…which, when shone on by the sun, give off a splendid sparkle like a mirror
Dr. Petra Lanfermann
Ulrike Heydenreich’s latest works, presented here for the first time, show the artist continuing to explore – and to develop – her familiar themes. She continues to pursue her interest in cartography and the recurring theme of three-dimensional, spatial drawing, while finding new forms in which to do so.
The exploration of different perspectives and the qualities of different types of paper, folded crystal-like forms, and play with reflection are central threads running through all her groups of work. This is also shown in her choice of the promising exhibition title – words from a pre-Romantic traveler’s description of an icy alpine landscape1. Heydenreich’s drawings as well as the collages entitled ‘Neuland,’ portraying lofty snow-covered mountaintop scenes with wanderers, seem to be uncannily removed from the flow of time. For all artists drawing three-dimensional space, the element of time – compressed time, the past, and eternity – plays an essential role2, but as it appears in Heydenreich’s landscape motifs, time seems to have been frozen. The historical photographs from which she draws are thus brought into the present while preserving their former aura. And the motif – the mountain – is ultimately a timeless place. Along with the ocean, the mountain is the most “original” location and the least altered by the hand of humanity. It is still a destination for people seeking solitude, primordial nature, quiet, and a sense of distance – a place where even today they feel small and insignificant. Even in the present day, it is here where conditions are most conducive to the feeling of the sublime, which the Romantics connected with mountains and wished to express in their paintings. The peaks seem to be so close to the heavens. Take, for instance, Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818). On the peak, standing before the mountain panorama, he surveys nature – timeless and limitless, both majestic and deadly. Still, as the wanderer stands there, dressed in his suit, the viewer can imagine him in the next moment, marking the summit with a cross – a symbol of mankind’s supposed “conquest of nature.”
Whereas, aside from the metaphysical and symbolic level, the Romantics also stressed that a landscape be recognizable, in the 21st century counterparts to the Romantic landscape, specific location no longer plays a role.3 In Heydenreich’s collages, the landscape becomes a kind of stage and the figures she portrays view it like a theatrical work. The fact that, ultimately, landscape is always tied to the viewers’ imagination and associations – after all, it is only through this that nature becomes „landscape“ – is vividly portrayed in the collages. Because there is something rising above the landscape, which these figures are just now discovering and marveling at: crystalline formations suggestive of ice or quartz. Like a fine mesh web corresponding to the forms of nature, it can equally cause irritation while also blending in. In some of the collages, it is detached from the mountain, floating above or following some hikers who seem to disappear from the image at left. By combining the realistic landscape, the hikers, and the geometric and abstract form of the collages, the artist presents multiple layers – and not just at the level of content. The elements of the image fan out over four layers of paper – three of which are transparent – which in their deep frames also extend into three-dimensional space. The situation is similar in the Ausblick (Views) series, where Heydenreich encloses her pencil-drawn panoramic views within a three-dimensional architectural form. In her newest pieces from this group of works, the paper sheets are bent into concave curves, thus connecting the Ausblick series with her Panoramaring (Panorama Ring) pieces4 as well as compelling, fresh new effects of perspective.
Heydenreich’s Gebirgsstücken, a small run of screen prints, echo the theme of folded paper from the Ausblick series, though rather than architectural and spatial forms, now the paper is folded into three-sided shapes and precise sharp edges create spatial depth. Thus she also offers a further spatial dimension to the printed mountain pieces that give the works their name, which with their ice blue halftone motifs find a new way to give visual form to the sublime. If the idea of „drawing as a blueprint of the world“5 holds true – something that Heydenreich has demonstrated impressively in recent years – then she is now extending this very idea into three dimensions. She molds this concept into a fascinating form with the glass objects accompanying the screen prints. Their soft, silver lines suggest reduced quartz-like formations, thus giving new shape to the same source material and aesthetic as the collages. The sculptural pieces vary in size and rest on the wall at different heights, and one feels resonating a potential for expansion or change in the passing, temporary installation. The installation as a whole is characterized by an austerity of form and an aura of coolness, along with a minimalist impression that has no attached sense of narrative. Rather, the glass elements reflect the surrounding exhibition area, incorporating the viewers moving within the space and reflecting the incoming, changing light. No mere optical reflections, these delicate mirror images of the self, cast back at a viewer who approaches the quartz-like sculptures inhabiting the space with her, are an essential part of the fascination to be found in Ulrike Heydenreich’s new work.
Dr. Petra Lanfermann, 2013
Translation: Joe Kaneko
1 Gottlieb Sigmund Gruner, Die Eisgebirge des Schweizerlandes (The Icy Mountains of Switzerland), Bern 1760
2 See the catalogue for Der Zeichnung Raum geben. Bettina van Haaren, Pia Linz, Brigitte Waldach, Städtische Galerie Bietigheim-Bissingen 2011/12.
3 See for example the photographs of Elger Essers or the paintings/neon work of Sven Drühls, e.g. in the catalog for Kalte Rinden – Seltene Erden. Die Landschaft in der Gegenwartskunst, Stadtgalerie Kiel/Märkisches Museum Witten/Städtische Galerie Bietigheim-Bissingen 2012/13.
4 Regarding these two groups of works, see the author’s essay in the exhibition catalogue to „Laß Dich von der Natur anwehen.“ Landschaftszeichnung der Romantik und der Gegenwart, Kunsthalle Bremen 2013.
5 Je mehr ich zeichne – Zeichnung als Weltentwurf (The more I draw – Drawing as a blueprint of the world), exhibition catalogue from the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen 2010/11.