Project space Heiddorf:
NORA MONA BACH
26 July – 18 October 2020
Vernissage: Saturday, 25 July, 2 – 6 pm
Nora Mona Bach
|1988||born in Chemnitz, Germany|
|2006 – 2012||Studied in the graphics class of Prof. Thomas Rug at Burg Giebichenstein, Halle University of Art|
|2011||Study trip to Damascus (Syria)|
|since 2018||Doctorate (Ph.D.) at Bauhaus University Weimar|
lives and works in Halle a. d. Saale
On the way with the night vision device – I spy with my little eye …
Landscapes. They are landscapes. I am sure of that, but then certainty leaves me when it comes to describing these landscapes in more detail. They are close-up and distant shots, water- and forest landscapes, abandoned sites with ruins, landscapes in which the earth is thrown through the air at this very moment, landscapes as seen through a frosted window. Rather often, it seems to be night.
Nora Mona Bach’s landscapes are called “heap”, “inshore waters”, “vortex” or “crime scene” – not exactly homey place names, but far enough to develop your own ideas of the events, that could have taken place here. People no longer live here but have occasionally left their traces. But now we are on that road and are seeing things that we had no hunch about, maybe did not want to know.
The mood of the landscapes alternates between poetic and threatening; we must decide for ourselves whether we want to enter it, continue our way through it, or even dig here. You cannot know what you will find. Some look peaceful, others dangerous. The incredible beauty of maelstrom, that perpetrates life-threatening destruction.
We see the evenly undulated surface of water, suspect its glitter in the sunlight. We seem to be close. Or are they pictures taken by NASA of the water vortexes, taken from several kilometers distance? Or is it after all a look through a microscope?
Nora Mona Bach creates uncertainties, plays with our desire for certainty and makes us aware that everything is a question of perspective. And of imagination. There is no room in this world without its history, she says, who has a seventh sense for the layers which shape a place over time. We also know that previous tenants lived in our apartment because we remove their old wallpaper. But do we also hear them laughing and crying? Do we feel the life that has taken place in these rooms?
This sensibility is a gift that Nora Mona Bach turns into a large oeuvre free of sentimentality, because the size and materiality of these works, which the artist modestly calls “charcoal drawings”, are striking. But she does not draw, she paints with loose powdered charcoal. Charcoal powder consists of ground charcoal, soot, clay, and binders; and enables deeper blacks than natural drawing charcoal, which consists of the charred wood only. The artist needs real deep blacks.
Nora Mona Bach’s works look like black and white photographs of colored paintings, so differentiated are grey shades. With brushes and fixative, a liquid binding agent, she generates the blackness and then binds it into powerful structures of grey, of bold lines, energetic swings, blobs, dots, moving splashes and leaf shapes. Fixates again to capture this state, which she then continues to work on. She works from light to dark and from dark to light. Coal dust can do more on paper than a stick made of pressed coal. The dust can be wiped back and forth, spread with fingers and paintbrushes, you can bind it with liquid to mush, work on it, remove it with erasers and even form sharp lines with other tools.
Coal is one of the oldest painting and drawing materials in mankind, but for a long time it was only used as a cheap tool to prepare paintings because it is easy to correct the material. I have never seen something like what Nora Mona Bach does.
With each work she expands her technical repertoire, each work contains a summation of possibilities. The artist has developed this technique and has been perfecting it over the years. She thinks big, is with her feminine vehemence a match for old men. Who does not think of William Turner, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock or Anselm Kiefer when looking at their work? Not because she would have adopted anything from them, but it is her dauntlessness with which she creates never-before- seen things from this “poor” and “dirty” material and developed her own technique for this.
