Art – The BELLIN Collection
Broken Bells, 2014
“Broken Bells” – that’s Stefan Strumbel’s installation, composed of 83 cowbells arranged in the shape of a drop. Reminiscent of a tear or a drop of blood, the overall work contradicts the pastural, idyllic connotation of the single objects it is composed of.
The namely ambivalence — the broken-ness invoked by the work’s title – can be found on multiple levels of its composition. The installation’s two colors – the bells’ scintillating purple alternating with the neon orange ribbon – reinterprets the staple of rural tradition in a post-modern pop culture context. A similar breach can be found on the level of function: the bell’s original purpose of providing orientation and keeping the flock together is transcended by its transformation into an art object. This type of decontextualization has a disorientating effect on the recipient, but at the same time creates new meaning by opening up new vistas of interpretation. As sheer objects, the single bells symbolize coherence and rural familiarity, while their tear-shaped, odd-colored totality represents quite the opposite: individuality, fragmentation, alienation. This peculiar ambivalence born from Strumbel’s practice of quoting the objects’ traditional meaning while transcending it at the same time is what elevates his piece into the sphere of postmodern art.
After being part of various exhibitions and private collections, the installation has found a new home in BELLIN I.
oil and acrylic on canvas
“The portrayed figure resembles a classic 17th century monarch, who attempts to manifest his power via this particular manner of contrived representation. The subject’s stance is excessively elegant. The fact that he isn’t actively looking for power but considers himself chosen by divine authority is reflected in the passive suffix “ed” of the piece’s title “paradise”, which is a coinage relating directly to the biblical paradise from the third chapter of Genesis. Within the painting, two worlds meet and amalgamate in the twilight: The noble fabrics, the armor and the brocade on the back wall are attributes of a secular, advanced culture. But the exotic fur pieces on the figure’s sleeves mark a transition into another world symbolized by the leaves of the Monstera plant and, of course, the snake: a primal, feral, but also paradisiac cosmos, strongly represented by the reptile occupying the center of the composition. The serpent’s mythology is ambivalent in a biblical sense – it’s a twilight creature. Thus, it symbolizes the temptation of evil, but it is also revered for its craftiness and knowledge. It holds the knowledge of good and evil and that’s what the monarch, decorated with the snake, also tries to project: sovereignty over good and evil, putting him on the doorstep to paradise. In the painting I’m trying to recreate the crepuscular atmosphere on the relief-like surfaces by using them as reflective planes for the adjoining colors. This way, the individual colors seem to mix and to reflect upon each other.” – Lennart Grau
Learn more about this artist in this video. (Only available in German!)
oil and acrylic on canvas
“The painting “Cannonball” is inspired by classic equestrian portraits from past centuries, which attempted to immortalize the rider’s mastery over the horse as well as his services to the community. The heroic stances and theatric poses of these old depictions inspired me to create a kind of stereotype of these portraits. Hence the rider’s face wasn’t supposed to represent an individual, but to remain ambivalent and interchangeable. With this painting, I’m trying to establish a connection between the production of historical images and the production of stories: the man on the horse harkens back to Baron Munchhausen, who was a true master when it came to making up and embellishing stories. In one of these century-old tales, he rode a cannonball – which happens to be a popular name for male race horses today. I am primarily interested in the question, to what degree commissioned portraits used to be instrumentalized to mould people’s opinions. With the exaggerated stance of the portrayed, I’m attempting to cast the kind of doubt that also torments myself. For that purpose, I work multiple visual stimuli into my paintings. They may seduce viewers, but also precipitate a sensory overload that makes them reembrace their critical thinking.” – Lennart Grau
Learn more about this artist in this video. (Only available in German!)
