections of a reality which keeps on changing.
For the artist, the ability to convey great stories, great visual narrations, is a big part of what she paints; and as part of her works are painted stories on walls. This adds an additional dimension inside another one – a painting within a painting – which looks to open up multiple interpretations about a painted reality, through the use of realism. Her paintings offer a layering of meanings, and Ana explains this while talking about Dead End (2018): one can be looked as simply by what it physically represents; another could be the story of a certain place, which in turn is narrated by the paintings on the walls; and one other can be seen as a bigger metaphor of the human mind.
The goal of Ana Schmidt’s work is connected with the theme being explored: the outcast of the city, abandoned to the mercy of time. Through the theme, she translates additional meanings of the city, an environment which is always changing. Paying almost an homage to graffiti painted on the walls, as for her they are not only part of its story, but also a narrator of it. But other aspects of the process of painting are equally important to the artist.
“Painting is about observation and understanding how to translate what we see through the language of paint. Our job as an artist is to study the shapes, proportions, values, edges, color temperatures and textures that nature and man provide, and utilize them to convey what we feel and think. It’s similar to what novelists do in inventing characters and scenes based on real people and events: Reality provides the raw material and artists shape it into an art form.”
Ana works with acrylic paint, as it offers a similar result as oil paint, without having to use toxic diluents (turpentine). She primarily paints with a limited colour palette, revolving around three main values. As the artist explains, “A limited palette unifies a painting and ensures better color harmony, and it produces nice grays that allow adjacent higher chroma colors to pop off the canvas.”. As for the use of the three values, she adds that following traditional approaches, she aims to group lights and darks in an aesthetically pleasing way.
The artist looks at space as a relative concept, as everything we see relies on one’s perception, explaining that everything that is painted is based on a comparison. She further explains, “Sometimes I will mix the exact color I see on my palette and then transfer it to the canvas without altering it”, and other times the artist explores a colour layering process, which achieved exquisite glazes and nuances that could not be achieved any other way.
The artist draws inspiration from Diego Velázquez and Odd Nerdrum, to name a few. Ana Schmidt mentions two specific paintings which greatly inspire her. The first, Las Meninas, painted by Velázquez in 1656, one of the most iconic masterpieces of Baroque Art, which does not comply to one specific type of painting, but instead is simultaneously a portrait and a genre painting. The documentary characteristics of the work, as “a narrative about art itself, through a mixture of illusion and reality” and “a mixture of realism and non-realism”, as Ana mentions, are factors that deeply fascinate her.
About the second painting, Mother and Son (Prince of Iceland), painted by Odd Nerdrum in 2003, the artist commends Nerdrums use and “commitment to the traditional techniques”, especially the use if the Chiaroscuro technique which combined with storytelling, produce works of a dense theatrical and emotional qualities. Ana further explains her fascination with Nerdrum’s work:
“But the most important thing to learn from his painting techniques, is that he is constantly experimenting, shifting approaches, changing the composition even when it could be considered done. There is no trick, like glazing or scraping or the palette, just rewriting, repeating, going back, alternating the emphasis, smoothing, accelerating…”
Mother and Son (Prince of Iceland) (2003), by Odd Nerdrum
“Landscape may indeed be a text on which generations write their recurring obsessions.”
“The world somehow is always the same. The only thing that can improve is the individual life. One can live a good life. One can give life a meaning. Either by drinking to death or by painting to death or by loving to death .”
“The shore is safer, but I love to fight the waves.”