Peter Schmitt

The Trapper

Josepha Gasch-Muche has been working with glass since 1998. It was a late discovery, for many years she drew and etched, then she found her way to structural pictures in which she used leftover wire, iron filings, and graphite poder. Such opennes to experimentation with media may be due to her teacher Boris Kleint, in whose Bildlehre, following Johannes Itten, the “materiality” of various substances played an important role. Kleint`s observation that “different types of matter (…) have different degrees of concrete materiality” seems significant in reference to work with glass. According to Kleint, there are “degrees of materiality … uncolored glass and liquids have (for him) a visibly lower degree of materiality than opaque and solid matter” (Bildlehre, 2nd. ed., Basel, 1980, p.40). Materiality is, however, not a constant that never changes in matter. It can vary under the influence of exterior forces: “In ists destruction, material shows its true face” (p.44).

The way in which Gasch-Muche uses glass may be readily linked with such ideas, even if Kleint never explicitly mentioned it in his lectures. Gasch-Muche employs a special, extremely thin (0.03-1,1 mm; 0.001-0.04 in) glass of the highest purity, which is normally intended for the displays of mobile telephones and similar technical equipment. With pliers, she breaks this glass in pieces, irregularly shaped small fragments that are the starting point for her works. She fixes the densely layered glass pieces, partially covering one another, onto a supporting panel – wood with a white or black primer, sometimes covered with canvas. The glass fragments often take on geometric shapes – circles, squares, triangles, or cubes – arranged flat or in perspective. Gasch-Muche usually selects large formats, up to 2 x 2 m (6.6 x 6.6 ft.), for which she needs thousands of larger and smaller fragments. Their outlines result more or less by chance from the act of breaking; their arrangement and alignment on the pictorial plane at a certian degree of inclination is all the more precise, on the other hand. For the exactness of the execution determines the effect. The small glass tiles, arranged on top of one another like scales standing on end, form a delicate relief, which, looked at from certain perspectives, seems like a homogenous surface.

Perhaps only for a moment. With the slightest shift in the viewer`s position, the appearance of the work changes. It consists of innumerable small fragments, catching the light in repeating reflections, scattering, and refraction. Thus, influenced by the light conditions and colors of the surrounding space, the impression of a smooth surface with a mother-of-pearl sheen, which alter with every step or the turning of one`s head into a diffuse cloudy or fur-like structure, can emerge. If the eye falls onto the broken edges, dark lines become visible, sometimes as dense hatching, sometimes as individual needles that remind of rutile embedded in quartz crystals. In the perspectival representations, the glass pieces are arranged on the three planes of a cube in various directions; depending on the point of view, a positive or negative image, an open or closed form appears, the cube protrudes three-dimensionally forward into space or recedes into depth. The white or black backround, communicating itself to the transparent glass, contributes significantly to the impression of corporality or weightless floating. this becomes particularly clear on panls where black and white stripes alternate.

Whichever position the viewer takes, the objects by Josepha Gasch-Muche remain intangible, withdraw, change their surface and form. They are made of wood and glass but consist of light. They seem to glow from inside or open into deep dark spaces, in which far away unknow constellations sparkle.

With some validity, the proxmity of Gasch-Muche`s work to that of the Zero artists has been pointed out (Horst Schulte, in Glashaus 2/2005). In particularly, one is reminded of the light reliefs of polished aluminum made by Heinz Mack since the late 1950s, which express “an essential feature of the phenomenon of light, namely, the freedom from form” and include the movements of the viewers as prerequisite to a “dynamic inherent to the picture” (Thomas Beck, “Licht als Thema im Werk von Heinz Mack” in Zero-Studien, ed. Klaus Gereon Beuckers, Münster, 1997, p. 16). In the nail pictures of Günter Uecker, one may also discover a related dynamic here and there. Leaving aside the historical distance that separates Gasch-Muche from the radical artistic departures at the end of the conservatively hardened 1950s, her works always retain a corporality, even if with reduced materiality, in contrast to Mack`s light art. Even where the corporality emerges more strongly, where circles expand into rings or domes, whose edges disappear, almost but not quite, in a zone of flowing transition from matter into the surrounding space, the painterly character remains predominant. It determines the fluctuation between materiality and immateriality, which is the appeal of works by Josepa Gasch-Muche. It corresponds to the tension between chaos and destruction on the one hand and order on the other. Chaos and destruction relate to the broken glass as pure matter, while a severe precise order overcomes this materiality and dissolves into a constantly metamorphosing form. This is the subject of a work made of glass stained black with graphite powder, whose fragments are hurled into the room as if exploding.

Josepha Gasch-Muche`s works have an aura. That also means, however, that they deny reproducibility.

Peter Schmitt, until 2004 Chief Conservator for Applied Art of the 20th Century at the Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, Germany, Neues Glas 2/2006