#MagasinetKunst #SusanneWellm #fotokunst #kunst #fotografi #billedkunst #kunstmagasin

Issue no. 6/2016 of Magasinet KUNST

(Find the Danish version in section / News)


Susanne Wellm:

The illusory retina & textile-like undertones

by Tove Thage


Certain pictures you can actually feel between your fingers as soon as you look at them. Susanne Wellm’s (b. 1965) photographs are characterized by their materiality, coupled with a formal stringency and resonance – a tranquil metaphysical expression. The motives appear to be silent, flawlessly delineating people’s and objects’ borders. Epic challenges in everyday life throw the qualities of peoples and objects into relief: clean lines and recapitulated elements that underscore terseness in the expression. The visual world remains semi-abstract. The exhibition, Between Still and Moving / Selected Short Stories, currently being shown at Brandts 13, encourages us to concentrate on the experience of seeing and incites us to stop and to be present. In every photographic installation, Susanne Wellm tells a succinct story which deals with personal relationships, expressed through the portrait of a person and a person’s world, via immanence or by virtue of an internal dynamics. The pictures reflect the inner within the outer and the space and the body in that constellation.


Commuter in time

Each one of Susanne Wellm’s pictures holds several images, composed as layers upon layers and digitally joined together. Photographically and thematically, traces move in dialogue with each other. The themes depict varying conditions of consciousness, from a sharply analyzing mode to a flustered awakening, which, in much the manner of inner monologues, operate as first-person narrative. Not only is there a question of the visual description of an external action. There is also, and insistently, a question of the experience of reality, and access to unconscious layers. Associations guide Susanne Wellm’s use of images – and the viewer’s activity of thought – toward past events while they support the formation of a clearer and more complete picture of the present. The artist moves around like a commuter in time.

“The marvels of daily life are so exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.” These words were spoken by the French documentary photography, Robert Doisneau (1912-1994). Susanne Wellm does not find her pictures the way a documentary photographer would, but rather as a flea market hunter, and especially in Berlin. The pictures do not need to come only from their family albums. New exposures come into being inside the artist’s studio located on Amager, not very far from the shoreline.

In 2013, Susanne Wellm won the prize awarded by the Circle of Photography Curators in connection with Brandts’ Photo Triennial, which was organized at Museet for Fotokunst (The Museum of Photographic Art) in Odense. This prize allowed her to launch a solo exhibition at this same museum. Now the result is being presented here at Brandts 13.


Inner landscapes’ after-images

Susanne Wellm is creating her installational works with a saliently personal point of departure. In one of her early works from the late-1990s, Photogravure, which was ultimately published as a book in 2000, she shows an array of life’s basic conditions. She takes inspiration from immediate surroundings. In photogravure sequences there is waking up; feet inside the shower cabin; a coffee cup and saucer on the lap; an empty bowl, viewed from high up above, and slantwise from the rear. Ordinary actions that we all carry out, but which are also symbolic and almost ritual-like. Even though private experiences are employed quite directly, they point far beyond the artist’s own life. In Wellm’s photographs, universal themes are treated in an inclusively familiar and simultaneously innovative way. Reality is complex and, as an outsider looking in, you cannot simply identify the private sphere as a matter of fact. The artistic essence within the picture frames incites an afterimage, a reverberation of places or experiences where something else has happened.

When is art a mirror? And when does it function as a prism? The oblique light be- falls us and our self-image is consequently refracted in new directions. These are pictures that give rise to a photographic experience where we, as viewers, are playing our parts in activating the work; these are pictures that make allowances for photographs to exist, with all their small displacements, as unfixed, unformulated, dynamic and temporary, emptied of content but fully representational. These pictures corroborate that art can generate consciousness.

When Susanne Wellm is asked about this, she replies that the pictures come into being within an artistically free, playful process, one that, on the part of observer, is not read as being fixed but rather as being inquiring. And this works! It is food for thought, or we might say instead: these are pictures that conjoin thoughts. Where does one go to let her/his thoughts take on depth? Where can we reflect on what the ego brings along with it?

The pictures are independent, sophisticated, alluring and inspiring – swatches of an interdisciplinary photography, “homegrown” inside Susanne Wellm’s studio. She does not make use of explanatory texts, but each one of her pictures in this suite has a title – in the manner of a short story.

In working with the ‘found’ pictures and the composition of the finished images, Susanne Wellm calls herself a craftsperson, and the slow, textile-like handicraft appears to dwell inherently as an aspect of photographic practice.


