Ingrid Thorwart:

New artistic approaches to nature and landscape

- planet solitude in Pasinger Fabrik 2017

 

 

 

Theresia Hefele: „Arctic“, 2015-2017, series of 16 panels, each 26 x 20 cm,

photo emulsion and toning on wood

Photo Yukara Shimizu

Theresia Hefele has devised a unique method of developing photos on wooden panels prepared with a light-sensitive emulsion. She then often further manipulates the image with the use of chemical toners. The resulting panels are mostly small and object-like, and shimmer with subtle tonal variations of pale blue, green or brown. Working with photos she has taken herself, or those she has found at such places as flea markets, the images are generally open air situations in which light plays an important role. She focuses on landscape in its vastness, as well as on structures and objects seen at close proximity. In the landscapes of the series “Arctic”, forms such as rugged mountains, ice flows, fir trees and buildings dissolve in a soft veil-like light. The viewer is drawn, as so often in planet solitude, into the distance of flat and empty landscapes, and changing locations and travel scenarios are explored. One sees lonely landscapes with occasional huts, trees or solitary figures. Not only the visual appearance of the images, but the knowledge that they were chosen from diverse sources within Hefele’s vast archive, including photos taken of miniature landscape models, creates an impression of the unfathomable: Where do the images come from? Who took them? Why do we immediately assume that this series references the Arctic? The depiction of the landscape with details of a journey, the nature of which has heroic proportions in German idealism, is paraphrased with irony.

 

In her 15-piece series “Rivers”, Hefele shows close up shots of the water surface of various rivers, all of which she can name. The differences between the original images due to variations in the light conditions and water movement are minimised through the unique means of reproduction so that the seriality of the work is highlighted. These images of water caught in motion are a wonderful homage to the elements.

 

Theresia Hefele: „Rivers“, 2007-2015, series of 20 panels, each 30 x15 cm,

photo emulsion and toning on wood

Photo Yukara Shimizu

Finnish artist Marko Lampisuo presents us with video and photogravure, both techniques that work with light and exposure. Even the title of his video “The end of landscape” hints at a journey into the limits of the genre. The basis for this work is a classic travel video of the trip between Pori and Tampere in Finland, as well as stills of forest or views from a window. The video comes alive through the montage of these elements, the repeated re-filming of the footage while played on an old tube television screen, and the original score composed especially for the work. The typical Finnish landscape views of alternating forest and water appear at times realistic with the characteristic light of a low sun, and at times dissolve into dots of light or brightly coloured, almost painterly, abstract shapes. This unusual combination of contemplative, atmospheric landscape and explosions of colour has an unsettling effect on the viewer. It is left for the viewer to decide whether this is an ironic reflection on the clichéd concept of the vastness of the northern landscape or a homage to a place where sunlight is valued for its rarity. In any case, there is a crossover toward painting and an examination of the question: Does a film always need motion? The artist carries this work to another level with his series of photogravure prints of stills from the video “The end of landscape”. The technique of photogravure allows the artist to not only expose photo or film material onto specially prepared plates, but also to manipulate the image in a variety of ways before printing. These prints, which have a filmstrip quality, move between recognizable impressions of pine forests and lakes, and dissolution into colour fields of light and pattern.

 

Marko Lampisuo: “The End of Lanscape“, 2013. Video still / Photogravures, 22.5 x 30 cm, 2014

Photo Yukara Shimizu

 

Marko Lampisuo: “The End Dawn“, "The End of Waterfront", The End of Noise", The End of Snowfall". Photogravures, 22.5 x 30 cm, 2014

Photos Marko Lampisuo

The second video work by Marko Lampisuo “Summer in Finland … and other seasons” is an analytical and yet atmospheric and aesthetic examination of the light conditions in his home country. The film consists of 365 photos of trees taken over a period of one year. Dark strips cover the top and bottom of each vertical image, their size relating to the number of sunlight hours of each day throughout the year. The disclosure of this information naturally roots the work in a particular geographic location and lets us reflect on the months of darkness and the so-called ‘winter depression’ only too well known in Finland.

 

Marko Lampisuo: “Summer in Finland... and Other Seasons”, 2016. Video still.

