Friday, January 13, 2012

Eva Hesse: Picking up the Pieces

by Drew Martin
There is an interesting talk online,
Drawing as Primary Medium, by the curator Catherine de Zegher about Eva Hesse, a brilliant artist who has a cult following that still mourns her untimely death and keeps her unique work alive in caring hands.

Hesse was born in Hamburg in 1936 but was sent to America via England when she was two to flee Nazi Germany. Her parents split when she was eight and her mother committed suicide when she was ten. Hesse died of a brain tumor at the age of 34. With this background it is common to describe Hesse's art as work about loss.

De Zegher relates the act of drawing as the outward gesture to another person as well as the first exploration - departing from one's mother. She is not the most engaging speaker but she is intimate with Hesse on many levels. De Zegher speaks of Hesse's work as the hybridization of sculpture and drawing and a union of opposites that can never be together; black and white, rejection and incorporation.

De Zegher says that Hesse "picked up" drawing in two ways...raising it from a subservient position in a painting and sculpture-dominated art world and by literally picking up materials for her work from the floor of a defunct textile factory in a suburb of Essen, which she and her husband Tom Doyle occupied as studio space when they returned to her homeland for a period. Hesse made an attempt to translate her drawings into paintings but it did not work for her. The reason for this was that her drawings were more like sculpture, which is why she developed such a natural relationship between the different disciplines. Hesse's work was pioneering because she used materials that were still ignored in the arts. De Zegher says that 70% of the artists she interviews mention Hesse as an influence because of her complex thinking around space, process and connectivity. She speaks for Hesse when she quotes Richard Tuttle in the talk:

"I ask the material to tell me what it knows and then I humbly listen. The payoff is greater than the humiliation."