Foreword by Dr. Martina Marshall in the catalog of Petra Winterkamp "sign and color"

“Realise, my friends, what paintings are: to emerge at a different place.”[1]

Every painting by Petra Winterkamp holds a secret from a different place. They don’t divulge their messages at first glance, and we may apply Franz Marc’s marvelous sentence to her paintings.

Of course the brilliant color immediately attracts; but the color and the gold sheeting used by the artist are only a superficial lure. At a second glance we discover encrypted signs, scriptures and hieroglyphs that are intended to conjure up other places and times. Some texts appear like a vision, only to disappear again. The painting „Majuskel” (Capital Letter) alludes to the “Mene Tekel U-Pharsin”, the divine writing on the wall announcing king Belshazzar’s demise, for he was weighed on the scales and found wanting. None of the many scribes was able to decipher the writing, and it disappeared shortly after its appearance, like the kingdom itself.[2]


Inscriptions might be translated, but with these pictures we fail after a few letters. Some etchings break off mid-sentence, like a ruinous architrave of some Greek or Roman temple. We read only the beginnings of a sentence or a fragment, the complete message remains shrouded. Like archeologists, we must delve below the surface, layer by layer, in search of meaning. Some pictures never reveal their secrets, they might well be the best.


Petra Winterkamp has long been interested in ancient excavation sites and ruins. Only recently she visited Pompeii. Of course she is fascinated by the fresco paintings of the Etruscans. The many layers that are indispensible to this technique, she also applies in her paintings. But her travels also led her to other places, where Bronze Age stone carvings have borne witness to their ancient civilizations for millennia. She takes these messages to her studio and transfers them into her paintings.

A ruin is most often a special place of yearning, a romantic place. Down the centuries, from Piranesi to Caspar David Friedrich, painters have been inspired by their beauty and mysteries. Puvis de Chavannes, the symbolist French painter even wrote: “If there is something more beautiful than a beautiful thing, it is the ruin of a beautiful thing.”[3]


After visiting the exhibition “Der geschmiedete Himmel” (“the wrought heavens”), Petra Winterkamp was fascinated by the Nebra Sky Disk, a Bronze Age depiction of the sun, moon and stars discovered in Nebra, Saxony-Anhalt. This first human testimony on the subject of “astronomy”, containing gold inlays of the moon cycle and the Plejades, inspired her to paint a whole series dedicated to the subject. The artist is likewise fascinated by mediaeval palimpsests. The precious parchment was often re-used by scraping away its previous inscriptions and writing new texts on them. Palin is Greek and means “again” and psaein means “scraping”. Often, the traces of the old layer can still be discerned below the new one, and many of the artist’s work are similar in that respect.


The color of these paintings is so brilliant because she uses pure pigments. The finely powdered minerals make for an elevated surface, an effect the artist sometimes reinforces by adding marble powder, gypsum or ash. The three-dimensional color surface thus really brings to mind stone, masonry or frescoes.

And the composition of each painting is always in a set structure that allows nothing to get out of control.


Another characteristic of Petra Winterkamp’s paintings is their artisanal precision and high appreciation of the materiality and texture of the substances she uses. Whether she applies fine gold foil or a paste of ash and sand, she is acquainted with the special value of each material and how to enhance it by choosing the right color. One particular example of this are the stelae entitled “Scivaro”. A slate is worked into the canvas and accompanied by grey and off-white colors, and of course the slate is etched and inscribed. 


True art – like the art by Petra Winterkamp – arouses something within us. When that “something” lingers on, then the artist has achieved something great, for we have started a dialogue with her work and we respond to it with our souls, - as Franz Marc wrote: we find ourselves “in a different place”.


Dr. Martina Marschall,
Bernried on Lake Starnberg



[1] Marc, Franz, Aphorismus 82, 1915, in: Franz Marc – Briefe, Schriften und Aufzeichnungen, Leipzig 1989

[2] See Book of Daniel, 5:25

[3] Chavannes, Pierre Puvis de, in: Hempel, Eberhard, Ruinenschönheit, in Zeitschrift Kunst 2, 1948