A few drawings by Karoline Bröckel (Make visible)

Werner did tell me that I would be interested in Karoline Bröckel’s drawings (at Drawing Now last March). This has been the case. Bröckel has a very particular way of drawing. To put it this way, in the first instance, she draws from life. So far, nothing very revolutionary since Antiquity. But, in a way, and this is where we stand in our contemporaneity, no one sees what she draws, or rather, traces, to the letter, or, rather, to the line I should say. No one, except her. And so, one wonders: how she does it? She (re)traces, as it were, the invisible, and then, for once, I think of Klee’s phrase: “Art does not reproduce the visible, it makes visible”/ Kunst gibt nicht das Sichtbare wieder, sondern macht sichtbar. And the Klean phrase is very relevant here (even if so many think it’s a worn out quote…But it’s not, when accordingly used). Why is this so? Because, to tell the truth, a bird does not leave a wake, it is not an airliner; although, one could imagine a birdy Kielwasser. “Imagine”, for does Bröckel really see it? And why not? Perhaps she has a deep practice tracking up the swallow’s route. See for yourself:    

 Karoline Bröckel, O.T.  (Schwalbe) 2016/05/29 Nr6 [untitled (swallow)2016/05/29 No6, pigment ink on paper, 12,4 x 21 cm]
Another idea to express our impressions, rather, our “complex ideas” as Locke would have put it, is to notice that Bröckel does not immobilize Nature, but tries to express its movement, and finally in an abstract way at the highest point; and it is in this that her drawing contributes to the interrogation of the thousand and one ways of representing, depicting, What is. But at this point one wonders if it would not be necessary, in an exhibition setting, to indicate to the viewer what he’s “ought” to see, instead of thinking of “simple” traces. Because otherwise, anyone will see a purely abstract drawing without any connection to the most vivid reality. Of course, Bröckel’s drawings would not be the only ones affected by such explanatory legends. Not, as the usual ignorant complainers say, that you always have to read pages and pages to understand the slightest contemporary artwork, because it is true that you can also appreciate a work of art without reading anything about it, and note that this remark applies not only to contemporary art but just as much to art in its history: Are you sure to always understand the symbolism of such and such colour in this 17th century painting, or such and such a gesture in that other one? No, you can’t see anything, because here too the legend only gives you the minimum (name, title, date, technique, measurements). So we can see that certain works would not be diminished or lowered in terms of aesthetic power if an explanatory legend was added here and there, when this could be heuristic. Without this, it is impossible to see the swallow’s aerial wakes. But,

in the same way that Bröckel traces the wake of birds, she transcribes the choreography of the windy birch branches :

Karoline Bröckel, o.T. (Birke)slow 2015-6-18 Nr5-Archiv51(gerahmt) [Untitled, (Birch)slow 2015/6/18 No5, pigment ink on paper, 98 x 148 cm]
I must admit that this is much more complex to grasp. How many branches are there? Does Bröckel draw the branches moving or the space in-between? But should we even ask the question? Is there still a connection with reality? To put it this way: Who can compare his own vision with Bröckel’s? It is impossible. One would have to be there, and “see” in the same “way”.. One could even say that here we are moving away from the invisible-visible mimêsis that can be found in the swallow’s flight. Because, all the same, Bröckel’s drawings call into question the mimêsis, but in a very personal and peculiar way. How can I put it? The question of the mimêsis is always in the minds of many artists, and this is not a sign that we are behind the Times, or that we are over-modern, since, in any case, Reality is fascinating, and no work of art can rival with it. This impossible rivalry has led to all kinds of postures, from the most “faithful” to the most “abstract”, while, in any case, it has always been mission impossible. For his part, Bröckel, in a way, puts mimêsis in abyss, filling in its “holes”, materialising what we don’t see, or don’t have time to see, because it goes too fast (try to grasp at a glance all the movements of branches shaken violently by the wind…). Bröckel fills in gaps, materializes them, and then we think of Klee’s motto: “Art does not reproduce the visible, it makes visible.” Bröckel also makes the path of the ants visible, as in here:

Karoline Bröckel, o.T.Ameisen-2007-Nr13B4-ArchivNr0484.jpg
Karoline Bröckel, o.T.(Ameisen) 2007 Nr16B5 – ArchivNr0485
Karoline Bröckel, o.T.(Ameisen) 2007 Nr18B6 – ArchivNr0486

One way of formalizing the Bröckelian drawing at work could lead to is called, in Mathematics, continuous and discrete. The continuous is temporal, and the discrete is atomic. For instance, think about the path of snake in the sand : this is continuous. Yet, think about any footsteps ; this is discrete. I have of course simplified the real discrete/continuous theory in Mathematics, since it is not the purpose of this passage, and, by the way I would be quite incapable to developp it further. Hence, it is quite obvious that, since ants don’t crawl on the ground, Bröckel transforms what is discrete into something continuous. And we’re coming close to the question of temporality within the drawing and, once again, of materialising the invisible ; rather, of translating it from a purely imaginary line, even if the artist declares that she is precisely observing all movements. And, given the colour, we can assume that these were red ants. Would they be able to recognise their paths? In any case, one must believe that Bröckel is endowed with an extraordinary ability to follow traces, to transcribe them where no one else would see them, and thus allows the viewer, literally, to see what he or she could not see (come back to Klee’s motto).

I’ve said that Bröckel is essentially concerned with the Continuous, but actually there is one instantiation of the Discrete in her practice of transcribing this time by ear, i.e, the the song of the Chiffchaff:

Karoline Bröckel, o.T. (Zilpzalp)[Chiffchaff], 2021 6 16 Nr4-ArchivNr0545 
Each line symbolises a sound, and the white space reflects the silence. The line is simple, single, because the song of the Chiffchaff is monotonous. Hence the sound becomes signs, as musical notes, except that no ones would be able to play these. So much for the Discrete (an exclamation point would be too noisy here).

Finally, with her work, Karoline Bröckel leads us to one of the confines of the Beyond-mimetic, a territory finally not that much explored, as surprising as it might look, in the most elegant and “simple” way and, paradoxically enough, by just watching the most and familiar natural items. But who spend time watching, and I mean “watching” them? It takes time, and time and patience are the essence of art.


Léon Mychkine,

writer, Doctor in Philosophy, independent researcher, art-critic, member of AICA-France




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Interview with Karoline Bröckel

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