Christiane Baumgartner Captures Fleeting Moments in her Mesmerizing Woodcut Prints

There’s something familiar about the latest works by Christiane Baumgartner. They look like Rorschach tests, ultrasounds, or blurry images of UFO sightings. At the same time, though, they’re mysterious, abstract, inscrutable.

  • Image courtesy of Galerie Christian Lethert.

Contradictions are central to Baumgartner’s work, and not just in the visual effects, but in the art form itself. Her new exhibition, “Licht-Bilder,” now at Galerie Christian Lethert in Cologne, merges two mediums, woodcut and video, to create an unlikely juxtaposition of stillness and speed.

The German-born printmaker bases her monumental woodcuts on video stills she has found or created. It’s an intriguing idea, choosing one frame from a video: The frame represents a fraction of a second, a moment of spontaneous action, a fleeting position or gesture in a natural range of motion, which Baumgartner then solidifies into forms as permanent as a woodcut and a print.

In our era of iPhone pics and Snapchat, images are meant to be consumed immediately and disposed of quickly. Baumgartner, on the other hand, is playing with concepts of time, challenging commonly held notions about what is worth documenting and saving. Her provocative idea is to create works of art out of those short-lived milliseconds, the seemingly insignificant moments that could just as easily be overlooked, scrolled past, or deleted.

In Baumgartner’s practice, a throwaway moment becomes a material artifact. “Licht-Bilder”—a phrase that translates to “Light Pictures”—also builds on her own tradition by adding multicolored pieces from her new “Cosmic Fruits” series to her normally monochrome woodcuts. The new series is aptly titled: Cosmic Fruits - Orange (2016) and Cosmic Fruits - Kiwi (2016) look exactly as they sound—cheerful, fruit-like, yet somehow trippy, blurry, and pixelated.

The new series is similarly based on singular moments that go by so quickly, you can’t quite experience them, even if you’re staring at the screen in front of you. As with her monochrome works, the “Cosmic Fruits” are compelling meditations on the passage of time and what we choose to save, to savor, and to throw away—that is, if we see it at all.


—Bridget Gleeson


Christiane Baumgartner: Licht-Bilder” is on view at Galerie Christian Lethert, Cologne, Jun. 3–Jul. 23, 2016.

Follow Galerie Christian Lethert on Artsy.

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