Anja Osswald

300 Hrmenych (300 Thunders):

Drawing expeditions through the Academy context


Drawing is a surface medium. No depth, no illusory space, only characters on paper that force the view into two-dimensionality. Instead of going into the vertical dimension, it expands, wanders along the given lines to the edges of the drawn sheet and thus deduces the forms that take shape in the tangle of strokes and lineatures. It is this formal reduction, this insistance on surface, that constitutes the specific sign character of drawing and is particularly characteristic of Matthias Beckmann’s works. His drawings are visual excerpts: snapshots, created on the spot, of situations or spatial settings from different perspectives and at different times. Concentrated on contour, they celebrate a purism of form that is however – and this is the crucial factor with Beckmann – stretched out into the time axis by his way of working in cycles and work groups. So the individual drawing does not stand alone, it communicates with the following one, gets into contact with the next and incites the viewer to establish connections between the sheets. In this way the drawn surfaces gain a spatio-temporal localization. One could also say: they become filmic. 

For the exhibition “300 Hrmenych” (300 Thunders), curated by his friend and artist colleague Svätopluk Mikyta, Matthias Beckmann has reverted to his favourite format: the leporello. Seen purely formally, the leporello, made of a long strip of paper folded accordion-like, resembles a film strip. With several such folding books in his luggage, the Berlin artist spent some days at the Art Academy of Bratislava in 2007. There he followed the entrance examination rituals, observed the students in the portrait drawing course and in the paint shop, focussed the models and, apart from that, attended to the typical interior of a School of Arts with shelf walls, corridors, materials depots, plaster sculptures and workrooms. He drew all these impressions on the spot into the brought along leporellos.

If, as stated above, the nature of a drawing is in its surface character, then the folded expanse of this surface leads to a paradox reversal in the leporello: the surface unfolds – and becomes spatial. The different perspectives and small displacements of position keep causing views that are similar and yet different in detail. The sequence creates a multi-perspective picture space depicting the procedures as well as the vagueness and also the peculiar old-fashionedness of modern Academy life. But above all this one should not forget the aesthetic surplus value created by the presentation form of a leporello. It is simply fun to let the gaze wander over the folded individual sheets, to be guided from place to place and to linger with individual details here and there. In this way Matthias Beckmann’s expeditions through the Academy, documented with the drawing pen, become a journey into the empire of signs for the viewer. A surface world with many layerings…