A Few Thoughts on the Works by Sonja Weber
An Interview with Prof. Dr. Florian Matzner
Florian Matzner (FM):
In his novel Oceano Mare, Italian author Alessandro Baricco describes a painter who, after having spent an entire summer trying to paint the ocean, realizes, with a feeling of both resignation and relief, that it is not possible—because, according to the artist, ”the ocean is an idea. Or better, a brief survey of the imagination.” Are your motifs, which are bits of reality such as water, hair, and clouds, also ”brief surveys of the imagination”?
Sonja Weber (SW):
In a certain way, yes. They are ”brief surveys of the imagination” in the sense that they are recordings of moments, seconds taken out of the river of life. A moment is captured: a particular moving wave, which exists only at that particular time under that particular lighting. A cloud formation can change completely in the next moment, because the wind pushes it onward or piles it up higher. A head of hair looks a certain way for just one moment, because it is completely different the next—tossed another way, or blown by the wind.
All of the motifs are based in our real, perceivable world. And yet they are marked by a certain infinite form, as is time. Maybe they are also brief moments captured by the attentive eye as it roves throughout world, attempting to hold onto some of these ephemera, to give them some meaning.
For me, unlike the artist mentioned above, the ocean is not an ”idea,” but reality, and it has an eternal, boundless characteristic. This boundlessness and its appearance—probably just what the painter described above realizes—motivates me to keep on exploring and ‘seeing.’
Yet what connects or separates these different visual motifs and your methods of translating them into art?
In my works, and in my selection of moments, I try to get closer to time as well as this infinite form. The surprise of the moment is inherent in all of the motifs. These moments are taken from the topic of ‘nature and creation,’ as well as from our everyday surroundings. I’m interested in perception, in the pause, in reflection. It’s also about uniqueness, about characterizing and getting closer to things.
The fascination of holding onto ‘intangible’ moments is also compulsory. These moments allow one to recognize an aspect of the nature of each subject—while being aware, at the same time, of an enormous incompleteness.
The particular moments represented in the water images will never return in the same way again. They will always be different, depending upon the intensity of the light, the sunshine, and surface movement. Water can convey a sense of calm, of relaxation, but it can also be storm-tossed. Its natural force is fascinating. I want to capture water’s different characteristics in order to portray part of its nature.
There is an infinite palette of techniques available to express the images, ranging from the strong painterly aspect to the print-like, abstract variations—variations that never come to end.
The same thing is true for the clouds. There is an innate lightness in clouds, a transcendence, something evanescent. As soon as they form, they dissolve again into the infinite sky. In my particular aesthetic translation, these images, without employing much contrast, are deeply concerned with light.
In the images of hair, the aspect of uniqueness, of individuality, comes strongly to the fore. Just as every person is different, looks different, every person has different hair. Even though, in the act of translating these images, a wide range of techniques, from painterly expression to print-like structures can be seen, the latter is most predominant in the hair pictures.
In my various approaches, I try to gather together a variety of impressions. I rarely deal with a theme just once; I generally produce several treatments of a single theme.
Something else the motifs have in common is that each is a section, a fragment of a whole. This creates a kind of focus, a concentration upon a particular thing, an intensification of a certain impression. The viewer gains a sense of closeness; the ‘big picture’ should not overwhelm him. That means, for instance, that the images have no spatial depth, nothing that would distract from the essential.
In all of the works, the color is strongly reduced, which places more emphasis on the values of light and shadow, comparable to the difference between a color and a black-and-white photograph. The constant movement of the motifs is underscored by the plasticity of the spread-out cloth and the surfaces, which are always changing in the light.
From an outsider’s point of view, one has the impression that your works might form an emotional world, a world of fantasy, which opposes the all-too-ordinary world, and at the same time, creates an escape from reality into the virtual world of the moment, of thoughts and dreams?
Yes, you could put it that way. Yet at the same time, I ought to make it clear that the things I perceive are taken from reality. It is a very particular perception, a particular view of things that comprise my daily surroundings. To the careful observer, everyday life does offer impressions worthy of notice, and these are the foundation for this oppositional world. In no way is it an escape into an imaginary world; it is not resignation, but the attempt to recall, to be aware that there is still hope in the world, even if it is not always visible, recognizable.
It is possible for the viewer to take flight for a bit into my pictures of water and clouds, in order to calm down, relax, feel at ease.
Even if these statements are not in accordance with the zeitgeist of contemporary art, they are admittedly the things that everyone longs for or desires deep inside. I hope that my pictures can be regarded as ‘sources of energy’ rather than as ‘thieves of energy.’
Since they are accessible on several levels—including the emotional and sensual—they do not need a great deal of explanation or interpretation. My aim is to create an image that can be understood without a long explanation: an image that speaks for itself.
In addition to this, your works, despite their temporality, embody a concentration upon slowness, deceleration. Are they just as temporary as they are eternal?
I think so, yes. In a certain way, they represent a pause, a deep breath. Perhaps the temporality of many things and moments is a component, a characteristic of eternity: the topic of death, temporality, endurance.
We experience time through the three dimensions we can perceive. But maybe there are other dimensions, where time is not linear, but collects at one point? Where the past, present, and future exist at the same time? That is, for me, a way to imagine eternity. The sum of all these unique, irretrievable moments might be a bit of eternity. Perhaps every moment is one of the pieces in the mosaic of eternity.
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