• Art

    Not Only Monkeys

    Installation view/photo © Maria del Pilar Garcia Ayensa


    It all started with comics. Or rather, with depictions of women’s bodies as source material for collages. Elisabeth Ehmann’s interest in representations of naked
    female bodies – which, of course, have mostly been drawn by men – soon drew her to erotic comics and, eventually, hardcore porn magazines. Thanks to her sense of
    humour, the artist succeeded in navigating the spectrum between the bleakly explicit photos in the sex classifieds magazine Happy Weekend and works by the draughtsman and fetish art pioneer Eric Stanton, which are seen as more artistically valuable though they’re just as explicit, while always maintaining an appreciative perspective on the female body. Though this wasn’t without consequences.

    Ehmann eventually found herself confronted with existential questions between guilt and innocence, desire and consumption, fantasy and reality. These concerns stuck with her even as she started exploring animal sculptures. At first, this subject seemed quite harmless. In art, the universal task of capturing an animal’s essence in static sculpture dates back just as far as the need to ascribe symbolic value to animals. Animals are easily recognised, and people relate to them immediately. But there are also hidden depths lurking in the contemplation of an animal. The monkey in particular, so similar to humans and yet ‘other’, epitomises shortcomings in human self-awareness. This is evidenced time and again by the gap between how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. If we can recognise so clearly what distinguishes us from other living beings, why do we have such obvious problems when it comes to taking a clear look at ourselves?

    This question is as fundamental as it is trivial. But once we take it into account, it comes as no surprise that simple, familiar, harmless elements repeatedly shift into darkness, without us being able to pinpoint exactly how it happens. We see it unfolding in Ehmann’s animal sculptures just as much as in her collages. Some of the latter span an area measuring several metres, having grown to encompass an extremely diverse array of pictorial sources. Over the years, erotic comics and pornographic magazines have been joined by all kinds of periodicals, auction and exhibition catalogues, botanical reference books, encyclopaedias… Throughout her quest for images in second-hand bookshops, flea markets, and art bookshops, Ehmann, a graphic designer by training, has gathered a wealth of knowledge about the history of mass-reproduced images – from their beginnings to the present day. She has achieved this not by reading, but by seeing. Aspects such as print quality (which has deteriorated), the feel of the paper (of utmost importance), and colouring (bright colours are rarer than dark ones) are just as relevant as the subjects depicted.

    Her motifs are always selected according to how well they fit into the overall structure, regardless of their message. It is an extremely complex undertaking that usually starts with a scrap of paper and without a specific composition in mind. It grows organically, piece by piece. During this process, individual components merge to form landscape-like structures that, with the help of overlaps (kept separate by small pieces of wood), take on a spatial appearance and, from a distance, look like extreme impasto paintings. While they often appear to be abstract compositions at first glance, closer inspection allows them to unleash a magnetic pull. However, this does not make the viewer overwhelmed; it is up to the beholder to decide how deeply they want to delve.

    Those who do persevere in a prolonged gaze are rewarded with illuminating insights, not only because the combination of pictorial elements reveals brief narrative scenes here and there, but because only then does the evidence of technical perfection become apparent. In Ehmann’s work, technique yields content – and more than that, technique is content. For instance, her sculptures undergo many different production stages, from the initial wire form to 3D scans and variously coated casts. The level of perfection in their execution imbues these works with an aura of the sublime and obscures the mundane realities of production. There is a monkey sculpture that looks as though it is made of porcelain, but is actually executed in high-gloss lacquered bronze. Another one appears to be made of wood, when in fact it is created using a technologically innovative lab material. From reused paper for collages to digitalised collage motifs on silk made from recycled bottles, from classic bronze casting to 3D-printed sculptures, the transition from traditional to innovative materials and techniques characterises Ehmann’s production processes just as much as its focus on sustainability; producing art that is contemporary and responds to present-day circumstances is a major concern for the artist.

