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Hannah Villiger

Bildhauerei, 1983
6 enlarged C-prints of Polaroids, mounted on aluminium
222.0 x 322.0 cm
In a close-up, a tightly framed view, we see the prominent bone structure of a hand with its stretched and freckled skin. Below, a mass of curves formed by plump red flesh: strawberries, studded with their tiny light-coloured seeds. These six photographs form one of Hannah Villiger’s first series, put together in what she called Block, a genre the artist practiced mainly in the years 1988-1990 and 1993-1996. The images seem to fit into one another in an arrangement that was carefully composed by the artist.

Villiger, by focusing as closely as possible on the details of her skin, captures novel, uncommon points of view of her body. The dialogue between the enlarged freckles and the natural graininess of the strawberries spawns unsuspected visual analogies. The red of passion and of blood, the vivid purple of the fruit contrasts with the paleness of the skin in the white light of the flash. The play of formal associations and chromatic dissonances lends force and a certain poetry to the group, which engages the imagination and tends to abstraction.

Villiger saw photography in terms of relief and matter whilst turning a sculptor’s eye on form. The title here, Bildhauerei (The Sculptor’s Studio) clearly conjures up this constant relationship between the two-dimensional image and sculptural modelling. To achieve these effects of volume, the artist worked her prints in several stages, the actual shot being but the start in the creation of a piece. The instantaneous Polaroids would go through a selection process, be rephotographed with a reflex camera and enlarged, invariably to the 123 x 125 cm format, which was the largest possible dimensions in the 1980s and the size she was to remain faithful to. Whether alone or part of a series, they were always produced as unique copies, despite their reproducible nature. Through such an innovative conception of photography, Villiger helped it rise to the status of an independent artistic medium.
Hannah Villiger, Bildhauerei, Sculpture, 1983