Jürgen Partenheimer – Completing Prints and Artist Book

Upon arrival for his residency at the NIROX Foundation in September 2011, Jürgen Partenheimer set out with a notebook to capture his impressions of what would serve as home to him for two months. This workbook as a visual diary is Partenheimer’s method of creating an archive of perceptions that establish an imaginary, found and gathered vocabulary for a body of work created in response to a place. It is the fourth of its kind, the others originating from residencies in Rome, Sao Paulo and the Nietzsche House in Switzerland. Over the course of his stay, Partenheimer’s extended South African Diary, exhibited in Johannesburg at NIROX Projects at Arts on Main in November 2011, grew to include 32 drawings, entitled “Seeds & Tracks”; 14 watercolours, his “South African Landscapes”; 10 watercolours and drawings entitled “NIROX”; and 3 very large watercolours on Somerset paper offered to him by David Krut Print Workshop (DKW) master printer Jillian Ross. Two new additions to the body of work, which were begun in 2011 and finished during his visit to South Africa in May 2012, are an artist book containing poetry by Lebogang Mashile and produced in collaboration with printers at The Artists’ Press in White River; and a suite of prints produced in collaboration with Jillian Ross and Mlunigisi Kongisa at DKW.

As an essential approach, before Partenheimer visits a new country he delves into the literature, and particularly the poetry, of the nation, which he posits as an indicator of the cultural pulse of a people. The one person he was certain he wanted to meet during his time spent in South Africa in 2011, was poet Lebogang Mashile. The artist book, Folded Spirits, which contains Partenheimer’s images and poems by Mashile, is described by Partenheimer as “a condensed reflection of [his] time in South Africa…created as an interior monologue, which turned to a dialogue, which turned into a polyphonic concurrency, an artistic conversion of text and image into an impartial overall visual perception.”[1] Although hailing from different continents and working in different media, in dialogue Partenheimer and Mashile realised that their sensibilities are in fact very similar. Tilman Falk has written, in relation to Partenheimer’s artist books, that “word and image, poem and print are joined in open dialogue.”[2] In a similar vein, Hank Hine wrote of the “longing that words and images demonstrate for one another, and the interconnectivity of word and image”[3] which is a key component of Partenheimer’s handling of the relationship between his work and Mashile’s in Folded Spirits. The titles of the poems have been discarded for use in the book, allowing the texts to flow freely from one to another, and to weave in between and through the images to which they relate. The successful choreography of each page allows the reader access to the imaginary dialogue between two countries, and the existential, formative experiences shared between two artists.

The book contains nine lithographs and linocuts, hand-printed by Mark Attwood, Leshoka Legate and Jacky Tsila at The Artists’ Press, and co-published with David Krut Publishing. It exists in an edition of 15, plus 5 artist’s proofs. The poems by Lebogang Mashile, selected and placed in the book by Partenheimer, appeared in a 2005 collection of Mashile’s work entitled In a Ribbon of Rhythm and Flying above the Sky, published in 2008. Each of the books has been hand-finished by Partenheimer with watercolour strokes and a small pencil drawing, making each of the books unique. The books are housed in solander boxes created by Lunetta Bartz, Johannesburg and are printed with a colour linocut by Partenheimer, produced by Buchbinderei Adolphs in Düsseldorf.

The suite of prints comprises three large works, two medium-sized works (intended to exist as triptych and diptych, while still maintaining their independent energy) and one small work. The vocabulary established in the South African Diary is evident also in the prints, with shapes and lines shared between projects. The prints, although minimalist in their aesthetic, have been created using a combination of techniques – etching, sugar lift and spit bite aquatint, linocut and chine collé – requiring the deployment of much technical skill for the creation of each print. Partenheimer describes the works as ‘highlighting the individual nature and presence of a single image from the “archive” – the body of drawings and watercolours done at NIROX.’[4]

[1] Taken from correspondence with the artist, April 2012

[2] In Jürgen Partenheimer – Prints and Books. Kunstmuseum Bonn and Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, München, 1994.

[3] From “The Left Hand and the Right” in Jürgen Partenheimer – Künstlerbücher 1970 – 2004, edited by Maria Linsmann. Wienand Verlag, Köln, 2004

[4] Taken from correspondence with the artist, April 2012

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