Bright Colors and a Touch of Something Ugly

The Painter Conny Maier at Langen Foundation

Aesthetics of the ugly meets vibrant colors – this defines Conny Maier’s unmistakable paintings, currently on display at Langen Foundation in Neuss until April 14.

Written by Jakob Stötzel.


In her first institutional exhibition curated by Udo Kittelmann, Maier, who lives in Berlin and Portugal, brings together earlier works with newer, large-format pieces. “Beautiful Disasters” is an homage to the grotesque in art – fairy-tale giants stand alongside surreal flower paintings, illustrating Maier’s ambivalent approach to representing figurative compositions. The self-taught artist’s work is free, bold, and unconventional. Breaking free from academic art constraints, Maier managed to develop a unique painting style that diverged significantly from classical education.

© Conny Maier at Langen Foundation, Installation view photo by Sebastian Drueen, 2023.

Her grotesque depictions of figures reflect desire, excess, and the depths of the human psyche. The twisted, disproportionately sized figures with gaping mouths and deformed limbs seem to burst beyond the boundaries of the canvas. With energetic and dynamic brushstrokes, Maier creates colorful compositions that evoke both fascination and disgust, beauty and terror. Bold and quirky at the same time, her rigorous visual worlds are characterized by an unflinching gaze that deliberately oscillates between absurdity and horror.

© Conny Maier at Langen Foundation, portrait photo by Sebastian Drueen, 2023.

The artist’s body of work undoubtedly reveals a high degree of ambivalence. Even the still lifes of flowers, painted in rich reds and bright pinks, convey a sense of unease in their luxuriant grandeur. “My initial thoughts were vacation colors and something ugly. The figures are creepy; what are they doing there, and why are they so ugly? They create a feeling of discomfort beneath a beautiful layer. […] I sought the figures, and they found me.” The result is captivating. “Beautiful Disasters” invites admiration and wonder and impressively questions the paradox of human existence.

© Conny Maier at Langen Foundation, Installation view photo by Sebastian Drueen, 2023.


Great art requires an equally magnificent setting, and the Langen Foundation provides an unparalleled backdrop. Designed by star architect Tadao Ando, the museum becomes a work of art, ranking among the most beautiful institutions of its kind in Germany. Ando didn’t see his building as a mere structure for art but as a walk-in sculpture. Located just outside the state capital in the Hombroich cultural area, this veritable palace of concrete and glass invites even more to a contemplative reflection on art.

© Langen Foundation, Exterior view Langen Foundation, Neuss, Foto: Tomas Riehle.

Founded by Marianne Langen in 2002 and dedicated to the Langen collection, which includes works of Eastern and Western art, the museum consists of three exhibition spaces on 1,300 square meters. It not only showcases rotating presentations from its collection but also exhibitions of contemporary artists. Situated on a former NATO missile base, the building creates an extraordinary symbiosis with the surrounding landscape. Ando aimed to create continuity between inside and outside, architecture, art, and nature. Under his motto, “One borrows the place where one builds from nature,” a meditative silence unfolds in the total seclusion of the museum, contributing to the magic of the foundation.

Besides Conny Maier, renowned artists such as Alicja Kwade, Sean Scully, or Park Seo-Bo have already exhibited their works there. Firmly established in the Rhineland cultural scene, the Langen Foundation has long become an absolute highlight for art enthusiasts.

Visit Conny Maier’s exhibition “Beautiful Disasters” at the Langen Foundation, Neuss, until April 14, 2023. The Langen Foundation is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Click here for more information.


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