After periods in London and Berlin, Mari Otberg today lives in Vienna. To paint, she often takes up lodgings in old castles in the Austrian Waldviertel (Forest Quarter). Otberg is a living synthesis of the arts, switching between various genres, techniques and worlds. She has worked as a successful fashion designer with her own label, designed wedding dresses and also designed packaging. She was a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) scholar, but also ‘Newcomer Designer of the Year 2002’, distinguished by the magazine BUNTE. Otberg was born in 1969, studied fashion design in Bremen and Hamburg, undertook a drawing course at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and learned the classic art of gold plating in Vienna. As an artist, she cannot be pigeonholed. Quite deliberately, the still ever-curious artist reveals herself to be an autodidact, seemingly ‘naive’ and far removed from the mainstream of contemporary art.
Otberg’s work, which is mostly painted onto wood panels in the manner of classical icon paintings, can be described as ‘pretty’. But underneath this beauty, she uses her painting to tackle unpretty and indeed difficult topics: sexuality, the world of work, partnership or even better: female sexuality, women’s world of work, ambivalence in partnerships, women as perpetrator and victim, between dominance and devotion.
Otberg paints housewives, killers, servants, madonnas… Behind the seemingly decorative surface of her technically masterfully painted, often small-format works, elementary feelings such as pain and love, as well as the banality of everyday life, reveal themselves. Her paintings, often created with distance yet with a knowing wink, and a mixture of humour and self-irony, serve as beacons of hope, according to Otberg.