PRINT March 2005


AS ALMOST ANY ARTIST WILL TELL YOU, one of the most important qualities of a studio is its light, and the best kind (at least for those in our hemisphere) comes through north-facing windows. Northern light is desirable because it illuminates the space throughout the entire day and changes hour by hour as the sun glides westward, altering the impression of works as they are being made. I mention this by way of introduction, because Thomas Scheibitz’s studio on Boxhagenerstrasse in Berlin has large north-facing windows, and, judging from the photographs he has taken there—seven of which are published for the first time in a new portfolio for Artforum—Scheibitz spends a lot of time snapping his shutter as the light shifts and bends across his paintings and sculptures over the course of the day.

The history of artists photographing their work in the studio is both long and rich—and peppered with motivations as various as its practitioners. For most, the impetus is purely documentary: The photos provide a record of the fleeting state of a work-in-progress before it vanishes beneath new layers of paint or changes sculptural form. But some deploy the camera more strategically, using photographs to proscribe viewing positions or installation conditions for their work. (Indeed, the photographic career of Scheibitz’s contemporary and friend, Thomas Demand, chronicled by Michael Fried in these pages, began with a struggle to take ideal pictures of his own sculptures.) Scheibitz’s photographs stand in yet another, perhaps looser, tradition in which artists not usually associated with the medium use the camera as sketchbook, capturing various views of their works as part of their “research.” (Gerhard Richter’s photographic details of his paintings are paradigmatic in this regard.) This research—often used as a means to generate new work in other media—is particularly pointed in the case of Scheibitz, whose paintings and sculptures have long investigated different registers of visual representation.

Using 35mm reversal film to yield prints identical in size to the reproductions here, Scheibitz has thus far made four suites of photographs that self-consciously explore his paintings and sculptures in ways available only to the camera—and only in the studio. With their fragmentary vistas, tight cropping, varying depths of field, and, in one case, double exposure, the images in his most recent portfolio, Springtime on Stage, 2005, contrast greatly with the “gestaltist” manner in which one typically encounters his art in a quasi-clinical gallery setting. Even though Scheibitz considers this work ancillary to his other studio practice, it is engaged with similar formal concerns. Indeed, the shifting perspectives, rigid yet playful geometry, and compositional rhyming all bear the artist’s unmistakable pictorial signature.

Although these images appear inspired by the changing light of his studio, Scheibitz’s photographs rely as much on artful choreography as on happenstance. This point is perhaps most clearly evidenced in the plate opposite this text, which depicts three paintings set in a round aperture. The image initially suggests a stolen peek through a peephole into Scheibitz’s studio, but this illusion quickly gives way to another reading of the disk as mirror, and we realize we are only seeing a reflection of what the artist would have us see. Through such intimate glimpses of Scheibitz’s world, he allows us, too, to see his art in another light.

Jordan Kantor