    Even though Elisabeth Ehmann tackles universal questions regarding art-making, her work is not easy to categorise. This poses some challenges, since the art world still likes things to be clearly defined. Conceptual art, for instance, is always good because it is more unwieldy than pleasing, whereas pleasing, possibly even ‘pretty’ art runs the risk of being labelled as devoid of content. Moreover, if you make art, you have no business dabbling in fashion, or anything that has to do with design. But Ehmann takes up this challenge. She investigates how her work can be appealing and still be perceived as art, or how far she can move away from work that is clearly defined as ‘artistic’ – for example, by having her motifs adapted by fashion designers – and still be regarded as an artist. Although aspects such as the negotiation of her role as an artist, her understanding of the concept of art, and her relationship to the art world are not turned into subjects in her works, they inform their creation indirectly. And if such works invite us to take a very close look, then why not also consider the current circumstances under which these and art as a whole are created?

  • Art


    Installation view/ Photo: Georg Brueckmann

    Undine Bandelin, Elisabeth Ehmann, Jörg Ernert, Agnes Lammert, Martin Mannig, Maribel Mas, Antonio Mesones

    In einer Zeit der Ungewissheit werden alle zu inneren Nomaden. Zumindest wäre dies die angemessene Einstellung, um nicht in ständigen Konflikt mit den sich wandelnden Umständen zu kommen. Die Arbeiten der Ausstellung öffnen verschiedene thematische Kosmen, zwischen Determination und emanzipatorischer Freiheit. Innerhalb dieses Spannungsfeldes, erzählt jede künstlerische Position ihre eigene Geschichte.

  • Art


    Installation view: Das All / Photo: Georg Brueckmann


    Spiel, Symbol und Fest *1
    Das All – neue Arbeiten von Elisabeth Ehmann
    Text von Esther Niebel, Oktober 2018

    Es ist alles da: übervoll, überbordend, überquellend. Aber die Fülle ist geordnet, wohlüberlegt, sie ist kein Chaos, kein Tohuwabohu. Und auch wenn das Auge zunächst überwältigt ist, weil es so viele Angebote bekommt, legt sich die Orientierungslosigkeit, sobald man als Betrachter Mut gefasst hat. Der Entdeckergeist und -wille, der notwendig ist, um sich gegen die scheinbar willkürliche Fülle der Bilder zu behaupten, wird belohnt. Da ist ein leiser Rhythmus, gleichsam ein Takt, der ordnet, in Form bringt und allen Dingen, Steinen, Pflanzen, Tieren und Menschen einen Platz zuweist. Ihnen sagt, ob sie für sich alleine stehen, interagieren, melancholisch oder komisch sind. Bienen, Totenschädel, Mädchen, Vögel, Blumen, Blätter und Fische und immer wieder Fische. Alle wirken sie mit an der großen Choreografie des Lebens.

    Und am Anfang war das Spiel: das Mineralische, das Pflanzliche, das Tierische und das Menschliche ist im Gleichgewicht, es interagiert, es schafft, es zeugt, es zerstört. Selbstbewegung ist der Grundcharakter des Lebendigen überhaupt. Ist das Lebendige ausgewogen, so beschränkt, fördert und erzeugt es sich selbst und die Protagonisten sich gegenseitig. Da wird selbst der Tod, ein Totenschädel, Fleisch, das zur Nahrung dient, schön, da es notwendiger Teil des Lebens ist. Jeder und Jedes ist Spieler, Mitspieler und Gegenspieler, so auch der Betrachter der intuitiv sich als Teil des Ganzen fühlt und in das Spiel mit hineingezogen wird. Aber vergessen wir das Spielerische nicht. Denn immer wenn es ernst wird, bedeutungsschwanger, kommt ein kleines Augenzwinkern: mal schwimmt eine kleine Giftflasche durch die schwere, schwarze See, mal gibt es eine unverhofft komische gymnastische Übung oder ein Haifisch bekommt Kunst-Haifischzähne, die ihn zur Karikatur seiner selbst mutieren lassen.

