Bettina M. Busse
Engaging with the material and its opposite, the ephemeral, is fundamental to the art of Eva Schlegel, and represents an important starting point for her works. Experimentation with contrary states (presence/absence, focused/unfocused, outside/inside, statis/movement) leads the beholder to a certain perception and can sometimes lead to puzzle, when, as in her cloud pictures, the ephemeral (the cloud) was materialized in the photograph, but again hidden and dematerialized by various transformation techniques.
Already in the mid 1980s, the artist attracted attention with her disturbances of perception, which she created using materials like glass and mirrors in several site-specific interventions and installations. Unfocused texts on glass as well as unfocused portraits motivate the beholder to engage in “interpretation,” or, alternatively, he or she might surrender to the lack of information that stands in contrast to the urban surfaces surrounding us. The “wrong track” of the only apparently legible, the refusal to fix a personality to certain external characteristics in the blurry portraits shows how intensely Eva Schlegel explores the limits between representation and communication.
In the 1990s, the artist began creating visual series with clouds, in so doing playfully exploring a very old artistic motif that is popular for its symbolism. (Paintings with striking cloud backgrounds can already be found in the frescoes of the fifteenth century.) Cloud formations could always be interpreted in various ways: as bringers of rain they embodied hope and fertility, but they also concealed what was to remain hidden to the human eye, had religious connotations, or promised peace and happiness. But Eva Schlegel subverts this tradition, for she complicates the “interpretability” of her cloud formations by way of her visual techniques. The Japanese artist Nobuyoshi Araki, who achieved fame with his provocative erotic-pornographic photography, created a series of cloud photographs in the early 1990s that is little known. Eva Schlegel returns the gaze to the cloud as such, to its abstract drawn quality. Unpretentious snapshots were Xeroxed into the first cloud works, and after treating the copy rubbed off with a solvent onto a chalk background: the motif, laterally reversed and dissolved by the use of trichloroethylene, was painted over with many layers of varnish that was stained with oil paints, and thus “hidden” even more. The “cloud” videos from 1998/99 explore the depiction of movement and changes in the clouds: an installation from 2000 in Innsbruck (Galerie im Taxispalais) “mixed” the real cloud sky that was visible through the glass roof and multiplied by mirrors, with a cloud photograph placed on the floor, creating a disturbing spatial situation. In recent years, she has created cloud images as well as heliogravures using silk-screening on lead, the latter with notable cloud formations, that are montaged together with landscapes and architectures from found photographs. The heavy support lead contrasts with the lightness of the cloud images, forming a counterweight to the weightlessness and the lack of the haptic. The motif printed in black hardly differs from the background; in so doing, various image realities emerge in the interchange between appearance and disappearance. The difficult to grasp nature of the motif is reflected in the material. The artistic intentions of these works include a focus on perception and the turn away from interpretation.
In Between will also be the title of the exhibition that will be on view at the end of the year (December 8, 2010 to May 1, 2011) at Vienna’s MAK. For this exhibition, the artist will create a new work for the exhibition space that is dedicated to flying and falling: again, an attempt to arrest the fleeting.