Through the Looking Glass (english)

Jutta Kleinknecht

Looking through Ulrike Heydenreich’s kaleidoscopic mirror objects, one is reminded of the opening scene of the 1871 novel Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll, in which Alice enters the supposed reflection of real space through a mirror.

Only on second glance does an almost surreal alternate world reveal itself. The viewer of Heydenreich’s work also emerges through glass into a world between reality and illusion. The reflection leads to a fascinating, small universe made through reproduction and imagination.

Ulrike Heydenreich’s recurrent theme is the landscape. In her drawings, prints, and sculptural objects, she arranges interchangeable topographic and cartographic elements into new visual worlds. All works revolve around the construction of three-dimensionality; the new mirror-objects being the most immediate and the drawings the most subtle.

In the seventeenth century and in the mirrored Baroque cabinets, the mirror was already considered a symbol of transience and a look behind reality. Heydenreich’s mirror sculptures are based on the idea of a kaleidoscope. One looks through a tube lined with mirrors, in which colorful shards of glass move freely, offering fantastic ornamental and floral images to the viewer.

Heydenreich enhances this old invention with sculpture: the viewer looks through one of her   upright kaleidoscopes as if in a well. One sees the geometric characters from the field of cartography, which transform themselves through multiple optical reflections to an imaginary world map or globe. Another sculpture incorporates the base, the ground of the actual exhibition space. The reflection is reminiscent of planets in another universe.

The topographical map motif is also found in the artist’s screen-printed works. By kaleidoscopically repeating snippets of a map with the computer, the map is distorted into a new pictorial form. It is the symmetry, geometric symbols, and ornamental forms that constitute the character of the work. Initially two-dimensional images of the landscape, the maps are folded, thus jumping into three-dimensionality. The unfolding is extremely fragile, held in glass boxes. The works seem to have sprung from a cabinet of curiosities. Since the first cartographic drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, maps count—together with optical devices for topographical survey and nature observances—as an important category of Scientifica.

Ulrike Heydenreich also builds object boxes for her pencil drawings, first in the round, about one meter in diameter, then also reduced to rectangular formats for smaller landscapes.

The drawings always consist of mountain landscapes with snowfields. The images are drawn from historic photo books that were printed during the period of the rotogravure printing press. Heydenreich combines selected views with imaginary landscapes. In a collaging process, individual scenes become combined as one image, so that at first glance a real landscape is suggested to the viewer. The horizontal progression of the mountain and landscape segments, however, is altered. This is found in the artificial shadows and the reappearance of single elements in different locations.

With her panorama rings, the artist constructs an infinite landscape. The wandering gaze of the viewer, looking for a familiar place or recognizable landscape information, finds no beginning or end. Ulrike Heydenreich seamlessly assembles these fictional panoramas in slanted circular wooden frames through which they gain an architectural and sculptural character. The round execution is reminiscent of landscape images from the Romantic Era. Caspar David Friedrich created similar landscapes, covering a 180° field of vision. Artists like Karl Friedrich Schinkel, as well as performers, have already experimented with the idea of the round panorama. Art competed with reality; photorealistic landscape imagery adapted itself to the circular, unending pictorial space of the radial human perspective.

In Ulrike Heydenreich’s most recent drawings, the spatial effect of the smaller landscapes is heightened through the construction of architecturally precise perspective-boxes. It is also here that the drawing becomes an object in space, incorporating its own small, scenic stage,  comparable to an image in a stereoviewer. The panoramic section of the drawing transforms into the window view, while the white spaces of the frame become the perspectively distorted interior. The landscape seems to perpetuate itself within the frame of the frame, a means of representation that has existed since the Baroque illusions of Andrea Pozzo. What remains is the illusion, which does not reveal itself until a second look. The constructed perspectives of the boxes appeal to the eyes of the viewer, whose changing vantage point offers continuous transformation, making a sequence of objects particularly fascinating.

One would like to think that Ulrike Heydenreich views the world as if she were on a journey with Wilhelm von Humboldt, regarding the human view of reality as something to conserve in the glass cases of a natural history collection. The world seems new in the reflection of this artistic interpretation of sight.

Translation: Rebecca Silus