EWERDT HILGEMANN : BEAUTIFUL RUINS

 

LA CARESSE DE L’ARTISTE

by Rosanna Albertini

Ewerdt Hilgemann: “I’m full of stories, they sit everywhere in my whole body.”

(From a conversation with Klaus Altevogt for metalligent, May 2017)

He had a solo exhibition at Royale Projects, Los Angeles CA, in 2017

It would be exciting to know how exactly each cell, each molecule, each organ reacts to stories and physical realities every time they grab our attention. They become a part of us whether we invite them or not. Here we have an artist born in Germany in 1938 who grew up among bombs and marching boots in the Ruhr area, and had the fortune of having grandparents in countryside, where for a while he enjoyed nature and the experiments on different materials in a cement factory where his grandfather was director of a laboratory. Strange objects fell from the sky. They ruined the hands of his best friend. Half of the house was destroyed. Ewerdt experienced a hostility conveyed by objects, but originated by humans. It takes a long time to find a personal answer to these kinds of absurdities.

I don’t know how he made up his mind. It’s a fact that, in 1982, Hilgemann made what Camus would declare the perfect absurd piece: The Rolling Cube. From Camus’ standpoint, it’s a compliment. Ten tons of Carrara white marble, a cube whose faces were polished by the artist for weeks, soft like a skin he caresses, gently, at the end of the work, is carried on a truck to the top of the mountain. And thrown down the ravine, to become again a broken splinter of the mountain. After the fall though, it is different from the other fragments of rocks throw down by the quarry workers: it had been sculpted. The whole action was filmed.

The caress: “The caress is the waiting for a pure time to come, time without a content. She is made with growing hunger, and more and more enticing promises, something that brings new perspectives on the things we cannot grasp.” (Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre)

I was struck looking at the solitude of the artist and the rock during the physical transformation of the piece of marble. “I had to do it,” says the artist, and not for fame or money. He paid for the cube. In exchange, I would say, he became an anonymous field of existence. The cube had to be perfect, and meaningless. There is past in the men, as well as in the object’s material nature, but the object will not have the time to remember, it will be dead in a few minutes, leaving to the artist a beautiful ruin. Ugliness and pain of an inhuman history, its thickness, the smell of war, along with impenetrable political decisions, still heavy like a storm of memories, were persuaded for a very short time to get in touch with beauty. Like Marie Antoinette climbing the scaffold. It won’t last.

Maybe the present starts there for the artist, his own journey free from the weight of the past. Returning to himself, the artist is chained to Ewerdt as never before. He is finally in the present. “C’est un présent d’être et non de rêve.” It’s a living present, not of a dream. “The present has shredded the texture of the infinite existing; history is ignored; the present starts from right now.” (Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre)

In the art that came after killing the cube, a sense of damage remains that Michelangelo, Bernini, even Camille Claudel, couldn’t conceive. After so many proofs of destructive power among humans, how could artworks remain untouched? Hilgemann sculptures succeed in being beautiful despite the distance and the separation the artist has organized between his hands and the shape that appears. He prepares a regular volume, connects a pump to the inside of the piece, and waits for the implosion of the form, while little by little the extraction, almost an abduction of the air, produces shrinking, moaning, strong noise at times, for the art body has to be born by himself.

In Europe the beginnings of conceptual experiences in the arts were quite different from American conceptualism. The finitude of the object must pay a price to a very diffused state of mind still disturbed by real ruins and graveyards facing the permanent, immutable natural splendor. There was need “to make violence to the present, forcing art (for instance) to reach levels that are beyond the concept of art. Vincenzo Agnetti. “ Intuition is conscious reality bumped in the dark.” 1970

And Hilgemann’s sculptures of today, with their unsteady balance, deformed as if they had been pinched by invisible inner demons, show their imperfect body with pride, they are so human one can only sympathize with them. Does your heap hurt? Are you strangely bent? Look at me, they say, my odd angles will never change. And I did it by myself. Like you, isn’t it? Yet, they also express care, and a secret determination of the artist to give at least a direction to their taking form. ‘Conceptually,’ I don’t know if it is the proper word, their luminous charm emanates from the artist’s caress, as “waiting for a pure time to come, time without a content.”

