Published  04/02/2013

Silvia Hatzl: A Fragile Existence

Silvia Hatzl: A Fragile Existence

Rosenfeld Porcini, London
18 January–7 March 2013


For Silvia Hatzl (born 1966, Bavaria), “feelings” are everything. “My works are born through a series of stages, most of them sensual; touching, smelling, finding, joining, forming, impregnating, pigmenting, painting, moulding, scratching, stretching, drying, heating, burning and shaping.”

And, as a result, their impact on the viewer is really quite visceral. Walking into the dimly lit gallery on opening night, there is a shroud of mystery hanging in the room, and, despite the flowing drink, the guests remain respectfully low-voiced. They stand between spot lit families of garments – transparent and flimsy, fragile and haunting, hanging on iron stands, and randomly arranged, irrespective of height – and starkly contrasting solid body parts – busts and heads, feet and masks.

Hatzl uses a variety of natural materials including silk, cotton, linen and paper, bone, blood and skin. This focus on rawness and simplicity emphasises the evocations of life and death, humanity, mortality, and transience: transience of all of existence, of life, and of love. There is something heavy hanging in the air: a sense of loss, perhaps? The small, child-sized garments dotted amongst the larger gowns: are we to think of actual death, or maybe just the passing of time? Growth? The loss of innocence? Something perhaps suggested by the bloodstains, be they due to natural or unnatural cause.

Overall, one might be forgiven for wondering if the objects on display were not the findings of some archaeological dig – rusty, dirty, each one petrified to a certain degree. Mummified bodies and heads, with the layers peeling away and hairs sticking through. Some of the heads, in fact, are just masks: death masks, perhaps? They churn the stomach but still draw you in, intrigued, and compelled to study them more closely.

There is an eerie absence in each set of objects. For the clothes on the props: where are the bodies? And for the casts and bodies: where are the clothes? Is this lack intended to evoke the existentialist human condition with its eternal suffering? Enforced separation, incompleteness, fragmentation? Intentionally or not, it certainly does for me.

But it is not all doom and gloom, for there is a sheer beauty to each of Hatzl’s works, no matter how abject its compositional parts. And maybe there is some sense of hope as well? For as the caterpillar changes into the butterfly, so it leaves behind a fragile chrysalis, a beautiful “garment”, and a memento to transience, marking the point of passing from an old to a new life, bypassing death.


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