    „Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.“ *2 Der Fisch ist ein Fisch ist ein Fisch und ist doch mehr als ein Fisch. Die Biene ist nicht nur ein Tier, das sich zoologisch abbilden und beschreiben lässt. Sie wird mit Fleiß assoziiert, sie sammelt Honig, fliegt von Blüte zu Blüte. Bei dem Kirchenvater Ambrosius wird sie zum Symbol der honigsüßen Sprache. Auf die vier Elemente bezogen symbolisiert die Biene das Feuer, der Fisch das Wasser, der Schmetterling die Luft und die Schlange die Erde. Die ursprüngliche Bedeutung des Wortes Symbol bezog sich auf eine Erinnerungsscherbe. Zwei Menschen, die getrennt wurden, behielten je einen Teil der Scherbe bei sich, um sich des anderen zu erinnern. Nur gemeinsam konnten sie die Scherbe wieder zu einem Ganzen machen. Also kann man sagen, dass das was die sinnliche Erscheinung ausmacht, was man sehen, hören und riechen kann, untrennbar mit der geistigen Ebene, die sich nicht sofort offenbart, verbunden ist. Dennoch ist diese Ebene permanent präsent, bewusst oder unbewusst. Das ist der Nexus, der alles verbindet, der tief eingepflanzt ist und das gegenständliche Sehen mit dem geistigen sich orientierend verbindet.

    „Wenn etwas mit der Erfahrung des Festes verknüpft ist, dann ist es dies, dass es jede Isolierung des einen gegenüber des anderen verweigert. Das Fest ist Gemeinsamkeit und ist die Darstellung der Gemeinsamkeit selbst in ihrer vollendeten Form. Fest ist immer für alle.“ *3

    Das Fest ist die Überhöhung und damit die Herausnahme aus dem Alltäglichen, das Fest steht für sich selbst und ist nicht zweckgebunden. Das Fest ist zeitlich begrenzt und dennoch entsteht die Zeitordnung historisch gesehen erst durch die kalendarische Wiederkehr der Feste. Somit bekommt das Fest eine Doppelbedeutung in Bezug auf das Zeitliche: zum einen steht es für die ewige Wiederkehr, die Wiederholung, zum anderen für ein zeitliches Kontinuum, für den linearen Zeitbegriff, der ein Anfang und ein Ende kennt und damit die Spur der Dialektik in das Paradies schlägt. Zunächst ist Elisabeth Ehmann Jäger und Sammler. Sie ist auf der Suche nach Quellen, nach Vorlagen, nach Elementen, die ihr interessant erscheinen und die es verdient haben, ein neues Leben zu beginnen: Naturdarstellungen von Ernst Haeckel, Werke von Picasso und Matisse, ägyptische, griechische und etruskische Skulpturen, Gymnastinnen nach Art des Monte Verità, Alice im Wunderland, Momos schwarze Männer, die ganze Botanik und Tierwelt des Alexander von Humboldt, Schnipsel aus Modemagazinen, Kochbücher, alles wird aus seinem funktionalen Kontext genommen und verarbeitet. Das ein oder andere Fragment wird in einen neuen Sinnzusammenhang gestellt, wird anekdotisch oder surreal. Ein andermal besteht die neue Freiheit des Schnipsels einfach in der Schönheit an und für sich. Damit unterscheiden sich die Kollagen von Elisabeth Ehmann von denen der Surrealisten oder Dadaisten. Es sollen keine dunklen Bilder evoziert werden, keine paradoxen archaischen Urbilder entstehen. Elisabeth Ehmann vermittelt mit ihren Bildern das Bewusstsein, dass die Natur und der Kosmos größer sind als sie. Weder sie noch der Betrachter können diese wirklich erfassen und manchmal ist es das Weiseste einfach der Schönheit zu lauschen.

    1 Spiel, Symbol und Fest sind Grundkategorien, die Hans Georg Gadamer in Die Aktualität des Schönen in Bezug auf Ästhetik und Kunst untersucht.
    2 aus Gertrude Stein Sacred Emily, 1913
    3 siehe H.-G. Gadamer in Die Aktualität des Schönen, Reclam, Stuttgart, S. 52

    Play, symbol and festival
    Das All (The Everything) – new works by Elisabeth Ehmann
    Text by Esther Niebel, Leipzig, October 2018,
    Translation by Susanne Olbrich, Berlin, October 2018

    Everything is present: overflowing, abundant, profuse. This is an arranged bounty, deliberate – not chaotic, not tohubohu. It’s difficult to know where to look, but when the viewer takes courage, disorientation subsides. If approached in the spirit of discovery, with the will to look beyond the seemingly arbitrary, the viewer will have their reward. There is a subtle rhythm here, a beat that brings order and shape, that assigns a place to all things, to stones, plants, animals, and humans. It tells them whether they will stand alone or interact, whether they are melancholic or comical. Bees, skulls, girls, birds, flowers, leaves, and fish – again and again, fish. They all play their part in the choreography.

