Linocut today IX, printmaking art exhibition Bietigheim Bissingen

Bietigheim Bissingen

Every third year there is an exhibition of linocut prints and a price awarded at the public gallery of Bietigheim-Bissingen, a mid-size town with a picturesque center with many old frame work houses. The gallery is located in an old medieval framework house with several large rooms and a couple of smaller ones. The gallery is a remarkable institution in the region. There are 4 main shows each year in the large rooms and some parallel smaller studio exhibits in the small rooms. No entry fee is charged with the exception of the “main” event each year. We have seen impressive exhibitions, for example linocuts by Picasso and paintings and prints by Gabriele Münter. This year the Conrad Felixmüller show was the highlight(German expressionism).

Apart from the collection focus on linocut prints the gallery shows classic modern (Expressionism,Bauhaus,Brücke,Blauer Reiter etc.) and contemporary art, also regional and local artist are exhibited regularly. In general the profile is relatively conservative from my point of view. It is a shame that the public relation work to promote the gallery can only be considered poor. There even is no independent website, also we see no local press work even though we live only 20 minutes to drive from the place. As a result the gallery seems to be one of the best secret tips in the Stuttgart area for years now. You can find the program well hidden on the municipal website. The list of available publications gives an idea about the shows.

The linocut exhibition and international contest (Award of the city Bietigheim) is sponsored by DLW Armstrong. The company has a major linoleum factory at Bietigheim. The exhibition is a great opportunity to purchase work from young artists at modest prices. Participants come from all over the world and there is a well-balanced mix of gender and age. A nice catalog is produced for each event.

This years exhibition was a bit weaker than the previous ones. Of course many of the works were on a very high level of skills. Over the past decade one could see how digital media influence the linocut technique. Today it is possible to transfer photographic material in a perfect way into a linocut print. The trend to challenge the technique of the linocut is unbroken. This time a number of artists presented interesting mixed media prints. One of my favorites in the show were the colored prints by Jens Schubert.

Overall the exhibition seemed to convey a kind of helplessness of the artists about their topics and the way to present them. I made notes on ca. 20 artists (ca.50% of the exhibit), I skipped a lot of pieces that I considered “gag art” and not worthwhile to look at longer than a few seconds as for example this one linocut on toilet paper. No matter how thick a coating of irony you may put on these prints it won’t make the work more interesting or significant.

Bietigheim Bissingen

Also I have to say that I could not understand the selection of the 1. and 2. price winners. The Dutch Cees Andriessen (*1940) made the first price with some minimalist color lines spread over otherwise big empty sheets. The price was awarded for the artist’s life work (which contradicts the contest from my point of view) and because his work was so very different from all the others. The jury praised the freshness and liveliness of the work in the usual literally meaningless critique lingo. I do not want to belittle the quality of the works, but the reasons for the award were as spartan as the works themselves. Andriessen is connected to the contest for a long time and I got the impression that the winner was set in advance.

The second price was given to big format prints by Wolfgang Pilz (*1957) on linen fabric (see an example here, some more info and a short description of the working method here(German). I perceived the works as an incoherent collage of citations. Words are presented in a way that cuts the viewer of the source and the meaning and thus leaves one clueless with a more or less decorative pattern of abstract forms.

The third price went to Volkhardt Müller for his witness boxes. Small panorama prints, presented in toy clocks that the viewer can wind up to play a simple melody while the linocuts will show as a kind moving film roll. Indeed at least an unusual presentation of otherwise conventional small format prints.

I want to mention two other artists who have submitted to the contest previously or were shown a couple of times at the gallery already.
Philipp Hennevogl (*1968) works on series of representational works that impress by perfect execution and full command of printing skills on complicated subjects. This time he showed heaps of garbage (example from his website).

Robert Würth is a local artist with a distinct style. He does woodcuts and linocuts. This time he presented big format linocut prints on mdf plate which were overlayed,obscured by a very thin fabric, printed with a partly transparent colored grid pattern. The fabric was stretched in a distance of 1-2 centimeter to the print, which had the effect of a blurred or obscured vision on the print. The effect would change with the position of the viewer. The prints showed surreal collages of figures and landscape elements. I already had seen woodcuts by Würth that were produced in a similar way by printing a line or dot pattern over the original print. Unfortunately there are only very few images on the net, here is an example (woodcut) that might illustrate the looks of the works even though the works on the exhibition were different. It seems Würth tries to create an unreal, dreamlike appearance of his figures and landscapes. The linocuts at Bietigheim are another version of creating a visual effect that tends to become the predominant topic of the work rather than the “original” print work itself.

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