Selected Works on Paper since 1960s in the permanent exhibition

Aquarell, Gouache, Tusche und Kreide auf Papier: Sabine Franek-Koch, Unverstandene Vorkommnisse IX oder der junge Engländer, 2002

FRANEK, Unverstandene Vorkommnisse IX oder der junge Engländer, 2002 (Detail)

© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

The Berlinische Galerie presents selected works from its collection by FRANEK (Sabine Franek-Koch): "In Search of the Signs".
FRANEK’s early drawings celebrate an idyllic world of physical and erotic love. Her arcadian scenes are not free of danger and threat. Black ink is applied to the paper with vigour. The gaps and pale grey zones are inhabited by groups of slender female figures and lovemaking couples, accompanied by wild animals, angels and fauns. The themes may be reminiscent of works by Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso, but the style here is rooted in abstract expressionism.

The paper used for the “Misunderstood Incidents” in 2002 and 2003 is itself a relic. Sheets from misprints for an edition of woodcuts had been kept in FRANEK’s studio to scribble and paint on. Then the artist felt inspired by the layered traces of colour, the symbols and jottings. FRANEK elaborated what chance had created and what is not evident at first sight.

The two editions dating from 1975 and 1999 illustrate FRANEK’s interest in the spiritual quest for mental and physical perception.

The folder “Valley of the Kings” contains five colour etchings relating to texts from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This collection of Ancient Egyptian verse first published in 1842 features spells for the dead in which they yearn to reach the underworld and implore help for the crossing in order to attain immortality: “Oh, could I, but hover upon the air like a bird,/ Always contemplating the sacred spirits/ Gathered about Ra!” FRANEK depicts a female figure meeting various deities, such as Ra, the sun god, or Anubis, the god of death and mummification, and the stony Sphinx.

The box “Longlivelove” contains not only nine etchings with simple sketches of a couple making love in a variety of positions, but also a little case with a stamp and pad. It conceals a humorous invitation by FRANEK to stamp a green fig leaf on the scandalous scenes if anyone should take offence.

In Search of the Signs

through traces, myths and yesteryear’s glyphs
in caves, deserts and tombs
on rocks and in gorges
with the Indians and their shamans
in the reserves of the Sioux
with medicine men, ghosts and rituals
accompanied by cattle, deer and rabbits
in the canyons of the Black Hills and the Badlands
threatened and protected by the coyote, the eagle, the serpent
from east to west, from south to north
to the shepherds, wise women and diviners
across the Elbe’s frontier, where werewolves and field spirits
still appear
and storks bring messages from foreign lands
there I found the signs in myself.

FRANEK, June 1985


FRANEK (Sabine Franek-Koch) was born in Potsdam in 1939. From 1959 she studied painting and printmaking at the Berlin Art School (now Berlin University of the Arts) with Fred Thieler and Mac Zimmermann. Her first solo exhibition was in 1968 at the Pels-Leusden Gallery in West Berlin. Others followed in galleries, art clubs and museums at home and abroad. She taught at the Berlin Art School, the University of Art and Design in Helsinki and Lahti, and University of the Arts Bremen.

FRANEK’s work includes paintings, drawings, prints, book illustration, sculpture, photography and film. In the 1970s and 1980s, the artist became deeply immersed in researching visual symbols used by the indigenous cultures of North and South America. She worked in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras and helped mathematician Maria Reiche to map spirals (Nazca Lines) on the Nazca Plains in Peru. Furthermore FRANEK recorded rituals for the Übersee-Museum in Bremen among the Lakota (Sioux) at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in the United States.

The artist lives and works in Berlin and in Radegast, Lower Saxony.

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