Photo Marko Lampisuo

In her work “Look!” Jovana Banjac also asks the question: How much movement does a moving image need? The work shows two videos in split screen presented as a symmetrical panoramic view of the Bavarian Alps. Mountains disappear into the distance in a fine haze; the view framed by the obligatory fir trees. In the apparent lack of movement and the referencing of classic aesthetic techniques such as the golden ratio in the horizon line, aerial perspective and the employment of diagonal lines, the artist cites Romantic landscape painting such as that of C.D.Friedrich. The viewer is tested, as only on longer viewing of this apparent ‘painting’ does one notice that something does indeed move, even if only the twigs of the fir trees swaying slightly in the wind. After some time, a sense of peace pervades potentially exceeding that which we might feel in a crowded mountain lodge on a mountain in the Bavarian Alps: a confirmation of the harmony created by classic aesthetic techniques?

 

Jovana Banjac: “Look!”, 2016. Video, 12 min.

Photo Jovana Banjac

 

The photo series “Tides” by Jovana Banjac is more in line with classic photography. Again we are confronted with an endless expanse, this time typical of beaches at the North Sea. The warm brown-beige sand seems to melt into the horizon. There are no lonely figures in the foreground, such as we would find in Romantic painting, but rather empty beach ‘furniture’ such as children’s swings, signs or abandoned beach showers. These otherwise overlooked byproducts of human habitation catch our attention for their materiality and sculptural character. The few human figures visible in the distance are almost lost in the mist.

 

 

Jovana Banjac: “Tides”, 2016. (4 out of the series of 15) Colour photography, 30 x 40 cm

Photos Jovana Banjac

In the oil painting “Palace Gardens 1” by Anne Pincus, on the other hand, haze lies like a filter over the entire image. One part of this three-part tableau shows a blurred view of a park with a canal bordered by cleanly cut hedges. The middle panel is almost monochrome, with a subtle gradation of pale yellow. The left panel shows a section of an historical map of the same park. The use of three panels breaks the illusory continuum and creates a counterpoint. This painting is in fact part of a larger body of work in which the artist has focused on the contrast between atmospheric garden scenes and their cartographic equivalent, at times layering one over the other. The strict structure of the maps and the soft manner in which the landscape is painted reference the conceptual dualism of sentiment and rationality behind such parks.

 

Anne Pincus: „Palace Gardens 1“, 2011. Oil on canvas, 110 x 279 cm (Triptych)

Photo Anne Pincus

 

 

There is something mysterious, if not unsettling, about the northern forests. They have been instrumentalised and connoted with German cultural identity throughout history, as well as in popular culture. The objective manner in which Anne Pincus has depicted forest in the small oil paintings on wood “The forests remain silent I-V”, however, appears to question this connotation. Naturally, there are no human figures present and there is a subtle variation in light across the panels, from threateningly dark to friendlier tones. Nevertheless, depth, the imponderable, which is an inherent aspect of this motif and which makes it a symbol par excellence for the subconscious, is always present.

 

Anne Pincus: „The forests remain silent I-IV“, 2017. Oil on wood, each 15 x 40 cm

Photo Anne Pincus

 

 

In the series “Fall I – III”, the artist again seems to oscillate between objective view and atmospheric effect. Like Theresia Hefele, she draws on a typical icon in Romanticism: ice and snow as a symbol for the eternal. These waterfalls of ice, however, appear out of such bottomless blue depths they could be taken for something else.

 

Anne Pincus: “Fall I, II & III”, 2016. Oil on canvas, each 80 x 80 cm

Photo Yukara Shimizu

 

In “Wilsede Scramble”, we see a landscape combined with text elements from a different system of expression. Layered over a landscape of a heath, the artist has strewn seemingly random words drawn from place names of the area around Wilseder Mountain (Wilseder Berg) in the Lüneburg Heath (Lüneburger Heide). Some words are legible and others are broken apart, so that, as in the game Scrabble, one can visually piece together new words from the parts or single letters. The text elements create a loose structure, which resembles a map. Different systems of perception are thus superimposed and open up new fields of association through interaction with each other.

