Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Barbara Heé: Chaviolas

Over a period of twenty years, Barbara Heé, born in Saint Gallen in 1957, photographed Lake Sils (in the Upper Engadin, Switzerland) and its largest island, Chaviolas.

Contemplating these black and white photographs put me at times in a trance-like state. I did not ask myself what my eyes were showing me, I simply let them wander and rest, and wander, and rest. 

Barbara Heé, I read, "works in drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography". She is quoted as saying: "In the Engadin in the light of November, on the long walks that inspired these photographs, I wandered through three-dimensional sculptures and images. My drawings opened into immeasurable dimensions."

I first thought this a strange comment to accompany these photographs but the more time I spent with these pics the more I started to realise that quite some of them did not look really like photographs, they could also have been drawings. I'm not sure whether this is what Barbara Heé wanted to say with her statement, it is however how I perceive some of her pics.
"Facing a Landscape" is the essay by Claudia Jolles entitled that can be found in this nicely done book. A much more apt title than the German "Landschaft als Botschaft" that suggests meaning (and thus gives our imagination purposeful direction) instead of inviting us to contemplate what is before our eyes.
Claudia Jolles points out that we can see sky, earth, and water but that the fourth element, the sun, is missing. "In its absence, it plays the main role. Light and shadow model the landscape, let it step forth and disappear again." The sun in its absence plays the main role? I must admit I find this a rather strange statement. I mean we are talking about black and white photographs that were quite obviously taken in daylight ... so the sun must have been shining. On the other hand, yes, there is no ball of sun but why it should therefore play the main role is beyond me.
Many of the pics in this tome resemble one another, often the differences from one to the next are minimal. Strangely, I did not ask myself why Barbara Heé had decided to put them between two covers, or why she had opted for the order in which they are now presented. Instead I simply let myself sense what they did to me: on the one hand, they had a calming effect on me, on the other, I felt like I was experiencing how nothing is ever fixed once and for all, how everything is in constant flux.

Barbara Heé
A Landscape, so Intimate and Aloof
Lars Müller Publishers, Baden 2010

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