MEHDI CHOUAKRI FASANENPLATZHEIDI BOCHNIGDIE TIEFE DER ZEITJanuary 17 to February 29, 2020
Die Tiefe der Zeit
The Depth of TimeReflecting on the Watercolors by Heidi Bochnig
The title The Depth of Time was chosen for this exhibition with works by Heidi Bochnig at Mehdi Chouakri Gallery in Berlin because it summarizes various different aspects of the show in a manner that is both poetic and factual.
Heidi Bochnig's practice, which is defined by an application of extremely diluted watercolors on firm laid paper, is another way of understanding the title The Depth of Time. It is not only the watercolor that flows into the paper—time itself materializes. Duration and patience are crucial components, for example, when surfaces dry before new layers can be applied. First, Heidi Bochnig paints an initial layer of color onto the entire sheet. In the next step, she allows for drying. Shortened by a few centimeters—approximately by the width of a paintbrush—she then superimposes a second layer, followed by a third and fourth, and so on; until a density of material surfaces in the center of the sheet, which represents the depth of time. The visible transparent glaze around the edges is material as well, and the layering of color fields produces a sense of densification. Adding layer by layer, the concentration in the center of the sheet yields a sensual color intensity—the viewer feels physically engaged. The gradually increasing concentration is continuously detectable on the edges of each new color field. The artist's work process is understandable; in its stubborn pragmatism, it becomes the constitutive element of the narrative. Bochnig patiently applies the color, which results in a very material color intensity. All sheets are "Untitled". Yet, Heidi Bochnig does occasionally add the official color names as auxiliary titles to identify the sheets and also to give a technically precise indication of the color she used.
Color transforms from one physical state to another: from water-soluble to dry and sedimented. This example also demonstrates the scope of the color glossary. "Siena" indicates the geographical origin of the earthy color; it names the material. At the same time, the term alludes to the historical importance of the eponymous city, which was a center of Italian Renaissance—both factuality and grandeur stand side by side. Moreover, the materiality of the color requires the heavy paper on which it is applied; Heidi Bochnig uses commercially available laid paper commonly used for intaglio printing. This medium onto which the color is applied also requires "time": the layers of paint must soak in to prevent warping as each new coat of watery paint is added. In this way, the artist actively avoids any possible formation that could result from a random flow of watercolor; the beauty of the sedimentation requires discipline.
And lastly, the understanding that emerges from the depth of time of the production process refers to a further level of interpretation: the duration of the beholder's viewing. Here, two processes intertwine. Heidi Bochnig's works attract the eye and bind the gaze to their surfaces, precisely because of their haptic density. An interplay of forces defines this act of viewing, triggered by the artwork, honored by the viewer. One has to be willing to trace one's perception.
During the 1960s, Heidi Bochnig trained at the textile engineering school in Krefeld, where she studied print design; her tasks included the creation and drawing of patterns. Designing textile fabrics requires rules and principles—in terms of the fabric's production as well as any further processing. Weaving and design literally go "hand in hand”. Textile patterns are characterized by repetition and an interlocking of internal motifs within a potentially infinite fabric from which a single “cutout” is later turned into a versatile product. It seems to me that Heidi Bochnig’s training and coinciding work ethic have been formative in shaping her attitude toward the independent works on paper that she has created for so many years. Even though the layout of these works requires discipline, the distinct, freehand application of the layers of paint achieves vivid contours. The result is a kind of "handwriting" that forces subtle irregularities around the edges of the color fields that, in turn, attract the eye. Everything is drawn freehand; any external aid would make things mechanical, which is what the eye seeks to double-check before happily resigning to the drawing’s subtle visual deviations.
The circular motifs, in particular, highlight this as they originate in the concentration, i.e., in an order determined by the center. A distinction arises here between two groups of works: one follows the principle of inward concentration; the other seeks to expand outward with the circles positioned at a short distance from one another, enlarging like tree rings or ripples from a stone cast in water. The application of color is a particularly physical exercise here that does not schematically outline the primary motif. Instead, the artist’s hand applies each circular shape by extending over the given surface. The radius of the gesture corresponds to the length of Bochnig's arm, testifying to notions of physicality. The watercolor is humanized, sensualized, physicalized—an experience.
Heidi Bochnig's works are to be described rationally; the exhibition title’s manifested "depth of time" indicates poetic levels—something the artist allows without necessarily desiring it. She asserts herself through her practice, in which she primarily pursues the materiality of colors without emotion. The result is an arresting, independent artwork. The viewer remains free to determine the work's poetic extent; in the end, it will depend on the viewer’s depth of understanding of the works.
Friedrich Meschede (translated by Katerine Niedinger)