From: Casino Installation, 2018
paper and pigment ink
When Marion Eichmann began to knit whole rooms – including tables, chairs, bicycles and people – into wooly coverings around the turn of the millennium, the Berlin Weißensee art school grad became the star of the local scene overnight. Commercial gigs followed: car manufacturer BMW had her dress up their Mini Cooper model in yarn. While others might have chosen to rest comfortably in this cozy niche for good, Eichmann soon turned her back on the wool words that had put her on the map as an artist. Today, she mainly creates her bold visual universes from delicate paper bits. Armed with paper, scissors and carpet knives, she produces finely structured surfaces and detailed three-dimensional objects with painstaking precision, based on precise drawings of her subjects that she encounters on her many travels. The result: True-to-reality, equally art- and playful installations of places and objects of daily life – like a corner store façade plus gumball machine, a laundromat or the artwork present here at the BELLIN campus: the façade of an arcade casino, which is only the centerpiece of a larger installation including vintage German slot machines, painted doors, Euro bill bundles, cigarettes smoldering in ashtrays and beer and cocktail glasses – entirely made of painted paper scraps. But why does this artwork adorn the office of a Treasury company’s CEO? Isn’t treasury management supposed to be the exact opposite of gambling? Fact is: one of the treasurer’s main responsibilities is to mitigate risk via a carefully chosen hedging strategy. Without the latter, risk management is, in fact, in dangerous proximity to gambling. Within these venerable concrete walls, Eichmann’s casino façade can therefore be understood as a playful reminder: Thou shalt not gamble!
Meeting the artist in person led to a new idea: instead of creating art in a studio and then exhibiting it elsewhere, rooms were to be designed as installations, in particular the rooms planned for the new building, BELLIN II.
One example is the BELLIN II staircase which leads from the upper floor dubbed “Heaven” to the meeting room called “Home” with the front of the steps displaying the term “Exit.” Going down the steps, the call to “Exist” features on top of every step and at the same time a mirror in the center refers people back to their own self. The installation is completed with a chest-like “nun’s suitcase,” an antique piece of furniture nuns in the Black Forest used to put all their possessions in before joining a convent. The chest is painted in CMYK, the primary colors of the print industry. A chest for all your possessions, a “treasury chest” – what could be more fitting for BELLIN? It is extremely difficult to describe this installation or to even represent it photographically as it changes from every angle and with every perspective. It is best viewed live and you’re more than welcome to visit BELLIN and have a look for yourself.
I Trust You Will Tell Me, 2015
acrylic paint on canvas
Pithy epigrams, boldly painted in white on a black background or vice versa – that’s the distinctive hallmark of multi-artist Stefan Marx. Born in 1979 near Kassel, Marx parlayed his teenage passion for skateboarding and graffiti and the ensuing study of typography and cultural philosophy at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences into an impressive career as a painter, illustrator, t-shirt/record cover designer and lecturer. “I trust you” and “Love Song” exemplify the particular blend of painting, design and typography that runs like a red thread through Marx’ multifaceted oeuvre. Martin Bellin chose these two particular works for his art collection, because he liked their playfulness that leaves ample room for interpretation: “I trust you (will tell me if I am making a fool of myself)” can be understood as a declaration of faith in a mate’s judgement, but also as a gentle warning to be wary of an age, where the private is always at risk to become public at the click of a button. “Love song”, cleverly translating sound waves into hard-to-decipher typography, adorns the Product Management department in BELLIN II — according to Martin Bellin – “to provide a deliberate contrast to the world of finance and numbers.”
Triptych Treasury Island, 2015
acrylic paint on canvas
What happens if a treasury solution provider, whose company’s logo is bright yellow like his favorite color representing the sunlight, commissions an artwork by a painter, whose hallmark is the depiction of black typography on white backgrounds (or vice versa)? Well, you’re looking at it: 24 hours on a treasure-y island (pun intended), divided up into three paintings spanning the course of a day from moonshine to sunset. And who really needs color to paint sun, beach, and palm trees? Certainly not Stefan Marx: born in 1979 near Kassel, the artist parlayed his teenage passion for skateboarding and graffiti and the ensuing study of typography and cultural philosophy at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences into an impressive career as a painter, illustrator and apparel designer, celebrating the power of simple but striking type.