    In the beginning was the game – the ‘play’ – when the mineral, plant, animal, and human elements were in balance. The play creates and destroys. Self-motion is the essential state of all that is living: creation, regeneration, and limitation in harmony, so that even death is beautiful. A skull, and the flesh that serves as sustenance, is a vital part of the cycle of life. Here everybody is a player (a participant, a contender), including the viewer, who becomes a part of the play. And let’s not forget playfulness – when things become serious, there’s a wink: a little bottle marked ‘poison’, floating across the heavy, black sea; an unexpectedly funny athletic tumble; a shark with false shark teeth that mutates into caricature.

    Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose . Fish is a fish is a fish is a fish, and yet it’s more. The bee is not just its scientific classification: it is hard work, to Father Ambrose, mellifluous language, and it is fire – just as the fish is water, the butterfly air, and the snake, earth. Originally, the meaning of the word symbol related to a token of remembrance; those separated kept half of a divided object, fragments by which to remember each other. Only when reunited, they were able to fit the two pieces together and form a whole. The realm of the senses cannot be separated from the unseen, the intuitive – the spiritual. It is this connection, deeply rooted in our psyches, that pairs the real with the mysterious.

    “If there is something connected with the experience of the festival, then it is this that it denies any isolation one over the other. The festival is commonality and is the depiction of the commonality itself in its most accomplished form. The festival is for everyone always.” The festival is not an everyday occurrence, it is exaggeration; the festival represents only itself and cannot be recreated; the festival is for a limited time only – the festival will be endlessly repeated. On the one hand the festival stands for the eternal return, on the other it refers to a temporal continuum that knows a beginning and an end, a linear concept of time, thus linking the investigation to the idea of paradise.

    In the first instance, Elisabeth Ehmann is a hunter and collector in search of sources, elements she feels deserve to begin a new life: representations by Ernst Haeckel, works by Picasso and Matisse, Egyptian, Greek, and Etruscan sculptures, gymnasts à la Monte Verità, Alice in Wonderland, Momo’s Men in Grey, the entire flora and fauna of Alexander von Humboldt, cuttings from fashion magazines, cookery books, everything gets taken out of context to be reprocessed. Fragments are rearranged – anecdotally or fantastically. The cutting is free to be beautiful in the abstract. This means that Elisabeth Ehmann’s collages differ from those of the Surrealists or Dadaists. No dark images should be perceived; no paradoxical out-dated archetypes triggered. Ehmann conveys the awareness that nature and the universe are bigger than her; though neither Ehmann nor those who behold her work can grasp this – wiser, then, to surrender to her work’s beauty.

    + + + + + + +

    Elisabeth Ehmann work is based on collage. Working on paper and more sculptural objects, Ehmann renders abstract compositions by the use of structural elements. Her colourful archive is taken out of photographic magazines and catalogues, abandoned books she collects. The artists meticulously cut, dissects glossy products out of our consumption goods, rearranging them until only fragment remains. Ehmann seeks to underline the ephemeral nature and variability of these flimsy values, aiming to regenerate/repair the condition of the material into compound complex structures.

  • Art
  • Art


    Benedikt Braun, Oliver Czarne a, Elisabeth Ehmann, Jörg Ernert, Tino Geiss, Helge Hommes, Martin Paul Müller, David Ralph, Angelika Rochhausen

    Vernissage: Samstag, 4. November 18 – 21 Uhr

  • Art
  • Art


    Installation view: Das All / Photo: Georg Brueckmann



    Frédéric Coupet, Oliver Czarne a, Elisabeth Ehmann, Jörg Ernert, Markus Manowski, Daniel Müller-Jansen

    Dass man mitunter Gesichter verwechselt, hat seinen Grund darin, dass das wirkliche Bild verdunkelt wird von dem geistigen Bild, das ihm entspringt. (Charles Baudelaire)

    Einer der seltsamsten Zustände ist das dunkle und unvollkommene Bewusstsein, das wir von der Form und dem Ausdruck unseres eigenen Gesichts haben. (Christian Morgenstern)

    Nur beim Menschen spricht man vom Gesicht. Als Sitz der Augen, des Mundes, der Nase und der Ohren ist es zentraler Ort der Wahrnehmung.

