Esther Teichmann is cited on page 20 of the course notes as an example of an artist who uses digital techniques and layering in her practice which is multidisciplinary and includes still and moving image, sculpture and painting. Her work often present oblique narratives that are fragments between autobiography, fiction and myth. Thematically, she is concerned with exploring love, death, sexuality, memory and the boundaries between fiction and reality. Brier (2014) states that she uses a “pastiche of mediums”, including photography, to construct restagings and reimaginings that are about our struggle to create understanding.
In the biography and artist statement section of her website, Teichmann describes her work being set in a fictional space “which is closer to how I see the world with closed eyes.” She states her pictures are more about herself than the subjects depicted and that she is drawn to works that explore human relationships and exploring how desire and loss are bound together as one. Kunak (2014) observes:
“Esther Teichmann works with caves, trees, rivers, wet stones in the fog; bodies bathing, swimming and simultaneously interrogating – ornamented with paint and collage from time to time – contains within memory within her childhood lived in the Black Forest.”
Writing forms an important part of Teichmann’s practice both in conception and presentation – her process of thinking about making images often begins with writing, something which fictionalises her own memories and autobiography and blurs the boundaries between the real and imagined. Words also regularly accompany the images but not in the form of short stories – these are not captions but are more like fragmented short stories which add depth to the visual work without explaining or directly referencing it. (Kunak, 2014)
Mondschwimmen (2016) is an example of this technique with three short stories assisting our understanding of the work: “every element of Teichmann’s practice becomes a fragment of a greater whole which seeks to reconnect its viewer with themselves, and their landscape, and their emotional self.” (Skidmore, 2016)
In terms of the photographic image, Teichmann is uninterested in the idea of transparency and photographic reality seeing the camera image as functioning as a metaphor for subjectivity, memory and desire: “The real is transformed from one thing into anther in a magical totemistic process, fracturing any claims of the photograph as evidence.” (Feuerhelm, 2016)
Brier (2014) describes Teichmann’s practice as exploring the tension between photography’s relationship to reality and its otherworldly powers: “in addition to a mirror or window…a photograph can be a portal: between the personal, or individual, and the universal; between reality and the supernatural; and between photography itself and other mediums.”
Use of collage, paint and appropriation:
Teichmann’s presentation of images that have been drawn or painted upon and use of collage, often juxtaposing her original images with classical paintings resulted from sketchbook experiments that she eventually began to understand were as much the work as the final images themselves. The pairing of found and original imagery is done retrospectively, something that suggests meaning can sometimes be made after an image is conceived. Brier (2014) describes Teichmann as both author and conduit of ideas.
The Female Gaze:
A sense of femininity pervades Teichmann’s work with recurring themes of ageing, mothers and the environment. She states that her gaze can be nothing but feminine but acknowledges she is also interested in othering, eroticising and exoticising her subjects – she believes the process of being objectified and objectifying happens regardless of gender. Indeed, the inevitable objectification that occurs during a photographic encounter is a concern she interrogates in her work.
This series features predominately features people in water – an ongoing motif for Teichmann. In an interview she describes the work as being about the slippage between the ecstatic and melancholic and how letting go in the water treads a fine line between total relaxation and drowning. (Kunak, 2014) Figures are shown submerged within a lake at night and the effect is both beautiful and disturbing – the ambiguous expressions of the subjects could be contemplative or represent dark thoughts. Likewise, the darkness of the night could be a sacred, private moment or one of isolation.
In this series, Teichmann presents her own images alongside paintings in a collage where both works ‘speak’ and refer to each other – she does not copy the work but similarities are heightened and differences show that each is a work in its own right. Teichmann describes aiming to create an “otherworldly fictional space of desire and longing” and that the women in ‘Mythologies’ can be read as being in a state of both death and orgasm: “an eradication of self and perhaps an intensification simultaneously” (Kunak, 2014)
This limited edition artists book brings together the series’ ‘Viscosity’, ‘Stillend Gespiegelt’ and ‘Mythologies’. The way the work is presented, and the inclusion of text, gives me an indication of what Teichmann is trying to achieve in her work and seeing how individual images work together to form a narrative aids my understanding of her as an artist. The different styles employed such as cut out collage, photographs that have been painted on, and most importantly, repetition and recurring motifs, builds up a sense of understanding.
Translated, ‘Mondschwimmen’ means something between moonswimming or moondiving. Teichmann describes the series as a work of “autobiographical dreams” in which memory is merged with fiction and an alternative world of longing, desire, dreams and fantasy are created. She describes this slippage as a mythologising of her own narrative. Water, a recurring motif for Teichmann, is important in her work because she swam competitively as a teenager and grew up near a lake in the German Black Forest region. In this series water has the symbolic meaning of a primordial space within the mothers body. The nude body denotes sensuality and the human experience and is used to pull the fantasy works together. As in other works, writing is an important part of ‘Mondschwimmen’ with three short stories accompanying the images and enriching understanding of these scenes.
Brier, J. (2014) Esther Teichmann: The photograph as a portal. Daylight. Available at: https://stories.daylight.co/DD1312 [accessed 15th February 2019]
Feuerhelm, B. (2016) Esther Teichmann: Drinking air, and mythologies. 1000 Words. Available at: http://www.1000wordsmag.com/esther-teichmann/ [accessed 15th February 2019]
Kunak, G. (2014) Interview: Esther Teichmann. Paper Journal. Available at: https://paper-journal.com/interview-esther-teichmann/ [accessed 15th February 2019]
Skidmore, M. (2016) Exploring the sensuous universe of artist Esther Teichmann. AnOther Magazine. Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8782/exploring-the-sensuous-universe-of-artist-esther-teichmann [accessed 15th February 2019]