An already imploded sculpture at Royale Projects:

And the process of implosion of a new piece at the gallery, during the opening:  (details)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: Peter Kirby

“Only art can go someway toward making accessible, towards waking into some measure of communicability, the sheer inhuman otherness of the matter – the retractions out of reach of rock and wood, of metal and fiber. … Without the arts, form would remain unmet and strangeness without speech in the silence of the stone.”  George Steiner

Bibliography

George Steiner, Real Presences, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1989;  Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, Gallimard, Paris 1942; Concettuale in Italia 1965-1972, Galleria Milano, 1987; Ewerdt Hilgemann, Art Affairs, Amsterdam, 2015; Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre, PUF, Paris 1983.

Emmanuel Levinas, 1906-1995. French philosopher born in Lithuania to Jewish parents. At home they spoke Yiddish as well as Russian. In 1928-29 he studied under Edmond Husserl and Martin Heidegger. He was the first to introduce their ideas into France. Levinas was a prisoner of war in a German camp, while his wife and daughter hid in a French convent. One of his early books, Le temps et l’autre, taught me nuances and defaults of our understanding, and the lack of reality of idealistic abstractions: time, being, existence merge into the fullness of life, and only the face-to-face with other humans allows them to exist. Levinas took his notes for this book when he was a prisoner. RA

GIULIANA CUNEAZ : Remaking the Natural Magic

I speak within the time and out of time.
I speak for yesterday and today;
for yesterday which is a lesson of life,
for today which is a lesson of death.

Edmond Jabès

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Le cabinet de la neige, 2014  Video installation  3D animation, wood, clay and acrylic paint with crystal dust, monitor.  76 x 65 x 50 cm.   Courtesy of the artist and Gagliardi e Domke Gallery, Torino

A myriad of interior sceneries from mother earth,
always struck with amazement

by Rosanna Albertini

Common sense says that we only see what we know. Giuliana Cuneaz invites us to the opposite journey and brings us, at least in our imagination, to a living universe out of the reach of our perception, a realm of infinite transformations and a variety of forms. She is attracted by the invisible presence of the same kind of patterns shaping the forms of neurons, roots, or mineral structures. She wonders about the natural ‘thinking’ that seems to have been designed for the shell, bark or minerals’ inner architecture. ‘Designed?’ By whom? When? Hard to find the proper words for the secret growth of a living world that doesn’t need humans to exist.

Her art is one more physical process, something in between visible things as they appear in the daylight and invisible configurations revealed by electron microscopes and digital simulations.

As an artist, she can only be absurd:

The absurd work illustrates how thinking gives up with prestige and accepts to be nothing more than intelligence activating appearances and covering with images what doesn’t have a reason to exist. If the world were easy to see, art wouldn’t be.  Albert Camus

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Le cabinet de la neige, (details), 2014   Uncooked clay, acrylic paint with crystal dust.  
 

Through valleys and woods, Giuliana put her green eyes at work to discover the fairies’ sites – each of them has a name in her mountains. At the mouth of cracks, or caves, she placed a music stand holding a piece of music written for one instrument. She gave to the silent fairies a musical voice that the public could listen to in a building, where humans and invisible presences were wrapped in the same vibrations. Fairies are not always good, they can be scary or threatening.

One of these invisible fairies, hidden in the image of her place, followed me through a photograph — given to me by Giuliana — in all the moves I went through since my visit to the mountains: the site looks quite dark, with rocks and pine trees ravaged by the wind. The Fairy of Grand Brissogne is now here in front of me, between the keyboard and the computer screen. In my attachment to that picture I probably did see my own life as the life of an absurd woman accepting sadness and fear as a present. Obstacles needing to be defeated.

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013  Video installation. 3D animation, wood, monitor, plexiglass, led, sand, clay, acrylic paint. 165 x 113,5 x 40 cm.  Courtesy of the artist and Private collection.