Rolling Thunder, 2014
mixed media on canvas
“First of all, this is one of my favorite paintings I’ve ever made and it has a very interesting story. I originally started the canvas as a commissioned work for gallerist and museum director Jeffrey Deitch. He begged me for a portrait and the ﬁgure in the blue suit and the yellow glasses is most deﬁnitely Jeffrey. However, my paintings are rarely planned out ahead, and as I continued to work on it the piece took a very different turn. This was no longer a portrait of Jeffrey, it was quickly becoming very much a self-portrait. It’s the only true self-portrait I’ve ever painted. I painted the piece during the hottest months of the Los Angeles summer, so I mostly worked late at night because it was cooler. There was an astronomical event taking place at the time called the Super Moon, and when I looked from my studio every night the moon was incredibly massive in the sky. At the same time I found a black widow spider on my ﬂoor, so I added it to the work, placing it strategically over the genital area. 1986 is the year I discovered my subcultural roots and for some reason this work always reminded me of being a teenager. The racing ﬂags represent the rat race and the lightbulb represents artistic ideas. There are many more symbols here, but I feel they should be interpreted by the viewer and not me. The most important thing to me about this painting is that it is perhaps one of the most honest works I have ever made.” – Aaron Rose
Cuckoo clocks have traditionally had their place as gaudy “kitsch” souvenirs for tourists visiting the Black Forest, with anything from wooden and handmade models to cheap plastic imitations. Stefan Strumbel has rid them of their kitsch and turned them into famous pieces of art and are now his signature. He combines them with hand grenades, skulls or dog bones, paints them in shrill colors and exaggerates these cultural or cult objects in a provocative context. Stefan Strumbel uses cuckoo clocks, like many other of his works, as a “playground” to critically reflect on the concept of “Heimat”, a term that is difficult to translate and roughly means home or heritage, the place we come from. His provocative question “what the *@#% is heimat?” is equally pivotal as his belief “heimat loves you!”
One of his famous cuckoo clocks adorns the wall opposite the BELLIN I conference room and every 15 minutes the cuckoo’s cry signals the time. Martin and Susanne Bellin bought the clock as well as the installation “Broken Bells” directly from the artist in 2014. After searching the internet and being directed to galleries in London and New York, they contacted the artist directly, more desperate than hopeful.
BELLIN is firmly rooted in the Black Forest region of Germany but has long become established as a global business; nevertheless, the value of “Heimat” continues to pay an important role and is included in our “Mission, Vision and Values.” “Ettenheim is our ‘home turf’ but we’re proud to be able to offer successful solutions to businesses of different cultural backgrounds based on this corporate identity”, explains Martin Bellin.
Wall of values, 2015
BELLIN is an innovative and international company and it is of great importance to us to always retain a sense of curiosity, to provide creative solutions to challenges, to keep changing perspective and to reflect critically and without prejudice on the things around us. Art inspires and art promotes dialogue which is why it is ever present in our business. On his “Wall of Values,” Stefan Strumbel has depicted the values that form an integral part of BELLIN’s corporate identity using his unique visual imagery.
These values represent what we are all about. They indicate a clear direction and create a culture which is inherently part of the corporate purpose of BELLIN. All values are explicitly stated in English in order to underline BELLIN’s international focus. Our “Wall of Values” illustrates our background, BELLIN’s personal character.
We are committed to a team environment where every employee is a valued member, encouraged to participate, and recognized and rewarded for their contributions.
We empower those around us, both employees and clients, by providing a positive environment that acts as a standard for success.
We trust the people we work with, and are committed to high standards and principles of honesty that inspire confidence.
We think differently. We are always looking for new ways to enhance treasury, and we find solutions to problems before they occur.
We are devoted to developing easy to use, accessible and functional solutions that enable people at all levels of expertise.
We treat our team members, clients, partners and suppliers with mutual respect and sensitivity, recognizing the importance of diversity and alternative ideas.
We are an international company, but we are intrinsically bound to our “Heimat” – our Black Forest origin and community – and we value the heritage of craftsmanship, precision and dedication that comes with it.
