In the mid-1980s Silvia Bächli became known for her striking presentations of variously sized drawings—unframed, directly on the wall or elsewhere in the exhibition space. In her displays the gallery wall has a similar role to that of the areas of visible white picture ground in individual drawings, where motifs are seen in a reduced tonality ranging from pale gray to pitch black. This unpretentious pictorial language is in keeping with her subjects, whether simple objects or observations the artist makes in her own environment or about aspects of herself, from her head to her body language to gymnastic contortions. Bächli’s drawings are made individually, not as part of a larger composition or pictorial narrative. It is only after the event that she puts together groups or ensembles from her fund of drawings, taking individual sheets and creating connections between them that could perhaps better be described as constellations rather than compositions. This means that while there is no linear story for the observing eye to read, there is an open-ended narrative of sorts, albeit only a potential narrative in which the unsaid, things between the lines, vague glimpses of memory, and the climate that nurtures things of that kind are just as important as individual pictorial motifs.
In 1998, a good ten years after the nine-part ensemble of drawings “Feldstecher – Leiter – böses Gesicht”, Bächli painted “Floréal Nr. 2”, a dynamic, large-format linear composition, which marked the beginning of an extensive series of gouaches. Even if this almost Baroque group of works appears to be the polar opposite of her work as a whole, which generally tends toward reduction, the wonderfully light, “flowery” clusters do in a sense indicate the direction that her drawings and linear art have taken since then. Her pictorial means have remained sparse, yet there is room for calligraphic elements; masterful ease is perfectly balanced with extreme concentration.
Bächli’s work has become ever denser, like an inward spiral. Whereas there were hints and touches of narration in her early works, autonomous abstraction has increasingly taken precedence over figuration. Meaning is distilled in concentrated contents and looms into view with poetic concision. But there is also an outward spiral: within the close confines of her work—“drawing and painting on paper is my sole artistic activity”(1)—and for all the restraint of her pictorial means and the absolute priority given to the line, Bächli has laid claim to an extensive terrain that goes far beyond the bounds of conventional drawing. The fact that color suddenly appeared in her work over ten years ago—which previously had seemed barely possible—attests to the great freedom she allows herself in those close confines. And another thing still holds true: these days when Bächli is able to fill an entire room with her works, the outcome is always a multipart, full-scale mise-en-scène: a realm of drawing for visitors to stroll through as they please, with no immediate goal.
(1) See Silvia Bächli, Lidschlag. How It Looks, Baden 2004, unpaginated.
Further works by Silvia Bächli in the Baloise art collection:
Inv. no. 0863, Untitled, 1982, Ink on paper, 20 x 11.3 cm
Inv. no. 0883, Untitled, 1999, Gouache on paper, 22 x 31.1 cm
Inv. no. 0884, Untitled, 1999, Gouache on paper, 22 x 31 cm
Inv. no. 0886, Untitled, 2003, Gouache on paper, 55 x 74.6 cm
Inv. no. 0887, Untitled, 2003, Gouache on paper, 55 x 74.8 cm
Inv. no. 0977, Untitled, 1987, India ink on paper, 21 x 29.2 cm
Inv. no. 1119, Untitled, 1983, Acrylic on paper, 50 x 74.5 cm
Inv. no. 1120, Untitled, 1983, Acrylic on paper, 50 x 74.5 cm
Inv. no. 1164, Untitled, 1989, India ink on paper, 20.9 x 29.4 cm
Inv. no. 1165, Untitled, 1989, India ink on paper, 20.9 x 29.4 cm