Water. Chemical formula H20. Three quarters of the human body is made up of water, the brain is even composed of 90% water. However, water is, above all, an elixir without which life would not be possible. Although the earth’s surface is made up of two-thirds water, drinking water in particular is an element that is both precious and increasingly scarce. The power of water is legendary: think of mountain formations ground down over millions of years, or of the devastating power of a tsunami as it reaches the coast. At the same time, it is glorified as something romantic. Couples on the beach, a sunset, the roar of the waves.
Any questions? This force of nature is particularly striking in locations like the grand waterfall ensemble on the border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Anja Ganster visited the waterfalls on one of her trips to Brazil; the result is films, photographs and an installation.
The photographs show water portraits, frozen movements that appear like portraits of spirits, barely tangible and fleeting, almost artificial, a borrowing from nature. Their form, like a bust, also contributes to the impression of the images as portraits. The scale cannot be defined -the close-up defies contextualisation.
In the installation Deslocamento, the artist enters space for the first time as she extends her painterly concepts: video clips of the water at various points of the waterfalls are projected on tectonically layered white assembled wood elements, showing in particular those places where the water does not flow at the highest speed. These are built downwards in clear, mostly vertical forms, their superimposition providing the optical image of a stage setting. The expected sound backdrop is faded out, in its place we hear music which has been commissioned exclusively for this installation in close collaboration with the artist.
Deslocamento projects the ever-present water onto a built-up structure, which on the one hand evokes the architecture of the waterfalls while suggesting the urban architecture of Brazil and the aesthetics of the modern. If you stand at the top of one of the high-rise buildings in the centre of Sao Paulo with its 20.5 million inhabitants, you see nothing but built-up land all the way to the horizon.
This architectural desert with its high-rise buildings, shopping malls and messy corners everywhere, the physical experience of the largest metropolis in the southern hemisphere, contrasted with the magnificent landscape of this country, hint at the experience of the installation. At the same time, the flowing of water becomes something abstract, just as the elements of the installation are no longer perceived as having a clearly recognisable structure.
The image offered to the observer is fragmented into many parts, as the two-dimensional picture projection and three-dimensional objects meet each other, embrace and create a new image which opens to association: lights come on, the picture’s tact creates the rhythm of a heart; captured in a hypnotic visual structure the observer becomes the centre of the installation.
The paintings also refer to this thematic constellation. This is most noticeable in the great panorama of Sao Paulo. The outline of the city on the canvas appears as if emerging from an early morning mist, with only certain parts depicted in sharp focus, accentuated by means of their stronger colour. The city landscape can be captured like a vision or a picture in a dream, without fully taking it in. The apparent anarchic proliferation of the urban architecture meets the rampant growth of a lush, tropical Latin American landscape – one on the advance the other in retreat.
In contrast to this we have the city view of Rio: the warm light of the metropolis by night, giving a glow to the landscape around it, the water and the mountains framing the view. City and nature blend into each other at this point, connected harmoniously, becoming a unique test tube full of life. The situation is reflected from inside and outside in the artwork, breaking the strict division time and again by reflecting contemporary architecture and the buildings of a Latin American modern age of openness and light, accentuated by coloured surfaces, (O.T., Biennalegebäude, 2012).
Anja Ganster loves situation like this, and penetrates them with her painting, opening up the architecture by means of varied reflexions, optical overlaps and the light that comes through from the outside to the inside and vice versa. A transparency and ease evolves from these complex organised pictures, so that one can but be amazed. The transformation of the picture from reality to an artistic construction enables deeper penetration into the structure of space, light, movement and time that are embraced and condensed in the image.
In her work “Rua Agusta 320/1” we perceive a chaotically organised living space, crammed full of furniture and things in daily use – not in the spriti of “Beautiful Living” but rather as a pleasing example of an inhabited room. At the same time we can see out into an inner courtyard – the separation between the inside and outside is optically dissolved and it is hardly possible to say what is in front of the glass pane and what is behind it. In this way the elements of depth in the picture are woven into each other. House plants sprout up in the foreground and the lighting comprises many bright lights as well as gleaming blind spots like a dazzling floodlight illuminating some kind of stage.
The theatre itself is also the subject in “Bühne (Theatro Curitiba 1)”. There is a stage that can be seen from the rear, facing the audience; but the view of it is blocked by scenery; a range of props are standing around, bathed in golden yellow light, with no one to be seen. The room of this happening is in an in-between place – in anticipation of what is about to happen and what has already happened. It is as if time stands still – moments that are, as always, captured by Anja Ganster in her works of art.
Deslocamento – the feeling of being foreign, of being the observer who may be invisible, the feeling of being shifted from one place to another strange place, that allows one to see and appreciate things that are closed to others – Anja Ganster gives these feelings a tangible frame, allowing us to take part not only in a geographical journey but also a journey through time, a journey full of miracles that are offered to us by our world and by the art of Anja Ganster.