• Kirsty Smedley


In March I was lucky enough to visit the cultural hub that is Berlin and it was an amazing experience.

We arrived on a Monday evening, so, with not much time left in the day to explore the city, we spent it wondering around Prenzlauer Berg, the area our hostel was located.

It was lovely to familiarise myself with the area and take in the architecture with its beautiful colourful buildings adorned with wrought iron balconies. Independent shops selling ceramics and flowers scatter the area. It was a truly beautiful area that made me feel at ease straight away. A mindset that I think is important when visiting a city to take in their art scene.

On my first day a visit to east side gallery was a must. To see Graffiti that I had only ever seen in books or online was inspiring. Street Art has always resonated with me. It is synonymous with the underclasses asserting their views on social issues, which is something my own practice always tries to discuss.

I think my favourite piece of art at the East Side Gallery is ‘God, help me to survive this deadly love’ by Dmitri Vrubel. I suppose it is one of the most famous pieces of art at the gallery but due to its stature and the way in which it hits the viewer, it is understandable. The fraternal kiss is an emblem of the end of communism in Germany. The painting was originally done in 1990 but, due to the its bad condition of the years, Vrubel restored the work in 2009.

The Helmut Newton Foundation was the next gallery I visited. To see the work of Newton, Sherman, Probst et al was wonderful. I was particularly interested to take in the letters Newton had received over the years and his personal artefacts lined in rows in glass cabinets. His old office was reconstructed in a corner on one of the levels, which I felt represented the man himself. It was stylish with odd accessories scattered around. (I will be inspired to add mannequin legs as artwork on my wall one day!).

I’m not sure how I feel about newtons work or even if I understand it. At times I wasn’t sure if I was offended with the sexist undertones, but I couldn’t look away and was so taken in by it. It centres around the male gaze sure, and there were phallic signifiers in a lot of his work. But I loved it. The way in which he manages to create and image that, realistically can be perceived as derogatory, yet the subjects within them are strong, beautiful with a fearless twinkle in their eye. To me he is highlighting the way in which woman have been bound and controlled to be beautiful and subservient to the opposite sex.

So, maybe that’s the point. Women at the time weren’t necessarily liberated but wow, were they determined, regardless of the shackles that bound them.

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