Raphael Hefti @ Camden Arts Centre – REVIEW
Swiss artist Raphael Hefti’s first solo show in the UK is both smart and visually beguiling. Claiming to have spent a decade ‘subverting’ and ‘interfering’ with material processes, the fruits of these labours are well worth a look, and act as an irreverent counterpart to the intensity of the Hanne Darboven exhibition currently on show in the adjoining rooms.
Colourful and intriguing, his ‘Lycopodium’ photograms were created by burning the flammable spores of a certain moss (used historically in photography before the invention of the flash bulb) on photosensitive paper. Although they look like they have been blown up and had their colour wildly manipulated, they are actually original colour and size. One is thus reminded by its seemingly otherworldly topography of the Borges short story of the 1:1 map; an exact replication of the craters, cataracts, waves and strata in a landscape of light.
Another experiment with light is his ‘Subtraction as Addition’ series, which uses the Luxar coating process (usually used to create the non-reflective, almost invisible ‘museumglass’) but pushed beyond its normal boundaries. Originally the result of a happy accident, he realized that adding more layers completely reversed the intended effect, and changed the glass into a work of art in itself. The magnificent and subtly modulating colours arise not from pigments, but from the structure of the material itself, which affects its optical properties. Some become mirrors, but remain semi-transparent, with blurred outlines and edges. One is half yellow, half rose – another, remembered as royal blue, is purple when you get to the other side of the room. The colours shift subtly according to one’s perspective, and turn the reflected room into a kind of uncanny wonderland.
Although the processes in themselves may not be as fascinating as the artist seems to think, there is a certain glee in materials behaving not as you would expect – metal fragile as glass (‘Replaying the Mistake of a Broken Hammer’), glass with chameleonic properties. It may not be rocket science, but it is a damn good show. Words: Isabel Seligman © 2011 ArtLyst