Giuliana Cuneaz engaged her life in a similar struggle, at the same time asking her hands to remake the natural magic, covering with handmade figures of curiosities and rarities the shelves of contemporary Wunderkammers, the chambers of marvels. Only one of her many artworks. It’s so wonderful to see a snow that doesn’t melt on the wood and shines forever, crystal by crystal, and to realize how the artist’s hands transformed uncooked clay into stars, corals, and seeds and flowers: natural forms whose story is only “invincible progress of the form, a sort of visible music”. (Paul Valéry)
For once, the fairies have been benevolent.

To break the crust of solid material bodies, trying to turn inside out the natural birth of crystals, rocks, or shells, this is the challenge that Giuliana Cuneaz seems to have embraced for a long time, offering to us her imaginary visit into the heart of matter. Her handmade objects are humble replicas. That’s for their marvelous configuration. Where they came from, at first, is a process lost in the dark of undetected beginnings, as if an artist had made them.

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 213, details

Happiness and absurdity are two children of the same ground. …
When sadness raises up in a human heart, the rock is winning, sadness is the rock itself. …
The absurd woman contemplating her suffering shuts all the idols down. In the universe suddenly brought back to silence, appear thousands of small, stupefied voices of the earth. …
Sisyphus teaches the superior loyalty that denies gods and lifts rocks. She also believes that everything is good. This universe deprived of gods doesn’t seem sterile to her, nor trivial. Every grain of the stone, every mineral sparkle of this mountain filled with weight is a world by itself. Struggling toward the top can fill up a woman’s heart. Imagine lady Sisyphus is a happy one. … The absurd woman says yes and her effort will never cease.
Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, 1942 (with my alteration into a feminine mode).

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013, details

3D computer graphics helped her to add a mental magic to the physical appearance of objects. Sculpting forms is not enough. They die in their frozen stillness. Giuliana Cuneaz’s chambers of marvels include a screen showing the 3D computer graphic version of the same objects she had made. The fantastic sceneries she displays have two different lives: one is a lesson of death cherished, honored by the artist’s fingers accepting the drama of making a physical form, the other on the screen is a lesson of life in search of visible modulations, bursts of changes, phases of passage, movements.

 

Giuliana Cuneaz, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013  3D computer animation  Courtesy of the artist and Private collection

Giuliana’s waves are earthly as if the clay, the shy and silent skin of the earth, had suddenly made her surface strong and dynamic like the ocean waves — each bringing new presents to the seashore. Although supported by numbers and programs, artificial life doesn’t cease to be human. It’s our brain trying to approach, to understand the admirable quality of natural artifacts. Inner landscapes suggested by microscopic photographs and nanotechnologies gave to my artist, maybe, the same surprise as the anatomic drawings gave to the 15th century’s artists. We see her imagination at work, and we can be transported with her inside her earthly waves, like we were invisible particles of dust.

Un saggio: L’anima verso cui andiamo è un paese di neve. …
Un saggio: … Un paese tagliato nell’acqua indurita dal gelo. L’acqua ci custodisce. Cosi i ghiacciai, gli occhi dilatati degli scomparsi.

Edmond Jabès

A wise man: The soul we go after is a country of snow. …
A wise man: … A country cut into the water hardened by cold. Water preserves us. So the glaciers, and the dilated eyes of the dead.

Yes, crystals are black in the valley of snow. They can’t forget they need to pause on the rocky surface of mountains, or the smoother layers of clay. Black is memory of their love joining them to the pebbles, of melting on the skin of an obstinate, stringent partner. Water and dirt are inseparable like day and night. Chemistry tells us that life springs from that wedding. We should unite our body to them, and remember in our cells what we are not able to know.

