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Nadja Gabriela Plein is a Swiss-born, London-based painter. She makes abstract paintings characterised by a playful inventiveness and an intense attention to movement. She is a graduate of the Turps Banana Studio Painting Programme.

Nadja’s paintings, drawings and prints are featured regularly in exhibitions in the UK and internationally. She was shortlisted for the Jackson’s Art Open Painting Prize and Beep Painting Prize in 2018, and was a prize winner at the Print Hub Open, London, in 2015.

Exhibitions include: Solo Show: 'Flux'. The Stables in Exile, London; Group Shows: Hampstead Affordable Art Fair, Jackson's Art Open Painting Prize; 'Hemma Stammer'. Level 4, Rødbergveien 23, 0591 Oslo, Norway; 'No Place'. Bearspace and ROSL Arts, Over-Seas House, Park Place, St James's Street, London; 'Turps 2015-17'. Art Bermondsey Project Space, London; 'Conducting the Surface'. Bearspace, Deptford, London; Battersea Spring Affordable Art Fair, with Bearspace, Battersea Park, London;'The ING Discerning Eye 2016'. Mall Galleries, London; Print Hub Open, London; 'Teknesyn'. Abbey Palace Museum. Alcala La Real, Spain; 'From Here & There. Drawings from the UK'. Elysium Gallery, Swansea; 'From Here & There. Drawings from Colorado and Wales'. Clara Hatton Gallery, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. USA. ‘Drawing 2012’ and ‘Drawing ‘13’ at Swiss Art Space in Lausanne, Switzerland. Her work is featured in Helen Birch's ‘Just add Watercolour’, published by RotoVision.

Before moving into painting Nadja was a composer. She gained a doctorate from the Royal College of Music, won the prestigious Mendelssohn Scholarship, her music has been performed in the UK, Germany, France, Switzerland and the USA by leading performers, including the Arditti String Quartet, and was heard on BBC Radio 3 as well as USA radio stations.


Artist Statement

My painting practice collides and overlaps with my Buddhist meditation practice asking the question how can painting be meditation?

I start with a surface, metal, wood, canvas, paper, or plastic. Then a thinned colour. I put it on and see what happens. How is this paint, right now, on this surface? Then I might pick up a pencil and draw it over the wet paint. I watch the groove, as I make it, I watch the wet paint fill it up or run over it. I might pick another colour, thicker oil paint this time and watch how it interacts with the thin paint and the pencil marks. I watch. I might wipe it all away, again, leaving a mere smudge and work from that. I will sit down and watch: this aluminium grey with this green and this brown line. 

I work with my fingers, with brushes, paper towels, silicon shapers, sand paper… I work with oil paint, pencils, colour pencils, crayons, oil sticks.

The body-sensation paintings by Maria Lassnig have inspired me greatly. Her painting the sensations of her body are acts of painting meditation. Her emphasis is largely on her own body. For me it is more about an interaction with the materiality around me, being a body in a place and being a body in contact with other materials and other bodies. 

Meditation, in the tradition I practice, watches the arising and passing of things within one’s present-moment experience. In this sense everything becomes an object to look at, the breath, the sounds, the sensations of the body, the thoughts, the memories, each an object that arises and passes within my experience. More than that, everything becomes a preciousobject, something to be watched with tenderness. This results in a blurring between art and life. The touch of my steps on the grass feels as much as art as the painting I am making. 

Allan Kaprow’s work and particularly his essay ‘Art Which Can’t be Art’ is important to me in this thinking of how art can be meditation and then, how each moment of meditation can be art. His writing uses the language of meditation and ascribes it to art.

Strangely, this thinking of private everyday actions as art, also brings a new preciousness to the object of the painting but one that is non-hierarchical. The painting object holds the same preciousness as the step on the grass.