A Retrospective Insight
27.09.2018 - 10.11.2018
Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern. Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern. The principle behind Isabel Albrecht’s drawings and paintings is simple yet results in a surprising and diverse oeuvre. Works, which are persistently formal, elaborate and comprehensively designed. The connecting element is the line, which can be considered the fundamental postulate determining the creative process. Sizes, materials, form and shapes are limited, the gestures simple and clear. However, the underlying rigorous organizational structure contrasts quietly yet distinctly from the actual orchestration of subtle shifts of lines in pencil, ink and oil. It is this tension between planning, execution and implementation that directs the work’s breadth of expression.
Albrecht doesn’t aim for a purely aesthetic effect and is neither limited to a mere systematic approach. Her point of origin is a phenomenological recording of the world in which reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness. Amongst other things, her fascination for Modernist architecture since Bauhaus and similar movements can be seen as a source of inspiration. Albrecht understands her art as the result of a conscious experience of our environment.
Individually applied and executed in ink, graphite, paint or watercolour, the lines vary in thickness, application and number. Horizontal and vertical patterns in descending or ascending colour progressions, from dark grey to light grey, green, red and blue, the resulting textures rank from minimal and delicate to dense and flickering, from clearly distinguished lines to very fine structures where one line passes into another without transition. The works from her 'Progression Series' are good examples for the artist’s employment of repetition and rhythm. The abstract paintings are composed of grouped vertical lines from dark to brighter or bright to darker colour shades. These groups, or episodes are then repeated horizontally across the canvas until a previously prescribed iteration is reached. The works influence each other. In some cases, progressions can even continue over a whole series of works.
The method of grouping, sequencing and repetition is central to Albrecht’s interest in patterns and structures. It builds upon a long tradition in the history of art and more evidently in contemporary art, particularly in the context of Minimal and Conceptual Art since the 1960s and 1970s. Likewise, Albrecht’s commitment to serial production is not a stylistic phenomenon, which corresponds to a certain aesthetic, but the manifestation of a specific artistic practice based on the principle of repetition of the same or, at least, of the related. As the American artist Mel Bochner stresses in his article ‘The Serial Attitude’ from 1967: ‘Serial order is a method, not a style’. In Isabel Albrecht’s case the works should primarily be seen as parts of a larger whole, not as single entities, which is why she worked on multiple drawings or series at the same time.
Albrecht generally drew her lines freehand, consciously introducing a moment of chance and irregularity, which comes into play when allowing human fallibility: aborted lines that witness the tiredness of the artist’s hand, lighter and darker areas depending on how firm the pencil or brush is moved over the paper. Whilst the aspired patterns are the skeleton that organizes the whole composition, it’s the small imperfections, displacements and colour gradients that cause movement within the picture surface and result in rhythmical shifts. Areas that emerge from the picture plane and other areas that recede; vertical or horizontal variations in grey; thicker and thinner lines; broken or continuous, from top to bottom or from left to right.
Despite Albrecht’s curiosity in various qualities of rhythm and movement and her openness towards failure, the drawings and paintings follow clearly defined criteria within a pre-established system. As a result of the artist’s fascination with numerology and structure, series, grids and repetition, the dimensions of the canvas or paper are determined and allow for accurate planning. Consequently, also the pursued forms and patterns adopt clearly defined and strategically coordinated elements and can easily be retraced in their formation. This can be comprehended when taking a closer look at Albrecht’s work Untitled, which consists of 99 single sheets and will be displayed in the form of a video film in the exhibition. At first the paper is divided into smaller and smaller units. Each unit has been assigned a different shade of gray, which seems to have been randomly chosen and later used more systematically. Patterns and shapes emerge that stand out clearly, are subsequently rejected or newly organized. Every formation is played through horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Some dynamics work, others don’t. The stronger the picture plane is fragmented the more articulate the visual experience becomes. It also clearly emerges which major function the nuances of grey (or in other cases colour) have in the formatting of these patterns.
Colour for that matter becomes all the more important as it supports the works’ idiosyncrasy and is specifically applied to provoke feelings that might contrast the rational planning. However, unlike other artists’ abstract creations, whose colours often reflect surrounding influences such as Agnes Martin’s works that depict the light of the Mexican desert, Albrecht keeps her works mainly in grey tones of different variations or monochrome only playing with varying colour densities of the ink.
Due to their abstract nature and the subordination to structure and a minimalist vocabulary, Albrecht’s works are sought to engage rather than merely inform, and so inevitably, the viewer is invited to react emotionally. The works are intimate and discreet yet distanced and almost philosophical at the same time. We are faced with an expanded space of delicate structures and calm compositions that allow us to get lost within.