We got an inside look at the atelier of artists Johanna Dumet and Manuel Wroblewski in anticipation of the upcoming Berlin Art Week—for which Johanna and Manuel are opening their studio to the public. Johanna skips down the steps of a giant cascading staircase held up by strong Greco-Roman-style columns when she greets me. The smell of oil paint fills the room, and Johanna’s shorts are spattered with vibrant specks of pigment.
When you step inside the Villa Heike, you leave Berlin behind and enter an ornate, yet industrial, version of ancient times. The tall ceiling and decorative columns are what you’d see in an old museum, but the art is refreshingly contemporary, standing out against the barren architecture. After climbing a few flights of stairs, we enter Johanna and Manuel’s atelier. I’m struck immediately by the light—on the top floor of the Villa Heike, their space is illuminated by huge windows facing southwest.
What is most stunning about the space, however, is the art itself. Johanna is a painter and Manuel is a sculptor, and between the two, there is art in every corner of the studio. From large-format oil paintings hanging on each wall to carefully bent wood scraps littering the floor and different paints and colored papers lying everywhere, you can tell art happens there.
Johanna mostly does oil paintings, but also papier-mache sculptures, among other mixed-media projects. Her paintings are packed with raw, vivid color. Mostly still lifes, she paints what’s around her, but with a twist—the distortion of shapes and space and a sense of humor. To help her do this, and to combine her love of papier-mache with her love for painting, Johanna has started applying large swaths of colored paper to her canvases and building up scenes on top of the base paper layers. This technique is very unique and adds an interesting textural element to her work.
Manuel primarily works with wood; he likes that it’s organic, and he repurposes old fruit boxes to build his work out of affection for the material, but also for the environment. His process is very labor-intensive and requires a lot of dexterity. He destructs the boxes, stripping them into small strips of thin wood. He soaks the wood in the bathtub so he can bend it more easily. When the wood is dry, he takes each small piece and builds large, hollow structures. When I was visiting, he was working on constructing a lemon, but scattered around the atelier were a host of fruits, animals, and even a person he had built and painted.
The couple has been working very hard in anticipation of Berlin Art Week, which is happening September 11th through 15th, 2019. They will be setting up an exhibition in their atelier titled, “Exclusive Fruits,” which will be open to the public from 14-18:00h every day that week.
To see more of their artworks, you can follow them on Instagram at @johanna_dumet and @manuel_wroblewski. And to learn more about their work and the history of their unique atelier in person, be sure to make the trip to their studio during Berlin Art Week! You can find their lovely studio at Villa Heike, Freienwalderstr. 17; 13055 Berlin.
Text & photos: Liz Ketcham