Fictional Fantasies between Opulence and Purism
Notes on the Painted and Drawn Works by the Artist Bettina Lüdicke
With her advanced sense of visual aesthetics, the canon of pictorial tools used by Bettina Lüdicke goes beyond the tradition of the Bauhaus, paying tribute to the pictorial and systematic thinking employed by artists such as Vasily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, who reflected on their formal media in theoretical and didactical writings such as Punkt und Linie zur Fläche (Point and Line to Plane), and to Johannes Itten’s color theory. Not only are her works contemporary in their freshness and aesthetic radicality; they convey a fictional affinity for Futurism.
Although Lüdicke’s recent works are reminiscent of both the dynamic art of the Russian Revolution with its three-dimensional constructions, tectonic elements, and architectural visions, as seen in the works of Aleksandr Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin, and the Suprematism of Kazimir Malevich, viewing it from the perspective of the modernist tradition does not enable us to truly grasp her art.
Content-Related and Formal Aspects
We are confronted with a planetoidal and mythical cosmology in her work that goes beyond our quotidian experience, opening cosmic dimensions of energy and elements that can be visually associated with quantum fields and string models from theoretical physics.
It is only on first glance that the works seem technical and computer-generated. Only for a short moment do they resemble a simulated synthetic matrix. On the contrary, the work possesses an informally gestural, playfully painterly, free spirit of design that poetically charms and astounds us with its accuracy of construction and disciplined, calculated execution.
The elegance and sleekly dynamic design are broken time and again, for example by unwieldy, shapeless forms that force their way into the picture, or by surprisingly incorporated or inserted objects such as strings, speckles, white storm rivulets resembling flashes of lightning, bizarre conglomerates, and starlike stains that produce complex, compositional structures unlike any that could be created with design algorithms. It would completely miss the mark to categorize these works under discussion as generative or computer art, both aesthetically and technically.
Artistic and Aesthetic Practice
These works are products of artistic manual labor in the best sense of the term. Produced with ballpoint pens and ink that require the artist’s utmost concentration, the process is similar to a contemplative creative ritual of the sort that exists in traditional Japanese art. In her production of diverse variations on a recurring pictorial theme, the artist’s practice of limiting herself to a basic set of tools and pictorial strategies is also reminiscent of image cycles in traditional Japanese art.
The Significance of Preparatory Drawings
In previous drawings Bettina Lüdicke always constructed tectonic interiors in which she deployed morphologies ranging from harmonious to bizarre and surreal metamorphoses that she then colored in subtle and minimalistic tones. She staged abstract figurative episodes in these spaces and playfully told stories about vibrant and erotically charged “encounters of a different kind.” Considering her great skill in drawing, Lüdicke succumbs neither to the danger of graphic showiness nor that of decorative “surface design.”
Thematic and Pictorial Expansion
In her new series, Lüdicke frees herself from her previous style and diction, both thematically and formally. In her latest drawings, an intentionally complex and open approach is revealed in which she radically goes beyond the edge of the sheets and thus intensifies the resulting section with the image edges. Lüdicke reaches beyond the traditional pictorial space in a way that is similar to Japanese woodcuts and American Color Field Painting.
Image Structure and Composition
Serially symmetrical lineaments rhythmize the surfaces and cause them to vibrate in a subliminally virulent way, similar to a visual layer of sound. An alphabet of signals and mysterious ciphers punctuate the oscillating surface. Glowing rivulets of paint saturate the soberly austere basic structure with subtle intention and provide the picture with an affective, very suggestive charge.
We are moved by the artistically dialectical interplay of opulence and purism. The artist unleashes a captivating dynamism in the delicate lineaments and spatial cocoons ranging from poetic to calculatedly prosaic through the conflicting Dionysian and Apollonian forces of expression.
Spaces of Association
Bettina Lüdicke’s new drawings are musical in character. Synchronized, alternating fields and melodiously harmonious sheets are broken by means of half-tone steps and syncopation of the type that are familiar from modern jazz and from the atonal electronic music of Karlheinz Stockhausen, and it even allows for associations with the sounds of the serial electronic music of Kraftwerk.
Now and then the colors evoke pop-like bliss, although the significance of the picture is imbued with a shot of poetically technical mysticism as we are confronted with in the science fiction sagas of writers such as Isaac Asimov, especially in his Galactic Empire novels set in the distant future.
Image Structure and Composition
Bettina Lüdicke stretches her severe, symmetrically serial structures over the white background of the paper like the strings of an instrument. Shining through the structured fields of lines are circular structures of colored light that raise their painterly voices like an aria in an opulent opera.
Opposing asymmetrical hatching and grids condense into disks that wander in circular motions and are foiled by discs in modulated colors whose volumes are tempered with subtle, pastel-colored rivulets of paint.
In my view the work Morgenhimmlisch 14 (Heavenly Morning 14) from Cycle 8 is exemplary of the entire recent series in terms of vocabulary and refined stylistic means. Wide swaths of light and bands of color, fading from blue to dark red with a violet transitional zone, contrast with the yellow and orange of an iridescent circle that has a subtle green shimmer, casting a magically cosmic light over the entire picture.
Bettina Lüdicke expertly breaks up the parallel and diagonally drawn foundations lineaments with great variety and formal variation, thus producing impressions of puristic scores of a monumental, planetary fugue.
While contemplating Cycle 8 as a whole, I am compelled to think of Gustav Holst’s famous orchestral work The Planets, which has been transformed for keyboard and sound generators and interpreted by the composer and brilliant keyboard player Josef Marschall.
For her sculptures Bettina Lüdicke has developed an aesthetic strategy of drawing in space with wire and creating “transitional forms” that tell stories in a poetically associative and playful way, and as in her latest drawn and painted works tell of planetary, fictional episodes.
Lüdicke penetrates space with wire, cuts into space with her drawing, wires spatial volumes, and condenses these into spherical, permeable forms that are often interconnected in series. She marks stationary areas and articulates soaring transitions that in several works seem like passages of an orbital dance of planetoids: fictional intermediate worlds and weightless toys, impressions of futuristic metamorphoses, ambivalent impressions that technically and organically shimmer. These are passages that we also encounter in the drawings and paintings of the artist.
Emptiness and Artistic Space
Interlaced wire is locked into utopian, futuristic conglomerates that penetrate space, cutting it up and tying it together. Interior and exterior spaces are intertwined in a play of dialectical weightlessness. The artist articulates an energetically laden “Tao of emptiness.”
Rita Böhm explained the concept of emptiness in East Asian ink painting in a lecture given at her Berlin studio on New Year’s Day in 2014: “One of the basic concepts—in fact, the key concept—of Chinese thought is the concept of emptiness. It was the philosophers of the Taoist school that moved emptiness to the core of their system. More than an explanation, emptiness entails ‘understanding’ or ‘consent,’ and thus ultimately it is a matter of wisdom that is viewed as the art of living. Penetrating emptiness is the key to becoming one with the Tao. It is twofold: initiated by the painter who by renunciation of the self and dedication finds self-fulfillment in pictures, and ultimately also the emptiness in pictures. The Tao is atmosphere, the Tao is foreign, untouchable space. The Tao is so to speak the ground zero of being. In the Tao all opposites are equally accessible, and in the Tao they nullify each other. But it can only be experienced as that which is in between the represented thing. This ground zero is the secret of Chinese spirituality.”
In my view, it is not only the secret of Chinese spirituality that lies in the emptiness of the picture, the untouchable space of the Tao, a kind of ground zero of being; this is also the magical secret of the artistic, sculptural interstices of Bettina Lüdicke’s creative work.
(English version by Dr. Tas Skorupa)