 

Anne Pincus: „Wilsede Scramble“, 2017. Oil on canvas, 110 x 145 cm

Photo by Anne Pincus

Anna Kiiskinen also examines the possibilities in the interplay between spatial illusion in classical depictions of nature and painting for its own sake, as painted surface. In planet solitude, we see four paintings from her work on the subject of trees. In the last few years, the artist has found inspiration in the endless ramifications of tree branches as seen silhouetted against the sky. Depending on the type of tree and its surroundings, the climate zone and light conditions, there are millions of variations, offering unlimited possibilities. The three paintings “The apple tree in my sister‘s garden” are variations of the same motif. They are, however, hardly recognizable as such due to the differing relationship between the background and the branch structure in the foreground, the fine balance between the colours of each, as well as the subtle differentiation within each colour. The branches cover almost the entire surface and structurally hold the composition together. The artist cleverly plays with the give and take of spatial depth and thereby comes close to the all-over structure of classical abstract painters like Pollock. One can view them purely as a tonal concert evocative of a particular mood, as in the atmosphere created by the interplay between pale branches and pale background of “Apple tree I” and “Apple tree II” . They are, nevertheless, also details of a specific landscape. In “Apple tree III”, a new disruptive element is introduced. We see a reflection of a lamp, as though the tree is reflected in a windowpane. Through this confusing illusion, the painting takes on a surreal dimension.

 

Anna Kiiskinen: „The apple tree in my sister's garden I & III“, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, each 90 x 140 cm

Photos by Anna Kiiskinen

 

Anna Kiiskinen: „The apple tree in my sister's garden II“, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 90 x 140 cm

Photo by Anna Kiiskinen

 

Abstraction also plays a role in the fourth work by Anna Kiiskinen, Gülhane Park, Istanbul. Over the years, the artist has often experimented with a conceptual approach, and this work is an example of that. The steps in the creation of this large format acrylic painting have been recorded and are played back via a framed screen so that the work exists as an exchange between two very different media. The viewer can see the work appear in steps as though by magic. Its development is presented almost like a game in which the branches, in fine variations of red, green and orange, project into the space from all sides and, segment by segment, slowly build the entirety like parts of a puzzle. Each segment has its own tonal character, and although this is a playful presentation of the way the work was assembled, the completed painting is perfectly cohesive through the virtuosity of its colour composition.

 

Anna Kiiskinen: “Gülhane Park, Istanbul”, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 160 x 220 cm

Photo by Anna Kiiskinen

On passing, one could assume the oil paintings of the Finnish painter Mollu Heino to be large-format gestural abstraction. If one stops however, or sees the works from a greater distance, as is ideal, hints of landscape appear, also placing this artist’s work between naturalism and abstraction. Her employment of chiaroscuro and her choice of colours – grey-black to brown and, through the oil-based application of paint, subtle variations of beige-gold – reveal the crucial role light plays in Mollu Heino’s work. These paintings are characterised by the specific ambience of the scene, which is translated with virtuosity into an abbreviated form through strong gestural brush strokes. Shimmering darkness increases in intensity towards the right and left edges of one picture, suggesting the feeling of being on a path and surrounded by dark pine forest. The lit area in this case is only a small triangle. Another painting depicts an island rising out of shimmering water in the same clear rendering of light and shadow and her refreshing sketch-like style. The way this island is painted with a few simple brush strokes is reminiscent, on the one hand, of Asian ink painting. On the other hand, the warm pale yellow glow achieved through thin layers of oil glazes remind us of the ray of light so often seen in paintings of the Romantic period. In other pictures, for example in “Against the light”, this transcendental light, which was seen as divine in Romanticism, is less obvious, but as a glimmer in a dark atmosphere, no less fascinating. Since central Europeans have an image of the special light conditions in Finland, Mollu Heino’s atmospheric paintings seem (to this viewer at least) to be a clear reference to her homeland.