 

Giuliana Cuneaz, Chrystal Growth 2012, 3D animation Courtesy of the artist and Gagliardi e Domke Gallery, Torino

Giuliana Cuneaz at work

Bibliography

Edmond Jabès, Le livre des questions, Paris, Gallimard, 1963. Il libro delle interrogazioni, trad. it. di Chiara Rebellato, Casale Monferrato, Marietti, 1985

Paul Valéry, L’homme et la coquille, Paris, Gallimard, 1937

Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, Paris, Gallimard, 1942

William Bryant Logan, DIRT, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, New York, The Berkley Publishing Group, 1995

 

A MAGIC BROOM

ED CLARK – painter               by Rosanna Albertini    

 It’s not so much art as it is…life (John Cage)

His life. An American artist born in 1926. He went from Chicago to Paris in the Fifties when Picasso, Braque, Chagall, not to mention Sartre and Camus and Simone de Beauvoir, walked in and out through clouds of smoke: Paris as it happened to be in the fifties. Nevertheless, the artist to whom Clark felt closest to was Nicolas de Stael. Maybe Ed Clark recognized in his landscapes the desperate passion of someone who tried to keep his visions separate from war’s tragedies and the immediate after war poverty and lack of fortune, but who also gave up and jumped onto the void in 1955. Clark tried to paint in the style of his friend. Probably his way to put himself in another artist’s mind, an extreme act of sympathy: The City, 1953. It’s a dark painting. Maybe Ed Clark gave to the city blocks a New York light, or it was his friend’s sadness.

The very young African American painter fell in love with Paris. I can see him converting “the very pulses of the air into revelations” (Henry James), finding a broom and sweeping his feelings over the canvas -the canvas is on the floor. He added freedom and energy to the impulses coming to him from an old, wounded world.

EDWARD CLARK, The City, 1953, oil on canvas. Private collection. Courtesy of The Mistake Room, Los Angeles

EDWARD CLARK, The City, 1953, oil on canvas. Private collection.
Courtesy of The Mistake Room, Los Angeles

PARIS IN THE 50s FROM ALBERT CAMUS’ NOTEBOOKS (1951-59), with bugs interpolated.

Man of 1950: he fornicated and read the newspapers.

Did he, an American in Paris?

Never attack anybody, especially not in writing. The time of criticism and polemics is over – Creation.

From now on, the single and constant affirmation. Understand them all. Love and admire but few.

The public no longer accepts intelligence except within idiotic commentaries.

The more I look at Ed Clark’s most recent paintings, the less I want to put words on them. They exude physical strength and joy of discovery: meanings fly around them almost embracing the canvas, and yet they don’t dare to interrupt with shadows the paintings’ inner life. Directions, stories, sounds, pierce his mind before they fall on the canvas: and every time it’s a new conversation between colors and forms. Because the natural disorder becomes human, captured by an impulse of love, love for the living present, in front of the newness of a painted landscape borrowing natural colors and lights, but escaping time. Clark’s voice: “Wherever he is, an artist, you know, has to do what he believes it’s right.” As if the action of painting had told him what to do: don’t reproduce anything you have seen.

EDWARD CLARK, Untitled, 2013, acrylic on canvas. Collection of the artist Courtesy of The Mistake Room, Los Angeles

EDWARD CLARK, Untitled, 2013, acrylic on canvas. Collection of the artist
Courtesy of The Mistake Room, Los Angeles

 

EDWARD CLARK, Untitled (China Series), 1995, acrylic on canvas. Collection of the artist Courtesy of The Mistake Room, Los Angeles

EDWARD CLARK, Untitled (China Series), 1995, acrylic on canvas. Collection of the artist
Courtesy of The Mistake Room, Los Angeles

“It’s not so much art as it is … life.” Life’s physical threads, movements, changes, adaptations, dimensions, the power of center as well as the softness of marginal strokes. The beauty of a sense of balance. Clark’s paintings are islands of visual music, linked to the heartbeats.

Abstractions? I’d like better not to say so. First word everybody mumbles in front of these paintings, as if the viewers had eyes in their mouth. I’m paraphrasing John Cage. His 1967 attack of impatience: “As they listen to music they start talking. Do they have ears in their mouth? Are they stupid?” True, there is no such thing as silence. Can they just listen? Can we just look, look and wait until the painting awakes in each of our cells, matter talking to matter, and then we’ll see?

“If anything is communicated by art, it happens without any explicit desire for communication. It is communicated by art, involuntarily and to the same extent, to both the artist and the spectator. If the spectator is amazed by a work, so is the artist, unaware as he is of his “achievement.” (Giulio Paolini)