Brätsch in her Williamsburg, Brooklyn, studio with one of her pieces.
Brätsch in her Williamsburg, Brooklyn, studio with one of her pieces.
Photographer: Stefan Ruiz

The German artist Kerstin Brätsch may favor Rick Owens sneakers that resemble spaceships and socks covered in an eyeball pattern, but her offbeat humor dissipates as soon as she starts to discuss her work. “Oh, where do I even begin?” Brätsch, 38, says, narrowing her eyes, which are awash in bronze shadow. “I’m trying to deal with abstract anxiety and to visualize something that is not visual, like radiation or heat,” she says of the strange, somewhat protocellular shapes rendered in brash, chaotic colors that populate her paintings. Variations of those forms, realized on and in a range of materials including paper, Mylar, glass, and agate shards (the latter, remnants from the artist Sigmar Polke’s final body of work), fill her studio. “It’s about following the logic of my brushstroke, but in a different language,” Brätsch explains. Marbleized pieces, which she creates by dropping paint into a water bath, thus “shattering” it, are perhaps her most literal attempt to disrupt the traditional notion of painting. “I’m always trying to redefine and reposition myself. That’s what you do as an artist.”