 

Mollu Heino: Exhibition view of her work series, Oil and pigment on board, each 97 x 97 cm

Photo by Yukara Shimizu

 

Mollu Heino: Exhibition view of her work series, Oil and pigment on board, each 97 x 97 cm

Photos by Yukara Shimizu

Yukara Shimizu also confronts us with an unusual relationship to light. The artist has found her own unique means of expression in her photography by taking close-up or wide views outside at dusk or at night. The medium of photography, for which light is fundamental, is hereby pushed to its limits as the artist works in conditions where the lack of natural or artificial light should theoretically make photography impossible. We see nightscapes, empty streets and courtyards, views through or of impenetrable garden shrubs. Often there is a deep and somehow magical inky blue pervading the image or another subdued colour softly glowing and permeating the scene. The fact that there are no human figures in these photos is no surprise.

 

In Pasing, the artist shows mainly close-up photographs from her body of work dedicated to plant structures like blossoms, clusters of fruit or tree branches. Through keen observation, she manages to find unique situations arising from interaction with the atmosphere, the elements (sometimes the leaves are wet or at the point of wilting) or the background. In most cases, the background appears to be so inscrutably dark that the plants in the foreground take on an almost hyperreal plasticity. They appear tangible in their materiality, like the materiality in great classical paintings of those like Velazquez. This otherwise photo-unfriendly light produces velvet-like colours, which have such a unique tonality, in fact, that one can justifiably compare it to painting. The compositions are also striking; for example, when a couple of willow twigs hanging over flowing water impart an extraordinary calm. The artist’s approach is clearly an attempt to honour nature: its changeability, unique manifestations and inexorability (flood – destruction, wilting – transience).

 

Yukara Shimizu: Exhibition view of her photo series.

Photo by Yukara Shimizu

 

Yukara Shimizu: „sideways Nr. 13“, 2014, 18 x 27 cm (left) &“sideways Nr. 7”, 2013, 18 x 24 cm (right). Geclée prints.

Photos by Yukara Shimizu

 

Yukara Shimizu: „Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Nr. 1“, 2016 (left) & „Moss Nr. 1“, 2014 (right).

Geclée prints, each 24 x 35 cm

Photos by Yukara Shimizu

The Finnish artist Talvikki Lehtinen also appears to honour nature, at least in a technique typical for memorials, namely bronze. In this work, however, we are not dealing with unwieldy figures, but rather with filigree objects from the plant world. The artist creates impressions of real plants and then transfers these forms to a mould for the bronze casting process. In adding or omitting fragments, unique creations emerge, which are close to nature yet can be seen as sculptural statements independent of their references. Most of the wall objects are conceived as series or installations and appear starkly graphic from a distance. There is an emphasis on the rich variety of forms, perhaps typical for a homage to nature, such as in the long slender branches of the series “Hybrids”. In the series “Eternally I”, the artist focuses on the structures created by branches, shoots and roots. In “Eternally II”, shoots wind and snake in all directions and create an airy web, which works as a single and self-contained entity despite its branching structure. In spite of the adventurous contortions of these plants, there is a general impression of circularity – an eternal returning to the starting point, as indicated by the title of this work.

 

Talvikki Lehtinen: „Eternally I“. Bronze, 4 piece wall installation, about 2 m long (left)

„Eternally II“, Bronze, 78 x 20 x 15 cm (right). From the series „Garden of thoughts“ 2013-2017.

Photos by Yukara Shimizu

 

Talvikki Lehtinen: "Tomorrow", Bronze, 50x65x25 cm (left) & "Blossom", Bronze, 2 parts, 140 cm wide (right)

From the series „Garden of thoughts“, 2013-2017.

Fotos Talvikki Lehtinen

 

Talvikki Lehtinen: „Hybrids“. Bronze, 6 piece wall installation, about 3 m long .

From the series „Garden of thoughts“, 2013-2017.

Photo by Yukara Shimizu

 

The bursting clusters of fruit of this Finnish vegetation seems to be an allusion to the power of rebirth in nature. The fact that the roots are also visible, however, adds a negative touch suggestive of uprooting and the destruction of nature. The title of the series “Hybrids” can also be seen as a critical reference to the way the modern world handles nature with regards to biotechnology in agriculture. In any case, all the variations of these long stemmed plants with their hanging flowers and tuberous roots represent sophisticated new species of artificial plants. In adopting and modifying nature, Talvikki Lehtinen posits art as a kind of parallel natural world complete with unlimited variations of form.

 

Text: Ingrid Thorwart / Translation: Anne Pincus