Silence loaded with beauty
If one thing marks out our time it is excess; of events, of information, of images and noise. Excess, above all, of self-absorption, of narcissism. The ‘I’ as the supreme figure of excess. Most contemporary art does not escape this curse. It desperately looks to make itself heard and distinguish itself in the hyper-competitive milieu that is the art market and, generally in an atmosphere overloaded with claims of all sorts. Too often the artists of today give in to the temptation of excess; of the spine-chilling image, of the quite scandalous joke, of the forced, gratuitous gesture and so on. The results are works that do not attempt to move us asmuch as grab our attention; not invitations to transcend the immediate and obvious, but rather to serve the demands of personal recognition. They do not say to us "Look at this" but rather limit themselves to shouting, "Eh, I'm here!"
Our response as blasé spectators, immune to shock, is often paralleled by but inverted to the appeal we have just received: "Is that for me?” we wonder perplexed. "No, that's wrong", we decide after a fleeting instant of curiosity and unease. Without so much as a whispered sarcastic comment we move on in silence, because we don't have anything more to say as the work slips over us without leaving a trace, displaced in a moment by any other claim on our attention.
Anke Blaue is placed and places us in very different territory. Her work clearly feeds on other concerns and unhurriedly explores surroundings rarely visited these days. Those of beauty, for example; the mysterious and fragile harmony between the world and our sensitivity. On occasion, speaking of her work, Anke Blaue has said that it is important to dare to do nothing. Naturally, this is an exaggeration because her work is demanding and persistent, but it is a revealing exaggeration as her work is based as much on her eye as on her hands, as much on discovering, ordering and giving voice to what really is and not just turn it into an instrument. Perhaps what it is about is that, as with all great artists, Anke Blaue has the gift of seeing what others do not at first see. She notices, for example, old, scorned fabrics, worthless and abandoned - sackcloth, cotton curtains, linen sheets etc.- and there she discovers the warmth and density of the material and time. Instead of burning them or giving them to the rag-and-bone man, she rescues them from the moths of oblivion. She literally returns them to life, to one of the many lives, real and possible, buried in the modest material and objects. In curing the ulcers, she cuts them out, she dyes them.
After that, she plays with the pieces in a game as random and unpredictable as the origin of life itself until fragments and colours compose fascinating and undefined places, loaded with suggestion. Perhaps because she dares to do nothing, and not preach to us, the old/new fabrics of Anke Blaue, seemingly empty and silent, are reborn imbued with a thousand possible senses, from the most humble to the most sublime.
It is rare that, as in this exhibition, we the onlookers are aware that the linen sheets on which the history of painting is inscribed were originally pieces of cloth that could also have served to dress wounds or to welcome the birth of a new child. At the same time, her work achieves, apparently effortlessly, what Matisse -who, incidentally, wasn't scared of beauty either, rather the opposite- strove to achieve at the end of his life: “The interest is to give, on a very limited surface, the idea of immensity”. Approaching these places is to situate ourselves at the threshold of another world. A world ruled by a certain silence, but a silence that speaks to us and invites us to speak. Just as the silence of the calm sea speaks to us and invites us to speak, or a solitary temple, or a lover's look. Because there are many sorts of silence. Before some recent works of Anke Blaue it is inevitable that Rothko comes to mind -his magnetic gradations of colour and texture, his permanent struggle to “simply express complex thinking”-, just as it is difficult not to associate them with traditions and forms of thinking and morality for which the differences between body and soul, between individual existence and cosmic reality, between being and nothing, are only differences of degree. For me, though, they keep sending me back to Matisse, to his aspiration to harmonise line and colour, shape and depth, figures and surroundings, as a way of making the unmeasurable immensity of the universe flourish. Or that of the soul's depths; its immensity and, at the same time, its fragility.
Picasso, great friend and adversary of Matisse, owned seven of his paintings. Just before his death, Picasso said of these paintings: “Every day I feel the need to live near them”. I have to confess, more and more I feel the need to live close to the canvasses of Anke Blaue.
Pep Subirós. 2005