Viola Stohwasser-GerdsenMobile Moments – Woven Moments
It is not necessary to explain "nomen est omen,” because Sonja Weber’s woven images are not traditional textile art. The craftsmanship of weaving is not at all the focus of her work. Rather, she works with different media: photorealism, computer art, textile art, and panel painting. The result is a Jacquard fabric stretched upon a wooden frame. The basis for her images of water, clouds, and hair are photographs she has taken, which she processes and then, on a computer-operated loom, translates into a very fine weave with an iridescent surface.
The cloth on the loom does not function as a chassis for a picture, as the canvas does in painting, but instead, it is the image itself. Weber loves to play with subtle references: a machine normally used for mass production is employed to make unique pieces, for instance. A work by her is, as is the case with paintings, never an object produced en masse, although it would be possible to do so. In this way, she makes it clear that her use of this particular technique has nothing to do with the notion of mass producing an image, but about the precision of its creation.
If, at first glance, the viewer gets the impression that Weber is a photographer, it soon becomes clear that she only uses photography as a step toward discovering new types of images. She is most definitely not a textile artist, either. Weber overcomes the ‘typically feminine’ cliché that adheres to the medium. Her precise, machine-made fabrics do not have the characteristics of art market products. Weber strives to express precision, not craftsmanship. However, these material-oriented explanations of iconographics do not provide us with enough information about the woven images.
If one attempts to place Weber’s works within the system of art historical references or categorize them according to media, the most honest solution is reached when one concentrates upon her choice of subject, recognizing the effects she achieves through their aesthetic transformation. Water and clouds are themes that have preoccupied painters for centuries, especially in tromp l’oeil, in which sky and clouds seem to be ways to see into spiritual spheres, and water reflects mysterious depths. So, considering her choice of themes, it is only logical that Weber looks for new goals and solutions in the area of painting.
In representing familiar themes, it becomes particularly clear how strongly the expression and the power of the subject change when it has gone beyond the traditional boundaries. In Weber’s images, the surface structure, created by emphasizing or de-emphasizing the fine thread, is crucial. If the viewer changes his point of view, the image gains plasticity, moving beyond the limitations of the panel painting, depending upon how the light falls. It moves into the space, becomes three-dimensional, dependent upon various effects of light and shadow. The monochromatic colors—deep blue, black, or gray—create a lively realm of contrasts, which one is familiar with from drawings.
Weber revives familiar compositional schemes. The static quality of the reproduction makes way for an exciting mobility. One is tempted to talk of rolling waves and clouds moving overhead. The impression of the momentary, which is inherent in the reproduction of cloud formations and impressions of water, is further developed as the picture is viewed. The image never seems the same in front of the viewer. The photorealistic foundation is not maintained, but is constantly changing, always creating new impressions. Thus the changeability of the subject corresponds to the changeability of the image. Time does not stand still, but remains in flux. Since they can be altered in any way, the transformation of clouds and water is not therefore simply an attractive compositional element, but also achieves a contextual significance.
There is a separate group of works concerning hair. They display print-like qualities. The hyper-realistic close-ups seem like strong, taut lines, allowing rationalist aspects of abstract painting to come to the fore. The things they express, too, are different from what is expressed in the snapshots of rapidly changing water and clouds. If, on one hand, they show the spontaneous aspect of a messy hairdo, on the other hand, they also convey a sense of the movement of time, of a mature structure.
Sonja Weber translates traditional subjects and methods of composition into an apparently conservative medium and in so doing achieves completely new results. Painting is the conceptual turning point for her art, but she liberates the panel painting from its two-dimensionality. She paints without paint and brush. And someone who has discovered something new, has taken a development into different directions, cannot be simply categorized.
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