In doing so, she plans coincidence as a tool, specifically encourages it, by carefully throwing the fixative onto the empty paper web. Wherever she hurls more liquid, the black spots will pile up there, because the still wet fixative binds the carbon powder applied to it. But the spread of the splashes cannot be controlled in detail and so the stains serve for inspiration and imagination. The artist enjoys being able to react to what has happened – there are parallels to real life: waiting with curiosity for what happens requires courage and the confidence to be able to react to it at any time. Because she knows the material off pat, she is happy to leave it to chance; to tame it again afterwards. Specially to take away coal requires decisions. This can be the decision for a special eraser that is greasier than another, because when you rework the erased areas with charcoal, they stick to the grease and give the desired grey shades. Nora Mona Bach is the master of grey shades, because a large part of the work consists in removing the material, lightening the surfaces. She is aware of this luxury when dealing with the material. She carves out the forms like a sculptor.
In this way, her landscapes are created in a long working process, which requires both distance and proximity. Distance to be able to capture the impressionistically designed space at all. Closeness to recognize the innumerable details in it, to understand which forms the background or which are in foreground. It is a tricky game with our sense of sight. And although each of her works deals with something else at its core, they all create a visual confusion. It is the light that Nora Mona Bach altercates with, enabling aesthetic experiences. In her play with ambivalences, she irritates us and we doubt our perception, then we absolutely want to know it and compare again and again: The black elements in the work “o.T. (Edge) ”seem to form the background for white sheets on the right, but they are a swarm on the left in front of the white surface. What is true? Or does both apply equally?
The artist plays with our perception as well as with the opposites and associations: the unshaped meets the shaped, the unknown meets the known, diffuse memories are awakened as landscapes emerge briefly from the fog. They take shape only to a limited extent, transform again before we can get hold of them. Peaceful things can suddenly appear threatening. Filigree plant elements give the appearance of idylls, but they have long since died or have grown out of the humus of the past, which can contain everything that is conceivable. Just crime scenes.
Who is using with a night vision device? And why? Hunters, the military and the police, scientists as well, conservationists and interested amateurs. They are all looking for something that is obviously difficult to find, and which does not show up during the day. One often comes across the unexpected, sometimes the unpleasant and the threatening.
Why does a forest look different during the day than at night? The sense of hearing supports the eyes exerted. Are the grey spots in “o.T. (Small Bodies)” flying-around seeds of grass or light reflections?
Or is it all just photo negatives with several exposures on top of each other, so that soft outlines, overlaps, and blurs characterize the image, which could also be turned into a positive?
The compositions of light and dark masses, which only gain objectivity at a distance, remind of “blotch graphics”, a technique that since the Renaissance has been using coincidence to create image compositions which seem to be spontaneous. Since the 18th century, the apparently random blob forms have been interpreted as an expression of mental states. Is there a reference here to the artist’s texts?
How can art raise so many questions? Nora Mona Bach’s landscapes contain puzzles, which she joyfully presents to us. Her landscapes are complex: nests and garden pieces with delicate branches and swinging grasses, developing flowers and dry florescence. Seascapes with reeds on the waterside, leaves floating on the water surface. In the UNLAND, the land devastated by humans, perhaps contaminated by a catastrophe, the turf is already sprouting again. No matter how long it can take, but even after a disaster, life will develop again.
Something happens/happened, even if you are not aware of it. The transformation continues. It is like coal: as long as it is not fixed, everything is open and completely changeable.
Nora Mona Bach is not an esoteric, but a powerful artist who – thanks to her empathy and imagination – has a feeling for the energies of places where human or natural events took place. Everything that happens sediments in one place, like in “o.T. (Crime scene V)“ the layers of earth – until grass grows over it and covers it. It is no longer visible, but it did happen. The diversity of the world is concentrated in the landscapes of Nora Mona Bach, micro and macro cosmos are closely interwoven. Some pictures remind of natural processes and show what is just being formed. Does this art want to be like nature?
Rotting trunks protrude from swampy areas, landslides reveal the stratification, deposits and their inclusions, light phenomena spotlight the sceneries, provide brief insights before the darkness absorbs the landscape again. The nature depicted here is in turmoil, devastated, threatened, abyssal, rich in secrets and life that you can discover if you go on a search. At Nora Mona Bach there is no place without history, no place without action. Each of the places she created with coal dust is a crime scene that fires our imagination.
And by the way: The feminine must be redefined because artists like Nora Mona Bach are out and about with their night vision devices.
Dr. Kristina Bake, Halle (Saale)