The construction of BELLIN II marked our growth into a genuine global player. One of the manifestations of this new identity can be spotted on the building’s patio: a tall totem pole. Carved by artist Douglas La Fortune Jr. in Vancouver Island, the westernmost point of Canada, it made it all the way to Ettenheim, where it now adorns the BELLIN Campus. To the totem’s right, you can find a humble-looking little lantern with wooden windows. It is also an object handcrafted by an artist, whose family has been building these lanterns for generations: Mr. Ushida from Kyoto, Japan. The idiosyncratic artist doesn’t just sell his specimens to anybody, but he handpicks his clients. And he doesn’t let go of the lanterns easily – each one stays within the family for about half a century before getting sold, because the passionate artisanship and love for detail that the Ushidas put into their work makes each lamp as dear to them as a child. We at BELLIN are proud to showcase one of them. The lantern, originating from the eastern hemisphere, and the totem, built in the west, are beautiful reminders of the fact that our work spans the entire globe and supports treasurers across the world. And – as the story goes – if you draw a line between the two artworks’ origins and look for its midpoint, you’ll discover – Ettenheim, “the capital of treasury”.
Douglas LaFortune Jr.
From the Sea to the Forest – The 8000km Route of Totems to Ettenheim
It was in 2014 that the idea to bring a symbol of Vancouver to Ettenheim was born. The Canadian BELLIN Treasury Services (BTS), our first overseas office, had been a growing influence in the BELLIN group, and it was felt that this should be represented on BELLIN’s campus. Douglas “Bear” LaFortune Jr. of the Tsawout First Nations was chosen to construct a totem pole representing Vancouver in Ettenheim.
The Tsawout, one of the many aboriginal peoples who settled the mid Saanich peninsula of Vancouver Island, occupy a small area midway between the BC ferry terminal and the provincial capital, Victoria. They are one of the 70+ tribes in the pacific northwest that make up the Coast Salish peoples. Known for their rich art history drawing influence from the rainforests of British Columbia, the Coast Salish are one of the original peoples known for carving totem poles.
Derived from the Algonquin word for “a clan’s history,” totem poles were found next to houses, representing the story of those who lived inside, or near resources as a welcoming to guests. They are believed to have originated with the Haida people on BC’s west coast and spread to nearby cultures. Even then however, their existence was limited to only a few coastal areas.
The expansion of the art form came in the 19th century when trade with Europeans settlers, and greater tools, sparked widespread adoption of the art form. By the 20th century, the totem pole had become a symbol of the First Nations, and even of Canada itself.
Douglas LaFortune and his son Bear have made names for themselves carving such symbols. Tsawout Coast Salish themselves, they have a deep connection to traditional carving. We approached Bear in 2014 to make us a symbol of BELLIN.
What started with a red cedar tree from Haida Gwaii and a few sketches, took shape under the expert hands of Bear, featuring three classic symbols drawn from the rainforests of British Columbia. Eagle sits atop, a symbol of peace and prosperity, and is directly associated with leadership. Bear, full of strength and self-confidence, associated with family, makes up the middle. Frog, a symbol of luck and good communication, brings stability to the pole, and foundation to the family.
After having been displayed in a local gallery for a few days, it was then crated and stowed in the belly of the next A340 from YVR to FRA, transporting it 5,000 miles (8,000 km) from the Canadian coast to the edge of the German Black Forest.
The BELLIN totem now stands behind the gates of Ettenheim’s BELLIN II building, a symbol of the sharing of culture across Canada and Germany – telling the story of our company, and welcoming guests to our home.
Transformation Mask, 2012
If one of art’s main purposes is to make abstract ideas concrete and – literally – tangible, this tribal artwork truly does it justice: A wooden mask, depicting a raven’s head, whose beak opens up sideways upon a pull on the two cords attached to it, revealing a human head. The beak’s inside is painted with two human bodies, whose embryo-like position sheds light on the mask’s symbolic meaning: the raven is a mythical creature that represents death as well as rebirth, credited with the magic ability to transcend the borders between here and beyond, between conscious and subconscious existence. The Native Americans, whose spirituality is based on mankind’s origin in nature, regard it as a totem animal. Therefore, masks like the one present are used in religious ceremonies, where they are worn by dancers to conjure up the spirit of the ancestors and to celebrate the unity of man and nature.
