Friederike von Rauch

Sleeping Beauties


February 22 - April 21, 2013



Nothing suggests that it is the Cranach Hall of the Dresden Old Masters Painting Gallery that is portrayed here, as the picture of the room is so compressed on a filtrate of meager circumstances, the result of a careful process of patient waiting and seeing. After the detail-absorbing darkness takes possession of the deserted museum rooms, what remains comes into clear view. Angling through open hall doors and gently flowing over the parquet pattern, silent paths of light encounter one another. The decorative coffered ceilings and the artworks on the wall made perceptible by the sheen of scattered light are barely identifiable; the painting gallery is in a state of rest.


The photography draws the viewer into its spell, as if it opens a space of silence and contemplation. The absence of the flow of visitors and the opulence of the art leaves us with the residues: self-validating and reawakening vestiges of inertia and transformation and the restful atmosphere of a time suspending, almost sacred space.


This welcoming and at the same time resistant opening scene to the photographic work Sleeping Beauties by Friederike von Rauch has a rather exceptional status. The artist particularly concentrates on sidelines, niches and details, hidden things, passages and transitions, the lure of the transformation, the ambiguity of temporary constellations.


Since early 2011 as part of her project Friederike von Rauch tracked down different spatial situations, in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, in the Old Masters Painting Gallery in Dresden and the Neues Palais in Potsdam, as well as in Venice, where she had the opportunity to photograph the restoration of a painting by Titian in the Accademia di Belle Arti. The photographs were always taken outside daily operations and regular opening times, for instance during maintenance or restoration work, so as not to interfere in the given order of things.


Subdued, quiet room portraits have emerged from this focus on empty spaces, characterized by a subtle tonal scale tending towards the monochrome, which accentuates the atmospheric compression of the photographs.


Far from an essayistic approach, the photographs of Friederike von Rauch succeed in giving the subjects a concentrated, dreamlike mystery through the pronounced abstraction of content and composition. With the consistent absence of the human figure and the exclusion of the illustrative, ultimately what remains is the trace of humanity and its interventions. The photography becomes a picturesque organization of color and the tactile value of these traces and signs and their interaction in respectively found and newly discovered spaces of light.


Primarily incidental details and structures move to the foreground through a unique line of sight and are brought into abrupt states of stress with the spatial context and the adjacent objects. In this stage-like atmosphere of surreality the combined individual elements become independent to a rendezvous: the rhythm and the play of light on the protective wrappers merge with the painting composition into unexpected textures. The isolated group of figures in a painting is brought partially into the field of view with twinkling ambiguity and greets us as if they are looking out from the picture space searching for orientation in the empty museum room. The close-up on the lower left side of the J. H. Füssli painting Hero, Ursula and Beatrice lets our view travel along like a scanner across the aging painting by cutting out the actual content of the picture, and by means of the photographically emphasized feel of the gold frame and canvas structure.


This focus that deviating from the mundane and “authentic” finds in the incidental a new poetic essence. In the emptying of her subjects von Rauch comes closer to the expression of space. The clarity of the composition makes the scanning of the architectural body possible: the space becomes a landscape.


Minimalism avoiding possible drama understands itself as an adventure of image making: “Architecture can be understood as landscape and landscape as architecture. The fascination for this interaction of spatial experiences is the focus of my photographic work. (...) Wear and tear points to habits and familiar ways. The order of materiality demonstrates commitment and discipline. I explore with my camera. It allows me to make room for space, to let space grow in me.” (F. von Rauch)


Thomas Appel


(translated by Thea Miklowski)



photography © Friederike von Rauch