_SIGNS OF IMAGES - IMAGES OF MASKS.

 
  On recent works by Beate Glück  
 


<The sign is a fracture which opens only upon the face of another sign.>

Roland Barthes

  photo:Sira-Zoé Schmid
 

Weathered canvases as auto-catalytic painting and imaginary landscapes as we know them from earlier work by Beate Glück, collaged figures making reference to the Hindu god Shiva, the expressive dance-dramas of Kathakali and the Japanese art form of the geisha; this is the ideological universe of the new image series "Games". The images are complex semiologic signs or icons that are both auto-referential and contextual without sliding into an ethnological or post-colonialist perspective.

Both subtle and poetic, they are not about pictorial self-reflection nor about a rational analysis of foreign images. The artist intuitively and emotionally engages with her own self rather than with the other. Beate Glück's work is informed by a notion of subject that is based on psychoanalytical and structural constituent elements. It is no coincidence that she uses collage, a method rooted in the principle of fragmentation: 'I' is not only 'another', as Arthur Rimbaud postulated in a poem, but it is a multiplicity. Nor is it a coincidence that the (photographic) self-portrait of the artist features repeatedly in the mask of 'the other'. The result is a delicate transformation – wrote Roland Barthes.

All ethnicities know the phenomenon of trans-substantiation – the transformation of something spiritual, divine into something material, the process of mundane spiritualisation. In societies whose identity is essentially defined by images, the process of trans-substantiation understandably occurs via images. This is particularly true of secularised societies in which images have deteriorated into mere effigies. It is the artistic transformation of pictorial signs which manages to transform effigies into meaningful symbols.

In this respect, Beate Glück's images unfold into a trans-substantial universe. The image turns into a reincarnation of 'the other', into an imaginative threshold leading to a shamanic act. The willingness to expand one's perception of self. Meditative and ecstatic aspects are fundamental traits of a state of being. Very often the faces are childlike, implying an essentiality beyond civilizational discipline and conditioning. The connected epiphanic moment of a divine state of being – Shiva as the highest divinity of Hinduism, for instance – is more than a depiction. It is the divine itself in the form of a pictorial sign.

Beate Glück herself speaks of artistic reconstruction (the Japanese term geisha is composed of art + person / gei + sha). Reconstruction in this case not only refers to a mere mise-en-scène but to the fusion of two figurations (image of self and image of the other). In an ostensibly simple manner this is expressed through the process she chooses of immediately affixing the photographic image to the canvas itself: this fusion is per se a trans-substantial phenomenon at pictorial-sign level. Hence, what we have here is not a copying process, but a process of signification. The self-portrait does not copy Shiva, it signifies him!

In this respect we can also consider the image as the other's mask which references itself and is devoid of any vicarious function. The pictorial mask is a sign and not an expression of itself. We should not forget that the visual arts have their origin not in expression but in script itself (in Asia this is signified by the brush which in its use merges script and image as the origin of pictorial symbolism). The intertwining of photography (as the scripture of light) and painting (as the scripture of the autocatalytic) is likewise given artistic expression in the new work cycle "Games".

Carl Aigner

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