Béatrice Helg – an accrochage

17 May – 6 August 2006

The Museum Tinguely is showing a selection of works by Béatrice Helg, a photographer from Geneva. Her large photographs will be displayed with the machine sculptures of Jean Tinguely and will invite viewers to explore seemingly familiar objects from a sharper perspective.

Béatrice Helg’s photographs are composed studio shots bathed in light. Her focus is on her material, at first austerely stifling all movement: inanimate visual spaces, intrinsically idle and extrinsically expressive, requesting nothing from viewers but their full concentration. What initially strikes viewers as fairly unoriginal – a sheet of metal positioned vertically, horizontally or in suspension – is transformed into a landscape of infinity; the universe. The iron sheet comes to life as an organic, modifiable medium, telling tales of its clashing constituent elements and of permanent change. While its surfaces appear randomly designed, they reveal no trace of arbitrariness or indifference. The photographer is always firmly in charge of her subject, using its shape to design her own art. She creates spaces inhabited by iron and light that are ostensibly held captive by the camera but then released and rearranged in a new composition. The dimension of space carries over to the two-dimensional surface of the photographs, where it unfolds with fresh force.

Iron is a fascinating medium. Grey at first glance, yet capable of shining colourfully in hues of blue and silver, receding into obscurity as black or perfectly reflecting light as white. Or of rusting. That’s when iron achieves perfection, turning red, green, orange, brown, yellow, becoming a rainbow and colour wheel, tactile, soft, porous and finely structured, revealing variety and character. Vertical and horizontal veins are testimony to the material’s mining, its origins and its future prospects. Béatrice Helg portrays this mysterious matter, creating conceptual spaces that motivate viewers to allow their minds to wander in contemplative tangents when exploring other areas of life as well. Iron as inspiration.

Jean Tinguely, a sculptor who worked in iron, began leaving his artistic medium in the state he found it at the junkyard as early as 1960. He refashioned rusty iron bars, slabs and wheels by welding them together. While the work of both artists is closely linked, Béatrice Helg’s photographs heighten viewers’ perception of Jean Tinguely’s iron sculptures: aspects that at first might seem superfluous take on a new significance and surprisingly different look upon closer examination. The viewers’ attention is drawn to the iron Tinguely used to construct his mechanical sculptures – not merely as an artistic medium, but as an aesthetic experience.

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The monograph « Béatrice Helg – Im Licht der Schatten », Edition Braus, Heidelberg, and « Béatrice Helg – À la lumière de l’ombre », Actes Sud, Arles, with texts by Guido Magnaguagno and Alain Sayag, is available at the Museum bookshop.