Out of darkness, light

March 25, 2012 § 1 Comment

I went to the viewing for next week’s print sale at Christie’s yesterday with the intention of looking at Max Klinger’s A Glove (there’s a rare complete set in the sale) – but ended up with the totally unexpected bonus of discovering another brilliant German printmaker: Erika Hegewisch. I’d never come across her name or her work before, but Christies was hosting a non-selling exhibition of her prints from the last 25 years. To say that I was completely blown away is putting it lightly.

(Apologies for the uneven quality of the images: I couldn’t photograph in the gallery. I tried shooting a few pages of the catalogue and was defeated by the glare from the glossy paper so have had to make do with what I could find online…)

Erika Hegewisch, In the Forest (2000)


Erika Hegewisch, Untitled (2000)


Of course, the above doesn’t really give a very good idea of what a powerful presence the prints have in the flesh. For starters, they’re very large (the average plate size is about 40 x 60 cm). Even more surprising, the deep, velvety blacks aren’t achieved with mezzotint but with drypoint – which is not only an amazingly demanding technique for the printmaker (imagine covering large areas of a plate that size with enough lines for it to print solid black) but also extremely difficult for a master printer to print properly.

Hegewisch notes in the forward to the catalogue that her initial inspiration as a printmaker was Seurat’s conté crayon drawings and the way he worked ‘from light into darkness’. Seurat’s influence is indeed apparent, but because she’s working as a printmaker rather than a draughtsman there’s a greater clarity to the contours of her forms and the whites tend to come through more strongly, which somehow makes her images even eerier than Seurat’s – they resemble photographic negatives or x-rays. Or, perhaps, spiritualist photographs – as if Hegewisch had switched off the light in a room and set about capturing, with razor precision, the dimly glowing souls of the objects and people it had once contained.

Erika Hegewisch: Out of Darkness is at Christie’s (King Street) through 30 March. If you happen to be in London, go. You won’t be disappointed.


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