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Exhibition view - Translating the Becher Houses | Fuhrwerkswaage Cologne, Germany 2021

In art, afterimages are works that refer to already existing works by other artists. Marcel Duchamp's masculinisation of the Mona Lisa is a widely known example of this. Lars Kreyssig's half-timbered house drawings are also part of the category of after-images, since they are based on photographs by Bernd and Hilla Becher. The series title: 'Translating the Becher Houses' confirms this classification.


The half-timbered house typologies from the Siegerland, created by the photographer couple at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, are 'quoted' by Kreyssig in drawings. Each sheet, format about A3, has meticulously drawn lines. The ruler must have been a constant assistant to the pencil at work, an elementary aid to the naturally rather clumsy human hand in drawing straight lines. All the drawings are characterised by precision, inaccuracies are not discernible.
The high magnification of the illustrations in the exhibition, on the other hand, makes minimal deviations from the ideal line visible. The line management is also clearly recognisable. New beginnings of lines after setting down as well as fluctuations in the intensity of the stroke due to changing hand pressure are recognisable.It is actually only in the enlargement that the carefully made drawing becomes identifiable as such – through normal fluctuations of manual production. It is not without a certain paradox that it is precisely the digital intermediate step to enlargement that increases the liveliness. The close-up view directly in front of the banners, i.e. on the western side of Bergstrasse, makes it possible to decipher the details and thus identify them as hand drawings. From the opposite, eastern side of the street, on the other hand, the motifs look like computer-generated graphics with the greater distance.

© Bozica Babic | Text: Jochen Heufelder 

From here, there is also a panoramic view of the eight-part exhibition, combined with an offer to compare the different architectures of a system, especially the respective stud frame. In the juxtaposition, differences are recognisable, but also constructive similarities. In his rendering of the half-timbered houses, Lars Kreyssig concentrates on the static elements, the visible beam construction - a commonality with the Bechers' interests. In contrast to photography, however, he translates with the means of drawing and focuses more strongly on the architectural construction elements through further abstraction.  The timbering, for example, the space between the black beams, is not drawn, so it is not graphically present. Only the viewer's knowledge of half-timbered houses, in combination with the white of the drawing paper, simulates the impression of filled space in between.

Through the graphic reduction to the framework - sometimes supplemented by a few window and door elements - the artist basically negates the photographically documented house. No surroundings, no decorative accessories as in the Bechers' photographs, no 'traces of use', everything animating is omitted. Kreyssig's drawings have more the character of lost construction drawings by the builders. The chronology, the existing half-timbered house and the photographic documentation of the Bechers, is preceded by the artist's drawing, comparable to a find from the planning phase of the buildings. In this way, he actually takes a leap backwards in time.

But perhaps the artist also animates a leap forward in time with his drawings - detached from the Becher photographs. Many a half-timbered house was plastered or 'refined' with plastic bricks decades ago. Some of these façades have weathered over the years. The spirit of the times has also changed; the half-timbered house and the materials used back then are currently experiencing an aesthetic and ecological renaissance in equal measure. With his concentrated drawings, is Kreyssig possibly triggering an impulse among the owners of such (still) clad half-timbered houses to make the original skeleton construction visible again? In this way, his drawings of the Becher houses are being re-translated - as a multiple stimulus.

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