From Applied Design to Liberal Art

Tatjana Busch’s professional background is graphic design. Overflowing waste bins are inevitable in this branch of art: Countless unsatisfactory drafts land in the garbage crumpled – some-times angrily crumpled. In his quest for a new design, the artist looks at his physical surroundings – and often fixes his gaze on these “crumplies”. The artificial light of the studio turns their surfaces into a dynamic play on shadow and light. “Like in a tableau for meditation I tried to read and to find inspiration in their crinkles and wrinkles”, Tatjana Busch recalls, “until I realised that the answers I was looking for were right there in front of me, in the waste basket.” Tatjana Busch could no longer ignore the innate aesthetics of chaos, that is, the charmingly unique results of randomness. She began collecting a variety of waste paper from our everyday world of consumption. What was at first a reaction was now an initiative act: She rumpled her creations and processed them into dense reliefs.


The First Free Works

The artist’s first free work came into being twelve years ago: “Wedding Picture” – a creation in white paper. Thin, rumpled cardboard shapes, fixed on a flexible surface, give a magnificent show. A closer look reveals them as elegant monochrome wedding invitations. A baroque bridal gown made of never-sent invitations. Aesthetic conservation of festive waste. Controlled arrangement of the unintentional. Organised chaos of discarded encounters that were never meant to be. The string of assumptions is endless. The work gives way to mental acrobatics and speculations at multiple levels. What soon followed was Tatjana Busch’s first papier collé on a hard surface: again, rumpled white paper, but this time with scorched edges which counter the crinkles’ shad-ow-and-light play. Two diverging and destructive forces are set against each other – to cancel each other out, or to complement and enhance one another?



Everyday Reliefs

Meditations on domesticity, consumption and waste came next: bills, receipts, postal advertisements, boxes for noodles, flour and other food – interspersed with colourful chocolate praline wrap-pers. The world of consumption and its refuse are not merely referred to, but rather the matter itself is put on display. The observer is left guessing: Is our daily consumption being criticised or aes-theticised? Is the message that we are drowning in commercial monotony or is this a tribute to the trivial mass product? The crumpled paper and foil are meticulously arranged on single-square-metre panels, a size which the artist also chose for many of her subsequent works as it provides a good physical basis for depict-ing series, sequences and calendar-like compositions of the everyday. Holidays are readily identifiable by the glittery tinfoil: reddish gold evokes Christmas while Easter is represented in mix-tures of yellow, green and orange.


Emancipation of Form

At a certain point in her career Tatjana Busch decided to depart from displays of everyday refuse and began creating her first metal reliefs. At first she fashioned them as with her previous paper works. Small aluminium sheets, colourfully enamelled, were warped and twisted before being arranged on and attached to a metal panel. In her following works, the single form became disengaged from its context and gained formal independence and self-respect. In some cases, however, it was the background that emancipated itself, bulging in overwhelming deformations and distortions, ridding itself of its load. Such pieces emerged from the wall or even became freestanding sculptures. This new course could not have been more rigorous. The innocent candy foil returns glorified – enlarged, hardened, solidified – as a coloured aluminium plate.


Colour and Form

These sculptures are produced in two steps, the first of which consists in the rather contemplative act of enamelling the plain aluminium sheets, which is sometimes done by brushing acryl pigments, and sometimes by spraying car paint. The compositions are quite simple and straightforward: striped patterns or circular motifs in vibrant colours which gleam against their metal base. The colour combination does not obey any principles except those of spontaneity and caprice. There is no previous planning or intellectual scheme applied. Chance is the artist’s creative partner. The second step is the deformation, which is physically very demanding. It is an aggressive act that forces the transformation of the piece from two into three dimensions. The delicate artist needs to make use of her entire body to bend, warp and mould the metal sheets, which are a square metre in size and one millimetre thick. “It is emotion that arrests the act of aggression: I want to get to the point where I feel fragileness and vulnerability. That’s where I stop.”



Some “heroes” of 20th-century art may have played an inspiring role for Busch – and may also provide some orientation for the seeking observer. Two prominent examples from American Minimal Art are Richard Serra’s basic colour structures and the enamelled aluminium constructs of Sol LeWitt. American Pop Art and French Nouveau Réalisme provide some clues, too. Arman’s amassed products and refuse and Cesar’s compressed cars come to mind, as do Christo’s wrapped objects. All these works play on the glamorous world of advertisement and consumption, whether through worship or taunting.


Illusive Beauty

This heading is a further apt description of Tatjana Busch’s works: Her works dwell on the realities of illusion that govern our world of consumption. However, they differ considerably – both in content and form – from their real-life models, and create their own reality. At first glance, the observer may see them as “manly”. Yet the colourful shiny metal reflects the female as well. It is her being, her becoming and her degeneration that are the artist’s essential theme. The steps in producing these works paraphrase the dif-ferent stages of development: At first there is the untouched blank metal sheet. Once it is covered in a coloured coating, it is transferred into a beautiful image. Then, wrinkling and deformation take place, alluding to wear and tear, deterioration and decay. The age-old theme of the transience of all beings, the vanitas experience of the empty shell, is conveyed here in abstract form. The lightheart-edness of a whimsically discarded crumpled candy wrapper, with which the artist delivers her message, compensates for the rigidity of these metal sculptures.


Dr. Ita Heinze-Greenberg, 2005