Iron, pigments, paper and poetry

Contribution of Juli 30, 2021

Taking an overview of the work of Beatriz von Eidlitz, one sometimes feels as though one has been spirited away to a chamber of curiosities where one’s eyes are tickled by a profusion of allusions. One encounters the vibrant presence of colorful pigments, the earthy depth of rust particles and dark hues, and lively surface structures which look as though they had been created by natural forces only moments before. One is also confronted by eminent accuracy and precise calculation in the placement of formal motifs and accents, and in the positioning of picture-objects within the surrounding spaces. Freedom, chance and play unite with form-giving intention to create a compositional principle that’s adventurous in the best sense.

What kind of visual world, what repertory of forms and motifs does Beatriz von Eidlitz continually strive to enlarge? Individually, her artworks are frequently characterized by decisive earnestness. Many could be substantial signs or symbols, yet their meanings remain open and unresolved, their significance conveyed through the moods they generate. Modernism, of course, has loosened the hold that meanings once held on things and symbols, and the standards of measurement by which art is viewed experienced a similar manumission soon afterwards. The value of mood has ranked among perception’s most essential keys ever since, all the more so amidst today’s surfeit of medial phenomena. Beatriz von Eidlitz needn’t expressly focus on these altered relationships of perception to make it clear that she traverses this territory along paths which are uniquely her own. Against their midnight black background, her “Monde” (“Moons”) on their six-meter-long panel radiate a magical intensity, just as the moon always has, but here Luna appears in threefold variations and scoffs at the laws of celestial mechanics by rolling through the space of the picture. Urgency encounters an ironic awareness of demystification, yet neither divests the other of substance.

“My pictures’ ancestors are here,” the artist said on a journey through the colorful rocky landscape of Quebrada de Humahuaca in northwestern Argentina. “But these are distant ancestors. So much lies between.”

Her artworks aren’t merely the simple results of impressions gleaned during a journey. Rather, they are manifestations of the pictorial potency of desired places which this artist admired in her youth and never forgot, which slowly settled to the seafloor of her memory, and provided orientation and influenced decisions for all that came afterwards. As a child with her parents, and later as a young woman, Beatriz von Eidlitz traveled through these landscapes, as well as through Patagonia and nearly all other regions of Argentina. She left the country as an art student in 1979, during the reign of the military dictatorship, and continued studying art in Europe. Her interest in handmade rag-based paper led her in the mid 1980s to the paper-mill in Bad Grosspertholz, Waldviertel, Austria, where she began working with handmade paper, first sculpturally, later in pictorial form. This developed into nothing less than the invention of a new technique which might be called “The BvE Process.” Sheets of iron, pigments and handsieved paper are the essential ingredients, and oxidation (i. e. rusting) is the crucial process through which these elements interact. All unorthodox materials have their own special symbolism, so what occurs here involves archetypical materials from human history. But only incidentally: although Beatriz von Eidlitz loves the form-giving opportunities, she makes neither a fetish of them nor a cult of her materials. She understands herself not as a painter, but as a sculptor. This self-assessment might seem surprising if one’s gaze were focused only on her picture-objects; but if one considers her method of working, then her self-image as sculptor instantly makes perfect sense. Sheets of iron, pigments and paper pulp are brought together, sometimes gently, sometimes forcibly. Their juxtaposition ultimately “develops” in a process that combines calculated forethought, random chance and physical influences. This interplay creates the fascinating textures of her artworks. “The polarity of liveliness, plan and accident, reveal themselves in the intermeshing of composition and texture, in the transparency of the form, and onward to the unformed,” she says.

As noted above, a tremendous diversity of formal motifs distinguishes Beatriz von Eidlitz’s work. She is assuredly not one of those artists who erect their oeuvres as monolithic monuments to their own styles. Many different chambers coexist in the mansion of her imagination. Hers is a deliberately chosen freedom, but not that alone: when Hans Belting proclaimed “the end of art history” in 1995, he meant that art goes on, but under altered conditions. In Beatriz von Eidlitz’s work, as in the work of some other artists, this manifests itself in the awareness that a contemporary artist’s intention can scarcely be to devise wholly new forms and contents. Instead, the accent is placed more strongly than ever on the evolution of new modes of expression, on reflection, and on the further processing of the collections in the grand cultural archive. “Weltenlexikon” (“Lexicon of the Worlds”) is the ironic title of an older piece with which she waggishly pays homage to this situation. The freedom to explore diversity enriches Eidlitz’s oeuvre with a well-furnished archive of forms, found objects and new inventions. Archive? How could we call it an archive, when these artworks are so vibrantly lively and energizing! A poetic abstraction of reality determines the pictorial conceptions here.

Despite her unprecedented combinations of materials, Beatriz von Eidlitz actually works in a very classical manner, albeit in entirely her own way. An utterly nonnegotiable intensity, passion and formal decisiveness indwell her artworks. This is true not only of the pictorial objects, which, thanks to their clear and direct formal idiom, are endowed with a certain mightiness that never makes them seem heavy. Surprisingly, it’s also true of motifs which are closely related to the sphere of pop culture, yet never directly quoted from that world. This is why, their extraordinary variety notwithstanding, Beatriz von Eidlitz’s works always possess an unmistakable character. And it is also why they assert themselves in the field of medial and artistic pictorial production with a bravura that is uniquely and distinctly their own.

Eberhard Falcke (2007)