The art of Susanna Bauer offers permanence to the ephemeral. She uses crochet; sometimes as embellishment, but mostly in an unconventional way as a means of sculpture and construction.
Her art offers a fine balance between fragility and strength; literally, when it comes to pulling a fine thread through a brittle leaf or thin dry piece of wood, but also in a wider context – the tenderness and tension in human connections, the transient yet enduring beauty of nature that can be found in the smallest detail, vulnerability and resilience that could be transferred to nature as a whole or the stories of individual beings.
The ephemeral and its expression
In the perception of people a leaf is something very temporary, there for a couple of seasons and then destined to disappear into the cycle of nature that we are all part of, yet by dedicating time to a seemingly so impermanent yet so perfectly shaped object and by conserving it in another context it can take on another dimension. For me it becomes homage to nature, but also an impression of ourselves and the world around us.
I think most people feel initially drawn to my work because of the wonderment of how it is made, but I think it becomes most powerful when it also resonates with someone on deeper level. Vulnerability and resilience are very central to the making of my work, but are also at the core of human relationships and our dynamic connection with nature.
My work is an endeavor to slow down the viewer and open eyes to the delicate balance that is inherent in our natural surroundings as well as within the human condition, reflected in our relationships with each other, but also within our environment.
early influences and the influences of life
I didn’t take the classical route to becoming an artist and I also don’t see myself belonging to a specific artistic category. After studying landscape architecture, I worked many years as a model maker for film and advertising, a career, which gave me practical training in a lots of areas like sculpting, art working and engineering. I also worked in a costume department and in creature creation, although my main specialism was miniature model making.
With this broad knowledge of making techniques I went to art college to give time to my own creative impulses. I studied on a course for art and design, which spanned all disciplines from painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture. Finding new combinations of materials and techniques had a big appeal for me. Eventually two interests that I always carried with me, nature and needlecraft, merged to give me my own individual artistic language.
I connected with natural materials in an artistic way first as a way of recording memories of places where I had collected the objects and retaining experiences that for me were linked with them. Working with what I encounter in my natural surroundings and looking very closely at the small details became central to my work.
process: from conception to conclusion
Collecting leaves forms a big part of the work and I am very selective about what I bring back to the studio. I have a couple of favorite trees that I visit regularly, but I also bring back leaves from my walks in the woods or from travels. I prefer to work with fallen leaves, I like their various shades of soft browns.
All my leaves are dried thoroughly before I use them for a piece of work, sometimes for weeks or months. I store them at my studio, hung up or pressed flat, some are stored in boxes. I like to be surrounded by them for inspiration, but only a small selection of the material I bring back to the studio will get chosen for a piece of work.
The ideas for my work come from nature itself, from emotions and thoughts I carry within me or sometimes directly through seeing the arrangement of leaves that are hanging in my studio. A new piece can come from just seeing a particular leaf creating an emotional trigger or having a vision in my head or something might develop from an existing work as a progression, but everything emerges directly out of my hands, there are no sketches.
The actual making process is very slow, I tend to work on a few pieces at the same time, alternating between them.
Once a leaf or a branch work is finished, it is framed behind conservation grade glass, which filters out over 99% of UV rays. The sun’s radiation is one of the main factors that contribute to the decay of a leaf along with exposure to moisture, insects, microorganisms, but thoroughly dried and protected from these influences leaves can be kept for a very long time.
Advice for aspiring artists
Follow what makes your heart sing. And find the time to do the work, put in the hours. Turn up, even if it feels like the inspiration isn’t flowing – just do. Make marks, collect things and materials that inspire you, see exhibitions, read, write, take photos….and find your own way.
Photo Credit: http://www.art-photographers.co.uk/