Text from the catalogue „Ashore“, published in conjunction with the exhibition „Expeditionen“ at the
Ostholstein-Museum Eutin in march 2008
By Simone Jung, Museum Biedermann Donaueschingen
...is the title of this catalogue bearing the same name as the latest series of Anja Klafki’s intaglios (fig.
p. 17-31). Taken from the term “to go ashore” the title establishes a relationship to land and water – be
it sea, lake or river. Relative to Anja Klafki’s artwork one could argue that “Ashore” marks a new turn in
her work, a move towards landscape and a departure to new shores as well as an arrival, a discovery
The artist, who lives and works in Stuttgart, explores the subject of landscape in her own special way,
creating large-scale intaglios for six years now. Her intent is mainly to explore the description of
landscapes. What is a landscape? How do we perceive landscape? What does the minimal imaging
repertoire consist of to define a landscape visually?
The metal plate, the paper and the printing press are Anja Klafki’s tools – and she knows them well!
She has dealt with intaglio for years. She has explored the technique, determining the possibilities of
what can and can not be done with the zinc plate, challenging and exceeding the traditional limitations
of the medium, and – in the process – developing her own iconographic language. The zinc plates are
treated in a rather sculptural manner, using hammer and bevelled-edged chisel. Parts of the plate are
thrust out, producing chipped edges with more or less erratically curved or jagged and slightly frayed
outlines. Their relief-like structures define the forming contours during the printing-process with a
strikingly sculptural quality. The separate plates are combined and optionally printed from the front or
back side. Thus the plates are not just a means to an end, i.e. a matrix carrying a motif; instead the
plates are actually part of the motif itself. Together their plate-tonal imprint and the original white parts
of the paper form the essential figurative elements of the composition, which often spans several
frames. Their divisional basic structure comprises an important compositional element.
Initially exploring the intaglio technique itself, Anja Klafki is now aiming to discover the essence of
visual landscape descriptors, thereby creating her own iconographic language.
As early as the Renaissance period, the term “landscape” (“Landschaft”) was established as a Fine
Arts term for the visual description of a part of nature. This fragmentary view is carried to extremes in
Anja Klafki’s works. To begin with she chooses cut-outs from sketches and photographs that she has
made herself or were generated by the media, and subjects them to a process of abstraction. By
selecting only elements of details and transferring these to the printing plates with her unique
technique, she creates entirely new compositions. The interchange of mostly horizontally drawn
surfaces, partly overlapping each other, and the still untouched white portions of the printing paper
results in a panorama-like view with a three-dimensional effect. Nevertheless, the layer printing
process is revealed to the spectator in a kind of puzzle picture.
The series ”Lake”, which was developed in 2006 (fig. p. 37 a. 39) added an essential technical
modification. For the first time Anja Klafki combined intaglio with a relief-printing method which
produced very intense coloured surfaces. This involves a homogeneous colour imprint corresponding
with the articulate shapes, clear-cut edges and smooth round forms. These parts are countered by the
uneven shapes of the intaglio printed parts, characteristically marking the plate’s tonality with the
scratched structures of the zinc-metal.
Mostly placed at the bottom of the picture and embedded into the white of the printing paper, the clearsurfaced,
coloured relief-printed parts focus your attention. Your eyes are immediately guided towards
the less intensely coloured intaglio prints, which are more complex in shape and appearance. The
impression is that of coloured surfaces and spots barely noticed at the brink of your visual field. Thus
the viewpoint is virtually locked into the white parts, which limit and partially even cut into the coloured
surfaces. However the sketchy impressions of mountains and hills in the upper section of the picture
seem to lie in the remote distance.
The examination of how to define and describe a space has always been one of the main criteria of
Anja Klafki’s work. Developing this more pictorial approach, her artwork now achieves a different,
extended significance, complementing her previous more sculptural orientation. Her large works, often
consisting of multiple framed pieces, which remind the viewer of a panoramic view through a picturewindow,
emphasize this aspect. The art exceeds the classical limitations of the frame, while stretching
compositional elements across several framed printing papers, allowing you to imagine that it could
continue beyond the frame.
It is an elaborate game between representation and abstraction: abstract on the one hand, and
absolutely representational and concrete in documenting the material’s character on the other hand.
Oscillating between these poles the green and blue coloured compositions shown in this catalogue
immediately provoke associations of mountains, shores and coastal areas; in fact, they only consist of
material shaped segments with some naturalistic hints, sometimes abruptly breaking off mid-picture
into roughly-cut vertical edges. These disruptions create an inspiring aesthetic appeal. This helps to
avoid an interpretation that is far too narrative and romanticized. At the same time, spectators are free
to make their own associations, and complete the Gestalt of the fragments shown.
It is a game, too, playing with viewer’s ability of association and the viewer’s willingness to get
involved. Anja Klafki lures the viewer into an easy and playful, though subtly serious, way towards this
goal, forcing the viewer to get involved. According to prevalent knowledge about the psychology of
perception, human beings are generally capable of perceiving their environment only in a fragmentary
and selective way. This applies for the global meta-level as well as for basic sensory perception.
Usually we only perceive sections of the surrounding reality. Our brain fills in the lacking parts,
comparing our current visual impressions with earlier experiences. Therefore, a vision is the result of
an active – though unconsciously running - process of interpretations, classification and combination.
Thus mental delusions are never far away. On the other hand, interpreting the pictures is only possible
for people who already have an image in their mind, disposing of the actual visual experience. For
example “Lake IV” (fig. p. 39) can easily be associated with the famous Matterhorn peak.
Comparing the works in this catalogue with Anja Klafki’s earlier expression of landscape1, it becomes
obvious that her conceptual examination of the description of what a landscape is has continued to
develop and grow in complexity. By combining the various fragmentary parts, the rough disruptions
and the increasing abstraction of forms, the artist dissociates herself step by step with the depiction of
illusive impressions, inventing a more and more self-contained and independent iconography. But in
doing so the compositions with their stark simplicity and strong graphical approach are nevertheless
perfectly self-evident as landscapes.
This reveals an artistic self-consciousness which does not base its premise on theoretic structures, but
on self-developed fundamentals and continuous work by an open mind that includes on-going queries
about, and discussion and advancement of her own artwork.
(1 Anja Klafki – Radierungen, edition lüth, Halebüll-Schobüll, 2002; Grafik Radikal, Stadtgalerie im Elbeforum,
Brunsbüttel, 2004; Anja Klafki – Land, anders.art.edition, Elmshorn, 2005)