Introductory speech on the works of Victoria Westmacott-Wrede
at the Wissenschaftszentrum, Bonn, 26 November 2009,

by Dr. Heidrun Wirth


All works are of equal subtlety – the meticulous and accurate drawings, the etchings, fine as filigree (often printed with several plates), the watercolours and the oil-paintings. The denotation "photorealism" could not be more correct, because, indeed, photographs are the basis, although the plein-air-impressions such as of her own garden are not insignificant. Precision is important, cheating is not allowed. And yet, especially with the works in colour, they go far beyond such realism.

For example, in the photography which underlies the drawings of trees, the branches and twigs with all their capillary ramifications appear as we see them. The irregular ornament of branches develops organically. The artist does not change this in any way. She is concerned with a meticulous reproduction, in which she renders the greatest intricacies. How long does it take? Here it is "ten days from morning till night". The hand moves calmly, quietly and carefully in order not to wipe and blur the traces, in order not to harm the work with destructive mistakes or impatient negligence. The artist says, she always knows how to continue. We observe the absolute opposite of spontaneous and expressive painting and we are reminded of artists like Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900), who took four years to complete his probably most famous picture "Frauen in der Kirche" ("Women in the Church"), a martyrdom for the women of three generations who modelled for him.

Victoria Westmacott-Wrede faces a more patient artist's model in her themes of nature and the photography taken from there. Perhaps she can agree to a comment from her one-time painter-collegue, who once said: "Haste takes revenge on me severely. The displeasure in areas painted hastily does not allow me to leave them as such". It appears to me that an almost boundless care is common to both of them. Leibl was able to overpaint imperfect areas, but in these pencil drawings on rough watercolour paper hardly any trace can be erased. The slowness in the process of formation unites these two artists. To take one's time and to work slowly is, here and today, a rare phenomenon in contemporary art. But, perhaps, something pointing into the future emerges from this, a quality we urgently need again.

Just recently an exhibition opened at Schloss Moirsbroich, in the City of Leverkusen, which, interestingly enough, is concerned with slowness. The times of Tachism with its` hunted, momentary inspirations, its somnambulant actions varying from blind painting to painting with the left hand or with one's feet, from squirting colour to throwing it or even rolling in colour, seem to have passed, just like Fluxus or Happenings with their spontaneous actions. Again reflection, energy, balance and possibly even perseverance are required. Perhaps another epoch has begun already with this.

Works such as these are being appreciated all over the world. And so it was one of her etchings which brought about an invitation to the Province of Canton in China as artist –in-residence for three weeks. In April 2009 she worked in the region of Canton, generously accomodated in a restored antique house and supplied with perfect equipment for all printing-techniques. Two prints in the technique of aquaforte originate from this visit.

The etching needle is employed in a similarly subtle way as the pencil used in the images of trees, for example the Sword Lilies deriving from the Japanese Garden. And only the lucid tops of the spires of the Koelner Dom appear. Here the eye is deliberately drawn upwards, just as it should be with Gothic archtecture. The Koelner Hauptbahnhof with its´ steely arches appears in light and shadow. People are rarely in the scenery.

Subtle colour values, fine chromaticity, which are difficult to obtain, mark the particular character of the oil-paintings. The light of the day is even more prominent in these, the paintings are saturated by it and thus emit a mild glow. Looking at the colours of the shadows, drawn out in a blue-violett shade as in the Parkweg vor dem Springbrunnen calls to mind Monet´s "Haystacks". Excitement is avoided, as in the wide centre area with the fountain. Calm horizontals and verticals form the composition, shallow diagonals are only hinted at. Remarkable is a fine, light sfumato, a slight haziness, which invites us to linger. "I work a long time on the large, empty plains to achieve the right tonality", says the artist. "The light is important". Dissolving boundaries are created by numerous layers of colour.

And so the dampness of meadows in a forest seems atmospheric, the construction of Haltestelle bei Nacht  emerges out of darkness and gains a particular luminance. The view into a small church, Up Marden Church, is almost mystical. It is an ancient English church with a personal tie to the artist. "One can only find it, if one knows that it exists". And here she created the watercolour as homage and remembrance.

Tranquil landscapes, quiet interiors. We are reminded of Hopper and also, with Blick in das verlassene Zimmer with a window, of Adolf von Menzel, the renowned Berlin painter with his famous "Balcony Room". But in this view into a room, which she also found in Berlin, Victoria Westmacott-Wrede has allowed an alteration. Originally one could see that which lies beyond the window, the outside. Here this was omitted, the window was closed with a finely applied almost monochrome plain. It seems that we are asked to pause and to turn inwards. And in this we just slightly remember Johannes Vermeer and his grand and calm  paintings.

Everything breathes the same style, emerged from an extremely slow-growing and elaborate procedural manner, be it intaglio - etchings and aquafortes, - or drawings or paintings in oil. Victoria Westmacott-Wrede has a close relation to the graphic techniques. For many years she has been teaching as a lecturer in workshops and courses at the art academy Artefact-Werkstatt fuer Kunst. She runs the printmaking studio there. Intaglio lies in the centre of this, as seen in prints in the techniques of etching, aquaforte and soft ground. In order to go beyond these techniques and to avoid the chemicals needed, she continues to experiment, partly also in the photopolymer-techniques.

All works seen here were created during the last four years. Before, in the 80s and 90s,  she painted mostly abstract works. This is how I got to know Victoria Westmacott-Wrede, as an artist who had to be counted among the concrete-constructive movement with her subtle stripes and plains. "To me abstract and realistic art does not contradict itself", she once said. And the clamp seems to me to be the meditative and inward-looking approach, just as with the inward gaze caused by the window which she has closed.

"Einfach sehen" is the title of this exhibition. So when the artist`s gaze meets the objects outside, it really meets those images which she has been carrying inside herself for a long time. "I see so much", she remarked in a conversation with me, pointing at reflexions caused by the slanting sunlight on a vase. "I walk around and every moment I notice the reflexions and shadows. I think even as a child I looked in this way, I always observed everything in detail". The appearance of the objects is that which creates her artistic perception. In order to prevent the fugitive moment from disappearing, it is captured and banished with all it`s  might – and thus it becomes art.