Helen Adkins, Berlin, October 1, 2019
Kathrin Linkersdorff has, in her own words, been “fascinated by the clarity, reduction, and omnipresent influence of nature in traditional Japanese culture” ever since she started working in Japan and studying the language in the early 1990s. On her travels through the country, she learnt the technique of sumi-e, or Japanese inkwash painting, which significantly inspired her own sensitivity for beauty and composition of color and form. Further research led her towards the aesthetic concept of wabi-sabi that perceives beauty in the acceptance and contemplation of transience, imperfection, and incompleteness of all things. Subsequently, her work echoes the trace of the natural cycle of life, celebrating the inherent beauty of the passing of time.
And here is where the fleeting nature of flowers becomes essentially relevant to the artist’s practice. Her latest ongoing series of photographs is called Floriszenzen (Florescences) and currently encompasses eighteen portraits of tulips. Despite their withered and decomposed condition, the title describes the process of blooming. Inner melancholy and gentle sadness spell out a different, fragile beauty that, in our contemplation, could be seen to surpass the splendor of any flower in its prime. Florescence is an allegorical tale of human relationships and can be read as a metaphor for deep emotions and for the significance of the moment.
In the exhibited image, an unlike and awkward couple of tulips quietly dance in mute love and tenderness. Their decaying and bent stalks embody both pain and elegant abstraction, and would seem to be trying to voice something which cannot be said. The once rich and beautiful colors appear to be bleeding out of the flower heads; physical fragility turns immaterial. Existence is disclosed as an ephemeral moment of poetic suspense.
Linkersdorff makes no secret of her practice. The square format of her works goes back to her early photography with a Hasselblad camera. Her studio is full of a multitude of both unspectacular and exotic dead flowers, in vases, hanging from the ceiling, or protected from light in cardboard boxes. She dries them carefully, often over a period of weeks or months, attentively nursing the process of aging and tending to their wellbeing in afterlife. Each flower is unique and when the artist estimates that the time is right, she submerges it – alone, or with others – in large glass jars filled with water. Her camera finally immortalizes the most special instant of material dissolution and spiritual renaissance.