ALL IN ONE at the Yangpyeong Museum of Art, South Korea
The face is a privileged place, a measure of human expression par excellence. Anti-portraits have been part of the repertoire of artistic creation since modern times. In his work group "All-in-One", Helzle operates with the poetics of emptiness. The sitters, it seems, have lost face - "defacement" stands next to "refacement". In face cuts and montages, the artist is concerned with visualization and abstraction - the search for the face behind the face.
Helzle's series shows twelve women in an upright position, 60 x 80 cm, supposedly classic breast pictures, larger than life. Landscape photography alienates their quiet features - as if they had a second face, a new skin, branches and bark like fine veins play around their senses.
What they saw becomes visible in the pictures; the artist lays it over them like a second skin. Twelve mysterious female busts, whose frontal orientation and block-like closeness have an almost sacral effect, were created in the field of tension between contoured countenance and shadowy being. Places lie above their features, hiding facial expressions, revealing thoughts and yet slipping away. During the three hours the artist spent with the women, he took landscape photographs and portrait photographs. They determined the place. The winter forest. The city, a museum - their favourite place. He laid it as a foil over their trains and elicited moments of disturbing beauty from their faces. The face of the women is vibrantly covered by their inner being - each face is a landscape.
Helzle's compositions in the colours of autumn leaves, snow and ice tell of wounded, frozen nature, gently swinging valleys, icy abysses and enchanted reflections on a calm lake.
Beyond the supposedly mimic, horizontal and vertical shocks give us the feeling that the faces have expanded - far beyond the pictorial space. Snow drifts become mouths, fog banks and nightfall suggest glances full of mystery. Trees grow out of nowhere and enigmatize the depth of the gaze. With dizzying twists and reversals of supposedly fixed places and points of view, Helzle aims at a paradox: the existential contradiction between the self and the foreign. By experiencing the other, one recognizes oneself.
In the faces, the horizon lures, suggesting depth but refusing to go on. They seem to leave something behind, as if they had left their fixed location. They remain on a threshold. Is their gaze directed towards the boundless?
They reveal a spiritual place that reflects the dreams, the utopian potential that drives us. The series cannot be understood in terms of conventional portraiture. In the pictures, the face becomes an open space. They are schemes in which one searches for the supposedly true face.
According to Wolf Helzle, it is art to recognize the foreign space as one's own. One should speak of meta-portraits.
Ricarda Geib, art historian