    Über die Mimik kann der Mensch willkürlich oder unwillkürlich seine Gefühle zum Ausdruck bringen und für seine Mitmenschen ablesbar machen. Das Gesicht in seiner Abbildung als Portrait nimmt in der Kunst einen wichtigen Stellenwert ein – als menschliche Selbstreflektion par excellence. So wurden die Ratsuchenden im Apollontempel in Delphi auch von der richtungsweisenden Inschri „Erkenne dich selbst“ in Empfang genommen.

    05.08.2017 – 02.09.2017
    Vernissage: 05.08.2017, 18 Uhr

    Frédéric Coupet, Oliver
    Czarne a, Elisabeth Ehmann,
    Jörg Ernert, Markus Manowski,
    Daniel Müller-Jansen

    Esther Niebel
    Spinnereistr. 7 / Halle 10
    04179 Leipzig



  • Art


    Installation view: BIZARRE!!
    art: ‘the messenger I’ / ‘meet me at the center stage’


    The National Monegasque Committee for the Visual arts – A.I.A.P with the UNESCO, has kindly invited German artists as honoured guests of their annual exhibition in the principality of Monaco.

    For the salon 2016, we are pleased to present the work of eight artists, living and working in Germany and out of which a certain route has been privileged: two highly renown cities in the field of arts, Berlin and Leipzig. Although independently curated, as a parallel to the Monegasque presentation, we have chosen to follow the theme Bizarre initiated by the A.I.A.P. We were both inspired by the theme and interested in exploring a respective angle aligned with the entirety of the exhibition.

    When we stand back for a moment and reflect on our daily actions, everything becomes Bizarre!

    When we abstractly concentrate on a single word, repeating it, it suddenly becomes utterly Bizarre!

    And what could better define our world, this encrypted reality?

    Several mediums and languages are explored in the Salon 2016, through attempts to grasp the strange in its diverse nuances and sequences.


    As many attempts to grasp the strange.

    Stefania Angelini, 2016

    Seeping into strange atmospheres, recovering the origin of that feeling, grasping a sense of uncanniness. The etymology of the word bizarre is coincidentally murky.

    The exhibition, with no mean to trace back the origin and the emergence of its title, seems to grasp, with each artist, fragments of this very wide conception. What refers to bizarre undoubtedly is in relation to the process of perception. Some sensationally strange occurrences which can be perceived through the violence of contrast, incongruity, or the association of both.

    Elisabeth Ehmann erects elegant sculptures where a plethora of images and the attention to detail tend to give a sense of a mannerist gesture. Very aesthetic and sleek, varnished and embellished, the works of Ehmann are sensual detractions. By pointing out the very corporeality of excess, Ehmann acts directly against consumption but also prevents the decadence of ephemeral effects, praising their material quality. The complex and colourful compositions resemble some encrypted grotesque motifs which often confer unease besides their aesthetic value.

    Strangely familiar. This strange stranger.

  • Art
  • Art
  • Art


    Solo exhibition HINTERLAND GAlLERY


    UNIKAT sculptures are developed from unique objects, such as a limited edition rocking horse, a hand-carved gentleman’s cane and a housecat statuette, which Ehmann transforms using a highly detailed decoupage application of vintage erotic comics and photographic material.
    A major component of Ehmann’s practice is the elementary, joyful, experience of collecting material with which to start the creative process – the discovery of new objects. Ehmann is interested in the essential quality of the materials she uses as well as their formal characteristics: the surface properties, type and density of the paper, the nature, shape and presentation of the found objects. She sources her soft-core imagery and text from pornographic comic books bought in second-hand fairs and markets throughout Europe.
    The UNIKAT sculptures at first glance appear to be simply covered, their surfaces camouflaged. It is only upon closer study that the works’ rich, repurposed sexual narratives reveal themselves in titillating specificity.
    UNIKAT sculptures juxtapose innocence and guilt – lascivious printed matter wraps innocent bodies. As the observer gets closer to the work, a feeling of deception – something harmless appears to be something other – is replaced by a need to look at the detail of the sculptures, to survey up-close the salacious, the bawdy.
    Elisabeth Ehmann’s artwork reflects her life experience – eschewing the negative she is fascinated by subtle beauty and makes work that is composed, enigmatic and humorous.