Serge Hasenböhler

The bright trace of the forest – 29 May–17 July 2021

Under the title Erdlicht (Earthlight), the Galerie Gisèle Linder is presenting Basel artist Serge Hasenböhler’s 20th solo exhibition. It will show two series of works, which were created primarily over the course of the previous year and can now be seen for the first time. They are linked by the motif of the forest, which provides the basis of the scans as well as the bronze cast.

Last year, when he went wandering through the woods surrounding Basel, Serge Hasenböhler brought a portable scanner with him rather than his usual camera. His goal was still to use a device to capture moments for memories: what changed was his approach and perspective – scanners require direct contact with their motifs in order to create an image of them. Thus the artist and his technical apparatus had to enter into physical contact with the motifs in order to be able to capture them in an image. In this context, chance – in combination with the caprices of a scanner used outdoors – becomes an important factor in the production of images. The act of imaging becomes an open-ended process full of sensory experiences, or in the words of the artist: «Now I photograph with my hands instead of my eyes – it’s nice. I drift across the surfaces, I drift through the forest.»

The scanner works its way across the motifs in horizontal bands and produces images of nature line by line incorporating blurred and faulty images. The resulting works are far removed from a reproduction in the conventional sense. In some cases the technical process lays a soft veil over the motifs; in other cases the motifs oscillate between almost naturalistic and entirely abstract visual elements. The odd character of the light as well as the interplay of focused and blurred passages leads to an otherworldly atmosphere. The proximity to the motifs required during the creative process stands in direct contrast to the resulting works, which take on a idiosyncratic life of their own through the scanning process. Because Hasenböhler has primarily directed the scanner at motifs close to the ground, he has also metaphorically described the process of creating photographic exposures as «illuminating the ground».

The second series of works being presented shifts the focus to organisms that normally remain hidden to the human eye in the forest: truffles. The 14 bronze casts of this culinary delicacy are the first works in which Hasenböhler has left the (expanded) field of photography. The cast process liberates this legendary gourmet ingredient – so valuable that there are even counterfeit versions in circulation – from many of its levels of significance and provides for its reduction to the peculiar form of its tuber. Or does the distance-generating casting do quite the opposite: specifically lead us to contemplate the different semantic dimensions of this tuber’s form? Here again, the question of how objects’ appearances are altered through imaging processes that are ostensibly objective and detached is central. The artist also sees this series as an homage to his dog Laika, whose olfactory abilities enable her to track down truffles hidden in the earth and bring them to light.

Julian Denzler, May 2021
Translation : Michael Wetzel