THE JOY OF PAINTING, GMÜR, BERLIN
 

Sorry that I’m first writing to you now. I’ve been without a studio and in the middle of moving for months and have been consumed with renovations around the clock.
Everything is held up.
I didn’t know that it was impossible for a Berliner to avoid a construction site at the beginning, that I would sink into a swamp of activities here that would rob me of so much time and keep me from all that I once was and wanted to become again. I'm turning around on an axis where a live-in studio has just emerged after countless days.
The Polish tile layers first came in the middle of April like knights to the rescue to take on the killing field of the Lichtenberg forerunners. My countrymen were meant to conquer the wasted landscape and wipe away the traces of the others. Then I could start painting. The preparation of the walls was arduous. I still haven't made it very far with all of the pre-war building's corners and angles and the fact that piles of boxes seriously affect the radius of action.
In the hallway, cables are poking out of the wall because the fuse box has to be put under plaster. The electrician pulled a plastic bag over his head and knocked open the wall. He wasn't able to make an air shaft because of the paintings in the rooms next door. He still told me how great he finds it when someone is an artist because talent is a wonderful thing. He asked if I've ever tried to paint portraits of passersby on the street.
I think the live-in studio is beautiful! It is, in fact... However, this beauty is completely hidden. Traces of a lengthy abuse that it suffered through various stages of renovation over the last decades. I discovered an arbitrary East German phase with electrical installation under all of the colorful layers of paint. After Reunification, someone did a quick renovation and, to my astonishment, plastered over woodchip wallpaper. When someone asked me whether I had wallpaper or not, I had to say that it is an apartment with and without wallpaper. While removing the wallpaper from the kitchen ceiling, I noticed that it makes a big arc down the walls and that all of the plastered walls hide a giant "fake", a deceptive backdrop.
Strange things came into the light of day behind the facade that were astonishing. I could write for hours about all of these human failures of professional expertise, workers without knowledge but with big mouths, about a landlord under pressure from a group of investors who have not invested but created costs by building out the attic that keep the entire building on pins and needles. I scarcely turn around and again a couple of apes are standing there, staring, making photos and skulking.
I wanted a pre-war building and now I'm living in a building with history, the history of the neglected building stock and the story of all the big and little fishes, all the hustlers stalking a rental building like this to grab a piece of the pie from the boom of the rising neighborhood.
Now my own personal story is stuck in this logjam of events, in the vortex of the daily tasks and the great expectations of a beginning in my city of choice that is well known as a giant construction site itself.
When I'm not standing on the ladder because I need to relax my hands, I write a lot of notes. Without leaving the house, I find myself in a universe that reflects the laws of the society around it.
I've been dreaming for a long time of a "normal everyday life", but I certainly have to prepare for a month of extraordinary circumstances before I christen my studio, take a paintbrush in my hand or receive guests.
I haven't seen my paintings in months. I'm waiting for a dust-free day to unpack them from their shrouds. In the middle of all the boxes, I feel boxed up myself and surrounded. The apartment is omnipresent.
I wanted to move into it so that I can paint here. The apartment has devoured me. It has placed me into a fervent frenzy where I continue to discover details requiring restoration.
I recently started on the molding. The eggs running across the ceiling weren't eggs at all, but instead fine leaves, ending in four harps. When I accidentally uncovered them, I had to get a scaffolding. Since then, I climb on up and uncover fifteen eggs and a harp every day.

Magdalena Zyszkowska