Berlin-based artist Susanne Kriemann has created heliogravures of plants and herbs for her exhibition at the Baloise Art Forum. They are works that combine artistic creativity with a scientific approach. It was field research that took Susanne Kriemann to the region around Schlema in the Ore Mountains. Between 1946 and 1991, the highly radioactive mineral pitchblende (uraninite) was mined in this area of former East Germany, and it made a considerable contribution to the USSR's nuclear armament programme. The region is to be restored by 2045 as part of a large-scale renaturalisation initiative.
Concerned with the invisibility of radioactivity, Kriemann photographed herbs and flowers that grow at the site, thereby documenting a section of the landscape at a specific moment in time during the renaturalisation process. These photographs form the basis for the heliogravures, a photographic printing technique that was widely used in the late 19th century.
The elaborate process of gravure printing enables subtle changes in the gradation of colour and it represents a unique combination of traditional printing and photographic reproduction. Using this technique, Kriemann creates images that look as if they are from enchanted places long ago, even though the photographs that serve as printing templates were only recently taken. Kriemann intensifies the ambivalence of her image design by tinting the printing plates with pigments containing uranium from the plants and herbs that are depicted in the images. Kriemann's 'Flowers of Evil' (the title of Charles Baudelaire's volume of poetry first published in 1857) are therefore a reference to the complexities in man's relationship with nature.
Text: Martin Schwander