Artistic practices

In its inception, photography was born in the splitting off of the laboratory from the studio, and it is right here that photography has touched down again. Susanne Wellm calls herself an anarchist as far as photography is concerned. With her advanced use of different image sources, consisting both of ‘found’ images and ‘originals’, she creates appropriations without the photographic image’s otherwise built-in critical function necessarily being included. This is a given condition in contemporary photography, one that younger artists are being initiated into. The appropriation contains, in itself, something aggressive and constitutes an ‘image hijacking’ of existing photographs, which neither want to be known nor want to conform. When it comes to the borrowed images, they are always combined, in Wellm’s work, with her own frames.

It is ambitious. It is gifted. And it is most certainly not easy. You don’t need to have been hiding behind a camera for your whole life to understand the moments of presence that Susanne Wellm wants to share with the rest of us. Her quest for images, combined with a deep subjective sensibility, is complemented by her almost magical mastery of composition and colour and with the composition of her hung pictures. All of the artist’s installations are based on carefully rendered model constructions of the exhibition rooms. This meticulous, guiding preparatory process elevates the pictures on the formal level and serves to transform the experience of being invited into a

Wellm-sian room into something quite special.


A genealogical tree & a memory ball

Should you feel a need to compare with or to call forth some kind of genealogical tree that exists among other female Danish photographers, it could be said that Susanne Wellm’s pictures belong to certain branches of this tree that have been sprouted forth from a modernist cocktail. This cocktail is made in equal measures of Nana Bisp Büchert, Marianne Engberg, and Tove Kurtzweil as well as from Wellm’s early slightly blurred and excellently executed black-and-white photopolymergravures to her current refined textile-like appropriations in subdued, mellow colors. The textile-photographic expression has become Wellm’s hallmark. She exploits the old photographs’ coarse screens, those that she finds and reuses, in order to weave passages of time into a figurative language. Susanne Wellm was originally educated as a textile designer at the Textile Department of Danmarks Designskole (1990-95). The way that she composes her photographs recalls weavings. There are, literally, all kinds of threads moving around, in all kinds of ways, and also on the symbolic level.

Some of the features that couple the photographers who have just been mentioned is a strong voice, a desire to tell stories, an urge to articulate a self-representation, a will to formulate specific thoughts about the human drama and human survival as binding materials for the pure life, and a yearning to reset the dials of existence. These aspirations can be apprehended as the essential élan vital in the medium.

As can also be seen in the work of the South African artist, Marlene Dumas

(b. 1953), who happens to be one of her favorite artists, Susanne Wellm’s point of departure is most often an existing photographic source.

Today, it is the amateur as witness of dangerous realities, who, with her/his high-tech cell phone, takes what are perhaps the most important historical pictures, while it is the artist who restores calm. An artist who takes her jumping off point in the existing pictorial archives and shows (proof of) the unstoppable cross-dressings and make-overs that reveal to us, in camouflaged ways, that history is repeating itself: a refugee theme from the interwar period’s Europe is not all that different from our present day’s pictures of refugees. Today’s refugees, and the rest of us who are playing witness to the chaos and the human catastrophes, are co-present in contemporary history. The pictures belong to the public domain, and we do not need to physically be there, where the dramatic scenes are being played out, in order to share in the experience. Wellm’s pictures embody this tension, which is present in all good art: we are being included, but not any more obligingly than that we, when facing images with only the most delicate intimations, reserve the right to say that we really do want to see art, in pictures that annul the everyday, and which have become extricated from topi-cality. Now that this is being written here, it should also be stated that art’s accidents and inherent mysteries have not yet been phased out entirely.

Marlene Dumas has very astutely declared that the primary function of art is to liberate the individual from the tyranny of culture.


Heuristic method: the space and the ego

In visual art, there are mental spaces that we can share and private spaces that we cannot share. In Wellm’s practice, there is a specter hovering around that is somewhat dejected but is not embittered. It does not appear that Susanne Wellm is fueled by any urge to show that which cannot be shown. On the contrary, she is showing us that which is difficult to show, something that we seldom devote attention to in the form of pictures. Casually, and without chronological obliga- tions, but with the attempt to capture, with her own artistic temperament, that which lies between matter-of-fact microscopy and total sensory surrender. She is making use of a poetic concretion.

Susanne Wellm senses, with hyper-clarity the Other as a subject with a different kind of consciousness, while emphasizing in her pictures the shared visual attention and its significance: you’ve got to see what I’m seeing, so that we may share it. This is image-formation that operates in a refined and probing manner – from the inner to the outer plane. Pictures are pictures: by making conscious choices, on the purely technical level, Wellm is giving herself the chance to create a narrative where the vision determines the truth, and where reality is formed by thought.


