Helene Hering-Herber

Malerei // Paintings

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searching traces. nameless II

Exhibition from 21st October 2005
“Bikinihaus” – formerly Staatliche Kunsthalle Berlin

searchin traces. nameless II - Flyer Vernissage
Musica accompaniment
Leslie Leon – mezzosopran
Christopher Bihn – guitar

“Bikinihaus” – formerly Staatliche Kunsthalle Berlin
Budapester Str. 46 – 3. OG
10787 Berlin

Vernissage: Friday, 21st October 2005 – 7 p.m.

Waldtraut Lewin

The wonderful world of Helene Hering-Herber
by Waldtraut Lewin

Her atelier is not particularly spacious. Surrounded on all sides by the large format of H.’s paintings, crowded by the colours and forms that inhabit a space beyond the normal, the every-day; in the midst of the compelling language of the extraordinary, I literally gasp for breath. Dizziness. Stendhal, I think, described this. This physical reaction to a sensory impression which suggests a realm beyond the senses.

She has done a lot in her life, but always in the visual arts. Her works of art, exhibitions and fairs, film. Collages, photographs. Film projects about and with women, her own films. From the Nineties she has arrived at the queen of the visual arts: painting – yet her understanding of it, of the handicraft, is by no means confined to canvas, brush, paint. Her desire to experiment with material knows no bounds. Metal, iron, rust, gravel, sand, tissue paper layered onto other paper, and and and – what do I know? I don’t need to know. Succumb to the under-current.
The greater part of the paintings to be seen here have their origin in a city, whose magic lies in the light above the abyss. Those who want to know will work out which city. Yet, as we know, cities in general, beneath their surface structure, have a subterranean labyrinth and, when one walks the streets, one is walking over secrets. Graveyards, entangled entrails, undiscovered caves of treasure, the homes of the forgotten and the suppressed, breeding grounds of demons.
Demons can protect or destroy. You don’t know up front.

In a film by Fellini, set in the same city, a massive head suddenly emerges from the water, helped by diving mid-wives. Like Medusa, archaic.
Who or what do H’s paintings bring to life? Well, first comes the plunge to the depths. Or to the very core of life.
Fragmentary codes woven into these creations may serve as cues or irritations; for an undemanding explanation in the sense of clarity they are simply not forthcoming. For they do not indicate the next object on the same level of consciousness, but leave the viewer alone with his or herself. They confuse.
I’ve called them vexing paintings. Careful! Don’t trust your eyes! That isn’t a house, even if it might appear to be one, and that is not a meandering stream, even if it meanders. Sometimes mysterious script appears through the mist of colour. Signposts? Perhaps. But there is no translation. The Rosetta stone for these paintings has not yet been deciphered.

So what can I do? I have to dive in without a pilot, have to succumb to the spheres of dream and magic, have to delve into myself and dig to discover what I and the painting have in common: the recognition, anchored in the depths of inherited consciousness, of spaces outside our space, of times before or even beyond our time.

These are excursions to the roots. To memories believed lost. And as it is in dreams of this nature: you can’t know exactly: will you feel joy, or threat? Not everything coming from beneath is comfortable. It was rough, that which happened in the time before time, in the space outside our space… but there is no escape. We have already been sucked in, lifted up and thrown around. It has already swallowed us whole, this painting.

Under-current – so I said! Dizziness – what do you expect? And then we wonder about our sensibilities.

There is this blue. Real blue. Blue on blue. The colour of secrets, pure mysticism. Blue islands in the sea of earthen, earthly, bloody, red-brown, a colour which makes fists clench. But wait! Are they really islands? Or are the blues not so much floating on the earthen but shining from beneath, emerging through cracks? An eruption of blue explodes the primal tangle of other colours. Release or threat? Blue is cold and illuminating. Does it want to redeem itself or punish us for our imperfection? Is it only referring to itself, its origin at the other end of the galaxy, or is it pointing directly at me?

And what are these dull colours from the depths, these Saturn-like genesis-story-colours, over there. Crowding together, congealing, standing like walls. Stretching, giving a dull yellow the right to be born, a tentative eruption of the sun. “I feel the air of other planets” I want to say with Schönberg – and discern the writing on the wall, the puzzling and crossed-out script. It is written. It is from this world.
And very much so. The lines are relentless. Paths that do not err. Structures which show the colours: this way. Three very finely drawn lines on a totally horizontal picture show us our three-dimensional world – they are vertical. The fourth dimension, we have to create – in our heads. This dimension, however, is overwhelming. And miraculously we find ourselves, even though we plunged in without a compass.

Sometimes the topography of the experienced city serves as an estranged model for structures, grows to bizarre new cities which appear to be rooted in heaven and on earth. Then we associate, happily recognise building blocks from our reality. Won’t always be lost. Temple and book, script and gateway. Desert. Schönberg again: “In the desert you will be invincible.” The close of his opera “Moses and Aaron”. I feel, alongside the air of other planets, the very earthly aromas of the Mediterranean and its neighbours from here and beyond.

Cosmic and highly terrestrial at the same time: this is how the paintings present themselves. And we shouldn’t lose ourselves in exaggerated speculations or interpretations, just take a deep breath and look. There they are. Averting your eyes doesn’t work. And it is not only the format that is impressive.
And: as diverse as H’s time and space travel is, as many leaps between the interior and the exterior, between today, yesterday, tomorrow: in one aspect she travels with determination and directly on the classic-conventional beam of time: in her “Phases”. Consequently and relentlessly she is like this, or like that. But always herself – just compare the paintings from 2000 with those of today! Her interest is always as focussed as her theme. That is the order of the day. Period.

Recently she has become quite courteous and gives some of her paintings titles. But don’t think this is for our benefit. She’s just fed up of having to number them all.

Translation by Rachel Riddell