Katharina Sieverding

Galerie Jurgen Becker

In Germany, Katharina Sieverding is considered a pioneer of an art that utilizes photography without overemphasizing its mimetic capabilities. Instead, she concentrates on the process, and her works refer more to the registration of light on the film than to the documented subject matter. It may be a coincidence, albeit not an extraordinary one, that five of the exhibited pieces depict the artist herself; the self-portrait does, however, constitute one of the most frequent motifs in her oeuvre. Transformer, 1973, the oldest piece on display, consists of several superimposed versions of her face. A large-format five-part photo piece from 1988 mediates between yesterday and today. It belongs to the series “Kontinentalkern” (Continental nucleus, 1983–90) and is entitled Die Sonne um Mitternacht schauen (Watching the sun at midnight). Here, a multiplicity of vertical and horizontal self-portraits are all held together by the surface image of a solar eruption.

The bridge between former pictorial conceptions and the present is established by means of individual self-portrait. All of them date from the early ’70s and are based on Polaroids. Sieverding presents herself with a gilded face and slightly varied head Gunilla Wihiborg, Lusthus positions. The effect is that of a face frozen into a gold mask, a face that receives its glow from the solar eruption that dominates the picture.

Here we find one image fermenting within another. It is the old and divine light in the form of sun and gold that serves as the interlocutor for the individual in the person of the artist. However, on the basis of the rich, almost luxuriant abundance of associations of sun and gold, this relationship remains unresolved. Cognition, light, and knowledge, as well as life, death, radiance, and eschatological vision can be conceived and deduced here, but the relationship between the sun and humanity, with its numerous connotations, ranging from spiritual illumination to nuclear death, remains deliberately undefined. The title of this work can be read as a paradox, but it can also be construed as the eruption of light into darkness. And it is precisely this dialectical relationship of subject and object, of mutual determination, that marks Sieverding’s oeuvre.

Wolf Jahn

Translated from German by Joachim Neugroschel.