Winner of the Baloise Art Prize 2013.
Jenni Tischer’s interest in patterns and patterning is a constant in her artistic work. The regularity and repetition that are intrinsic to patterning play an important part in the history and practice of working with textiles that Tischer so often turns to. Hints and indications of activities such as braiding, weaving, and embroidery abound in her works. But she also has a particular interest in the patterning that is crucial to digital processes—including the question of how identity can be coded and decoded. After all, it is only at first sight that there may seem to be a gulf between textiles and the digital world; in reality, when punch cards were first developed in the early 19th century, they were used to control a sequence of operations in power looms; in both fields the question is how data can be inscribed into materials and surfaces. And last but not least, there is a close connection between patterning and the decorative arts, which—notably in modern times—have often been seen as lesser forms of aesthetic praxis, particularly associated with “femininity.” This is the minefield that Tischer probes in a series of works on paper that she made for her exhibition at Kunstforum Baloise in 2016. Their point of departure was a relief that adorned the erstwhile Baloise building at 25 Aeschengraben in Basel, designed by Hermann Baur, but now demolished. This relief, consisting of several horizontal strands of triangular aluminum plates laid out in a regular zigzag pattern, clung to the facade like a strip of cloth with multiple folds.(1) In her “Pattern Recognition” series, Tischer transform the pattern of this relief, and in a sense liberates it from its rigorous formatting: in a sequence of black-and-white drawings, basic geometric figures—trapezoids and rhombuses—combine in new configurations, some with hints of basket weaves, others calling to mind rays or starbursts, often flouting the “rules.” In other drawings the pattern is colored (adding drama), snakes along the edges at speed, or is even transformed into a multiplicity of small origami figures that flutter against the blue ground like birds. And, lastly, in a collage titled “Mood, ” Tischer has in fact integrated strips of folded paper into the façade pattern, thus underlining the ambivalent status of the relief, on the cusp between two and three dimensions. Between two strips of paper on a neon-pink ground, the word “mood” is written in pixilated letters, adding a human, emotional—but also eccentric—touch to this geometric composition. Tischer thus not only casts doubt on the dividing line that modernism drew between abstraction and decoration, but also points to those (human) dimensions that computer-generated patterns can never fully embrace.
(1) There are certain indications that this relief may have been by architect and artist Walter Förderer, who was working for Hermann Baur’s practice at the time of the construction of the Baloise building. Information kindly supplied by architect Quintus Miller, Basel, April 30, 2019.
Further works by Jenni Tischer in the Baloise art collection:
Inv. no. 1242, Schleife schmückt Schleife schmückt Schleife, 2012, Mixed media on paper, 29.2 x 29.8 cm
Inv. no. 1243, Four Questions, 2012, Mixed media on paper, 29.4 x 29.3 cm
Inv. no. 1244, Wallhanging (Draft) I, 2012, Mixed media on paper, 27.2 x 28.6 cm
Inv. no. 1245, Takes himself to task, 2012, Mixed media on paper, 25.7 x 25.8 cm
Inv. no. 1246, Seite verwebt, 2012, Mixed media on paper, 30.3 x 21.4 cm
Inv. no. 1247, Buchseite gestaltet, 2012, Mixed media on paper, 41 x 28.7 cm
Inv. no. 1248, Wallhanging (Draft), 2012, Mixed media on paper, 24.8 x 25 cm
Inv. no. 1460, Pattern Recognition (Color) II, 2016, India ink on paper, 46 x 61 cm
Inv. no. 1461, Pattern Recognition (Color) III, 2016, India ink on paper, 46 x 61 cm
Inv. no. 1462, PGA (Pattern Goes Anonym) IV, 2016, Pastel crayon on paper, 61 x 46 cm
Inv. no. 1464, PGA (Pattern Goes Anonym) I, 2016, Pastel crayon on paper, 61 x 46 cm
Inv. no. 1465, PGA (Pattern Goes Anonym) II, 2016, Pastel crayon on paper, 61 x 46 cm
Inv. no. 1466, PGA (Pattern Goes Anonym) III, 2016, Pastel crayon on paper, 61 x 46 cm
Inv. no. 1472, Pattern Recognition (sw) V, 2016, India ink and pencil on paper, 42 x 29.7 cm
Inv. no. 1473, Pattern Recognition (sw) VI, 2016, India ink and pencil on paper, 42 x 29.7 cm
Inv. no. 1474, she stepped out (Entwürfe), 2012, Pencil, watercolor and collage on paper, 76.5 x 56 cm