Translated by DAN A. MARMORSTEIN


Susanne Wellm is represented by

Gallery KANT, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Sous les Etoiles Gallery, New York, USA


Current exhibitions:


Between Still and Moving

Brandts 13, Museum of Art and Visual Culture, Odense, Denmark

August 26, 2016 - December 30, 2016


Not Here Yet (group exhibition)

H2 - Zentrum für Gegenwartskunst im Glaspalast in Augsburg, Germany

November 18, 2016 - April 23, 2017


WINTER 16/17 (group exhibition)

Gallery Kant, Copenhagen, Denmark

December 11, 2016 - February 11, 2017


The Farther I Remember

(group exhibition, Carolle Benitah, Eeva Hannula, Susanne Wellm, Robin Cracknel)

Sous Les Etoiles Gallery, New York, USA

December 10, 2016 – February 4, 2017


info
×
#MagasinetKunst #SusanneWellm #fotokunst #kunst #fotografi #billedkunst #kunstmagasin #Kunstfotografi #fineartphotography #contemporaryphotography

Issue no. 6/2016 of Magasinet KUNST - (spread 2)

info
×
#MagasinetKunst #SusanneWellm #fotokunst #kunst #fotografi #billedkunst #kunstmagasin #Kunstfotografi #fineartphotography #contemporaryphotography

Issue no. 6/2016 of Magasinet KUNST - (spread 3)

info
×
#Katalog #fotomagasin #fotokunst #SusanneWellm

Issue no. 25.1 of KATALOG – Journal of Photography & Video published by Brandts 2013. Text by Celina Lunsford 


Heartbeat of the object; transcendence of place

Susanne Wellm’s “Inner Landscapes”

by Celina Lunsford


Autobiographies come to the protagonists in many ways. Robert Frank once commented about his book “The Lines of my Hand” as if he looked down the road he had been on and it all came back instantly. His references to journey and to time are essential. In Susanne Wellm’s “Inner Landscapes” it is the heartbeat of the object and the transcendence of place that are essential. She invites us to a story of life and change: nature spells her journey and time is told through a collection of things and gestures.

A worn checkerboard domestic cloth holds “Inner Landscape” together. It is the canvas of everyday. Folded, faded, loved, stained, crumpled, pressed and needed. Woven of the hours of immediacy which come from anticipation, woven of with the actions that formed the past. This book’s rhythm interspersed by detail and distance, keeps the wanderer and the viewer looking and probing. A frame, perhaps an antique mirror is turned over on itself: devoid of reflection. A telephone, an envelope, a radio, an empty plate effectively resonate as postmodern still-lifes. Entities that we spend time with, sometimes too much time with, modifying, composing and serving our existence.

By issuing fantasy to her visual narrative, our author delivers her story as the handbook of change. Symbolic butterflies, transforming faces and altered environments highlight how she embraces metamorphosis as an elixir of life.

The landscape fluctuates along her “Wanderweg”. Natural scenery is ironic as a crater impression; poignant as familial excursions; transitional as coming out of a tunnel; and uncertain as viewed through a curtain or effected by weather. The places are revisited in another light, for another purpose beyond reminiscing what was. The inner appears as landscapes and portraits draped with paint. The adaptions expose reaction and signal the now. They are brazen expressions of change, stepping out of the photograph, out of the past, but also synchronise the acceptance of relating to another place and time.

“Inner Landscapes” is one of the most important soul photography books of 2012.

It is a chapter of life, a story past that is ever present. It sings, whispers, shouts and howls. The contents are not documentary facts but the medium for Susanne Wellm’s experience in simply…being. 

info
×

Heartbeat of the object; transcendence of place

Susanne Wellm’s “Inner Landscapes”

by Celina Lunsford


Autobiographies come to the protagonists in many ways. Robert Frank once commented about his book “The Lines of my Hand” as if he looked down the road he had been on and it all came back instantly. His references to journey and to time are essential. In Susanne Wellm’s “Inner Landscapes” it is the heartbeat of the object and the transcendence of place that are essential. She invites us to a story of life and change: nature spells her journey and time is told through a collection of things and gestures.


A worn checkerboard domestic cloth holds “Inner Landscape” together.  It is the canvas of everyday. Folded, faded, loved, stained, crumpled, pressed and needed. Woven of the hours of immediacy which come from anticipation, woven of with the actions that formed the past. This book’s rhythm interspersed by detail and distance, keeps the wanderer and the viewer looking and probing. A frame, perhaps an antique mirror is turned over on itself: devoid of reflection. A telephone, an envelope, a radio, an empty plate effectively resonate as postmodern still-lifes. Entities that we spend time with, sometimes too much time with, modifying, composing and serving our existence.