It is no coincidence, that the raven mask adorns BELLINs Happy Our, the place where people of diverse backgrounds congregate daily to share meals and exchange ideas – in a company that cherishes the heritage and scenic beauty of its Black Forest home as much as it embraces cosmopolitanism and cultural diversity.
Squirrels playing with hand grenades instead of pine cones? Cuckoo clocks emblazoned with flames, electric guitars and the Stones’ tongue or, alternatively, adorned with skulls, squids and anchors? Welcome to the world of postmodern “Heimat”-artist Stefan Strumbel. The creative approach of the three pieces represents the ironically humorous shtick typical for his work: objects connoting a clichéd concept of “Heimat” are cross-bred with pop culture bits and thereby both deconstructed and revitalized. Underneath the iconoclastic fervor of the former graffiti renegade, a subtler sentiment can be divined: “Heimat” is sexy, in a way. In fact, the ample presence of Strumbel’s works on the BELLIN Campus is no coincidence: The pieces’ hybrid character, their original amalgamation of tradition and modernity shows striking parallels to BELLIN’s history and identity: for twenty years, the company has been successfully straddling the line between a trailblazing disruptor, who became a market leader with innovative solutions, and a traditional company that is firmly rooted within its home turf, the scenic region of the Black Forest and its time-honored heritage of artisanship and engineering.
We enjoy holding on to moments that are meaningful to us. That’s why, at BELLIN, we have a unique book, where the members of our Community can record their shared memories, ideas and emotions: the BELLIN Scrapbook. The book was handmade for BELLIN in the square shape of our logo and bound in precious Chiyogami paper, which is usually chosen for the Japanese paper folding art Origami. Here, also, a square sheet of paper is used, to be folded into two- or three-dimensional objects without additional tools. Origami is meant to provide relaxation as well as stimulation, exercising not only creative and artistic abilities, but also geometrical skills and our sense of space.
wax and wood
“Spaltung” – splitting: when confronted with this title of the 1961 born Black Forest artist’s wax and wood sculpture series, destructive associations are unavoidable. In fact, the sculpture you’re contemplating spells split in multiple ways. Four logs, split from a tree, painted black as if foreshadowing their impending cremation, ominously pointing upwards. They form a group, yet they are entirely isolated from each other. And the overall sculpture is split, too, into two materials that – though both organic –don’t have much else in common with one another. It’s certainly an odd combination, pushing the conventional. But the particular breach that this artwork exemplifies also echoes the hypothesis that all art is dialectic – and thus begs for a very different view. Because every splitting, starting with that of the atom, the tiny building block of all that is alive, creates new energy, gives birth to new shapes, opens up new vistas of meaning. In this regard, Göhringer-Machleid’s “Spaltungen” are, at the same time, their polar opposite: syntheses. In their organic materiality, they are mutable, perishable even. And as such they witness the ongoing cycle of coming and passing, the very split and artistic rearrangement that spawned them.
Litfass 1 & 2
paper and wax
Can we travel time? Is it reversible? Can the past become the present and vice versa? While these questions have mystified the men and women inhabiting the world of hard science, the realm of art allowed its creators to approach these topics in a creative and playful way. Like the Ettenheim artist Petra Göhringer-Machleid, who embarked on her very own journey through time. Fascinated by the “Litfaß-Säule” – the famous advertising column invented by the Berlin printer Ernst Litfaß in the 19th century – she re-exposes layer after layer of bygone posters with archeological fervor, cutting through the column’s thick and obstinate paper coating, excavating the past with chisel and saw. She separates the countless paper layers until one strikes her attention and spurns her creative process. The order of the paper coatings, once dictated by the succession of events or the temporary relevance of a certain ad, gets reversed by a process solely determined by the artist’s aesthetic choices.
As the two works in BELLIN I, “Litfass 1” and “Litfass 2” vividly demonstrate, Göhringer-Machleid then rearranges her exploits, that she covers with wax layers of different thickness, into striking collages. By turning the column’s innermost layers outwards, the hidden becomes the surface, the forgotten the new. Time and time again – reversed.
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