Traces in art
Rivulets in the damp sand, autumn leaves on the path, a piece of driftwood bobbing at the edge of the bank, various peeling layers of paint on an old wall, the wrinkles on my face, all traces. Traces of time and transience. Wind, sand, water, so soft shapes hard, leaves traces - traces shape us.
Traces on our soul are mostly invisible, yet everyone carries their ballast with them. But the practised one also recognises these traces. We all know traces of power, violence, terror, death, devastation, traces of powerlessness, how do we deal with them? Can we remove traces? - What remains behind? Thoughts on a difficult subject.
It is precisely when I allow myself to be inspired by a trace, and ultimately every artistic work is based on a spiritual or material trace, when I take up the trace, develop it further, breathe new life into it, give it new topicality, that the trace becomes the basis for a new beginning. Then I can change foreign traces as well as my own, and give them new meaning. Building on the history and life experiences of countless people before me, a trace then develops a momentum of its own, a life of its own, without perhaps having existed, been perceptible or noticeable to others before. The structure of a trace speaks to the innermost part of the human being, something that has been passed on from time immemorial, C.G. Jung speaks here of the collective unconscious. In this way, the vastness of human experience becomes perceptible in our very own history and is brought back to life. Every human being leaves traces, whether he or she wants to or not, and every human being absorbs traces from others. For me, taking up traces is a fundamental attitude in a person's life.
This dynamic continues in my own artistic work and ideally also transfers to the viewer of my work. He takes up my traces and thereby develops his own interpretation of my artistic statement. He may even develop the traces I leave behind in a way that I never expected, wanted or felt. Through my work I leave traces, traces that others in turn can take up, will take up. The trace continues independently, uncontrollably and in complete freedom.
Traces have been the basis of artistic work as long as there have been human beings. The material is not decisive, even if our current understanding of art often leads us to believe it is. What is decisive is not the financial value, what is decisive is to let oneself be addressed by the trace that lies in the work, to recognise the momentum, to take it up and develop it further, to leave behind a new trace of one's own. That is the effect of the trace. If another person then takes up my trace, a new cycle begins, which we have known for thousands of years and which is capable of being taken up independently of space and time. As an example, I remember the smile of an African mask. It had been carved over 400 years ago by an unknown artist, and it also made me smile 400 years later. I could pick up the joy that the artist wanted to pass on after so long. Traces are relics from the past that outlast time and space.
Traces can also evoke rejection, especially when it comes to socially taboo subjects. In many cases, rejection can be made visible in the case of violence and death. The confrontation with one's own life contains a trace of death and suffering. In our society, death in particular is no longer part of life, but is marginalised, one does not want to perceive it.
In the field of art, something completely new, something whole, emerges from traces, fragments. Once we have picked up the scent, we purposefully follow the path. Every piece of leaf on the side of the path, every old piece of wood bobbing in the bed of the stream, every pebble has its story and is examined by us, asked whether it fits into our picture, which we have perceived with the first track we are following, and can be used, wants to be used. The traces we encounter tell us stories that we can be struck by, that we can think on and that take us further in our artistic work.
Thus, there is a strong power in traces that we have to use and implement artistically.
A trace can be an idea, a thought, an object or a feeling.
As artists, it is our task to search for traces, to look for buried traces, to search for traces. We have to be open to traces that we encounter, take them in, carry them, leave traces willingly or not.
Creativity comes into play in the mental examination of a trace. What is perceived is compared with what is known, the trace changes one's own perception just as the perception of the trace can be changed. If the trace has no inner meaning for the viewer, he or she drops the trace in order to turn to a new, more interesting one.
The meaning of the trace is a very essential one in art. The meaning of traces, the perception of a trace is important for the creativity of an artist to develop his own work, but also for the viewer.
In my book art, I build the sensory impression I get from a trace into my text or my pictorial examination of the theme I have been given. In the course of reflection, a momentum develops that is often no longer controllable. This means that the story, the book project takes on a completely different depth than I had intended at the beginning of my work.
It is precisely these unconscious interventions across space and time that fascinate me time and again. The book as an art space makes it possible to follow the development of a trace. Despite planning, preparatory work and the certainty of goals, traces have an influence on my artistic work.
Art lives from traces and their actualisation in the work of art.
G. J. W.