Margareta Hesse: Lichtzone at Zitadelle
Kasematten – Bastion Königin
July 5 through August 29, 2009
Berlin’s Zitadelle, renaissance fortress and home to more than 10.000 bats, opens one of its rarely accessible sections to host the exhibition ‘Lichtzone’ by the German artist Margareta Hesse. Dark, moist and a chilly 8 °C all year round, this location differs slightly from the usual gallery setting.
On entering the Königin Bastion, we find ourselves in the largest room of the exhibition. Its massive, curved walls display several portrait format pieces of work that refuse easy categorization. They certainly are minimal, painterly, even musical, and belong to the series ‘Transluzide’, a vast body of work stretching from the year 2001 to the present day. Made of two polyester plates facing each other within a small but defining distance, these works take on an almost sculptural quality and certainly have a delicacy about them. Vertical and horizontal lines divide the surfaces, leaving rhythmic patterns, while rectangular forms establish a sense of calmness. No doubt this is austere work, which only in close proximity reveals a human touch. In a labour intense procedure, the artist covered parts of the plates with numerous layers of shellac, while other areas are ground off. The result is an exchange between surface, texture and colour, wherein light becomes an integral and transformative element. Travelling through the layers and bouncing back, the light-play allows for an incorporation of the white wall behind, creating multilayered, vibrating images or, rather, image-spaces, that extend beyond the confines of their objective physicalities and in this way reveal themselves as dynamic and process driven.
Making our way over the uneven cobblestone, we pass several smaller rooms, where we encounter ‘Transluzide’ of various sizes and formats. Belonging to the same series of layered light permeated works, there is also a small sequence, a ‘Rote Sequenz’, whose combination of an underlying expressiveness over-shaded by geometrical patterns bears some highly interesting aspects. Unfortunately those pieces do not come anywhere near the success of the other works that blend pureness and emotionality so well.
As we progress, we finally arrive at the light installation ‘Lichtschneise IV’. Slowly, our eyes adjust to the darkness and the outlines of a narrow corridor manifest themselves. Two red beams travel at knee-height along the space that we are about to explore. There is a definite feeling of uneasiness, which an indefinable and rather disconcerting sound further exaggerates. Whether this element is really necessary is arguable. Yet the installation is as simple as it is wonderful, and is placed in the perfect space. Walking down the corridor towards what seems like nowhere, we witness rays of natural light finding their way trough small gaps in the ancient brick walls, joining our earthly activity, our search through the damp darkness.
There is something ironic about showing work that deals with light in a dark space and the result is a two-sided one: while the laser installation obviously benefits from its naturally dark environment, it seems as if the rest of the works do not reveal their full potential due to a lack of light. Nevertheless, Margareta Hesse’s exhibition ‘Lichtzone’ certainly is an intriguing one at an amazing historical venue, and the clash between the massiveness of the fortress and the delicate, if not immaterial quality of Hesse’s work is almost too good.
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Nadine Poulain is a writer, artist and filmmaker based in Berlin.