By issuing fantasy to her visual narrative, our author delivers her story as the handbook of change. Symbolic butterflies, transforming faces and altered environments highlight how she embraces metamorphosis as an elixir of life.

The landscape fluctuates along her  “Wanderweg”.  Natural scenery is ironic as a crater impression; poignant as familial excursions; transitional as coming out of a tunnel; and uncertain as viewed through a curtain or effected by weather. The places are revisited in another light, for another purpose beyond reminiscing what was. The inner appears as landscapes and portraits draped with paint. The adaptions expose reaction and signal the now. They are brazen expressions of change, stepping out of the photograph, out of the past, but also synchronise the acceptance of relating to another place and time.


“Inner Landscapes” is one of the most important soul photography books of 2012.  

It is a chapter of life, a story past that is ever present. It sings, whispers, shouts and howls. The contents are not documentary facts but the medium for Susanne Wellm’s experience in simply…being.


Susanne Wellm – Photogravure

by Finn Thrane


Susanne Wellm’s artistic career takes its point of departure in work with textile printing at the Danish Academi of Arts and Craft at the beginning of the nineties.

In 1995 she made the marvellous discovery that the photographic camera can be used for other things than automatic registration; that with selected clips from a 35mm film one can tell stories. Some of these ‘stories’ were executed the same year in black-and-white photopolymeric gravure and submitted to the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition. One of them, subdued in tone as it is, grabbed the attention of the jury and ensured Susanne Wellm her encouraging debut: pipes, lather, glimpses of limbs – the iconography of the bathroom in eight matter-of-fact close-ups.


The motif invited in-depth treatment, and in 1996 the technique had been improved so that the theme of the morning toilette could be played through with new scope in the sequence of events and with more telling details. The inventiveness is not in the components of the sequence, for they are, as shared experience, the epitome of banality. The experience comes from the flow in the string of events, from the discreet individual colouring of the picture fields as well as the shifts between surface and depth. Finally, one must not underestimate the artist’s courage in allowing the depiction of the fine poetry of the bathroom incorporate the view of the morning stool in the depths of the toilet bowl. “I see my universe/ from a recess in the wall:/ nickel-plated pipes arise/ bent, twisted drains, white hospital-like tiles/ and the fly’s-eye of the shower spray/ from which the gentle spring rain/ in spite of everything, falls.” Thus Klaus Rifbjerg (in the poem “Life in the Bathroom”) situated the camera angle in the soap.  Susanne Wellm situated the point of view in herself. This limitation makes the recognition correspondingly surprising and gives a salutary jolt to the conventions about the character of the female universe.


The same year Susanne Wellm continued with further subjective reconnoitring of the close surroundings in the photogravure sequence form. Not until 1998 was this interest superseded by a new orientation towards the outside world. This happened in Fredericia, where she was invited as “Artist on the Way of the Year” with a travel grant and a stay in the town. And she felt she had to respond to the expectation that the final exhibition in the town’s Art Hall would include recognizable town motifs. Burdened by the task, she wore out her shoes on the old ramparts and in the harbour area, and aimed her camera at small and large attractions. It was the small ones that won. Back in the capital, when she had to sort the material, most of what the citizens of the garrison town can recognize was rejected. What remains includes a cracked wall with an ironmonger’s hook, a pub table with a glass ashtray and unlit candles, as well as a waiting-room interior with a table and plywood chairs. This was the outside world of which she took notice and notoriously documented on the spot. Notable the motifs are not; rather, they are rendered anonymous, well nigh to the point of archetypal universality. But precisely because of this they emerge as images, as visionary testimony to the drag-marks of things in time – the low-key melancholy one can only fathom by entering into a dialogue with the work. It is part of the story that the initiators in Fredericia welcomed the exhibition with open arms, which aroused quiet but just attention.


One of Susanne Wellm’s latest photogravures shows us a simple schnapps glass in sixteen versions, shot at identical distances and in a bird’s-eye view, at 45 degrees the glass is seen a transparent truncated cone standing on its blunt point; or at 75 degrees so that the oval of the opening approaches the shape of the circle and conceals the bottom. The transformations are minimal, but crucial to the tone of the totality as theme and variations of visual chamber music: the displacements of the central motif, the changes in the intensity of light, the shifts in the surface and texture – modulations, each of which contributes to the wealth of experiences and tensions in the surface. To this we can add the changes in the content and quantity in the glass and the dependent comings and goings of the radical shadow formations. If the image means reorientation in Susanne Wellm’s universe, the narrative with its temporal sequence is in the retreat in favour of more abstract or conceptual values – unless, that is, the narrative is absorbed and condensed to explosion volume in the brief now of poetry.

Using Format