in: Rosa M Hessling. "Garden of Light I", Museum für Konkrete Kunst, Ingolstadt 2002
"And you must become so engrossed in that light
That it is impossible to decide
To direct your attention elsewhere",
were Dante Alighieri's words in Canto XXXIII of his Divina Commedia on the human perception of God, an aura that captivates mind and soul. What is meant is the purest light sent from Heaven, the empyreum, the light from the Holy Ghost.
When we view the works of Rosa M Hessling we are also captured by a spark that touches our souls and fixes our gaze. At first we have to half close our eyes to take in the glittering surfaces, but slowly we open them and fix our gaze on a group of three glowing paintings. The viewer passes in front of the pictures - in thought, in worship, almost - and allows the glowing light to capture his attention. The only time we see similar coloured light is at dawn or dusk, when rays of sunlight lie low over water or countryside. It is as difficult to describe Rosa M Hessling's golden paintings as it is to put into words the pictures nature paints for us in light. You have to experience them, walk past them slowly, or sit down in front of them and contemplate what you are seeing. What the artist wants to express after years of experimenting with colours and techniques, is inner peace, concentration and contemplation.
The glowing colours generated by a rippling spectrum cast light onto the viewer. Indeed, the light penetrates his very being. "Outro Lado I" (2000-2002) a triptych, and "Outro Lado II" (2000-2002) a series of seven square pictures, address, as the Brazilian musical title infers, the "other side" of the picture, the spiritual image behind the pictures.
What is it in the golden surfaces and the light they emit that moves us to get up and view the pictures more closely by moving up and down in front of them? This "transmittive effect of the light", to use a term coined by Wolfgang Schöne in "Light in Painting", can indeed be described as the genre: light painting.
The works consist of silver-coloured aluminium panels that first receive a black primer. The dark surfaces then receive 30 to 40 extremely thin layers of paint applied according to a glazing technique. Through this process, the dark quality of the surfaces gradually disappears and they become glossy. The delicate veils of colour are applied until the surfaces have received so many layers that they are "driven towards the light", as Rosa M Hessling puts it.
The specular quality of Rosa M Hessling's pictures is achieved by horizontal brush strokes using special pigments that are in turn subtly interrupted by a vertical line. In the seven pictures that make up the "Outro Lado II" series, the superimposition of the layers produces specific focal points that shimmer and sparkle and whose inherent glow increases or decreases to the one or other side of centre. The glossy, shimmering layers are partly golden, partly iridescent green or blue, or silvery grey, mingling in effect as if involved in a constant process of metamorphosis. Changing daylight conditions and the viewer's movements give rise to a changing, immaterial focal point, which shows no desire to become fixed, but renders vivid a continuing pulsating rhythm. The works may appear to be very similar, but the different panels vary in the way they radiate warm, golden colours and cool, silvery shades of white.
Parallel refractions of light and waves of overtones of colour ripple over the surfaces in shimmering nuances of green , blue and grey, creating oscillations that blend the overall ensemble into an harmonious whole.
The cool, smooth aluminium, although no longer visible as uch, remains true to its metal nature - the way the panels are hung reveals that the paintings have been made on thin sheets of metal, even if these do now have soft, silky surfaces. The silky, linen-like surface shows no signs of the work involved to reach the present state, developing with time to become an absolutely scratch-resistant glossy skin. The surface condenses layer by layer, immaculately following the flow of the brush strokes to become an invisible network of dissolving, constantly changing lines. Traces of colour vibrate over the surface of the picture like a celestial display of dancing lights. The shimmering lights, even rays of light, come and go, grow and wane, change gradually from a warm glow to cool twilight tones. The gilt backgrounds on mediaeval painting were known to have produced an unreal luminous glow, symbolic of a spiritual sphere that leaves the phenomena of space and surface area as a surface for projection for our thoughts and imagination. Dante described a phenomenon of this kind as an empyreum, light that radiates from God himself.
Rosa M Hessling addressed the question of immaterial light in her early reliefs. The artist created a large number of works that experiment with colour that changes in quality through the glow emitted along the sides of two vertical panels hung within a space that becomes a central blurry haze of glowing colour. The result of coloured shadows and diffuse blends of colours in a constant mode of change, producing wave upon wave of colour modulations, can be seen along the protruding vertical lines between the eight, nine or ten elements lined up next to each other. Works such as "Viriditas" (1999), "Schattenmacht" (1996) oder "Weissheiten" (1996) are marked by their high level of subtlety and transparency. The delicately structured surfaces appear to be fragile and robust at one and the same time, because the material remains perceptible. The charm of these works attains a different quality depending on the point of view of the observer. One moment he may be able to follow one side in shades of red, the next in darker tones or then again in light yellow shades. Sometimes waves of blue appear. The blended colours that develop suggest there is a real light source somewhere, but this is a purely optical illusion. The transparent quality of the colours is due only to the blend of colours radiated along the sides of the paintings. They become intense, only to dissolve again seconds later. Dense opaque colours alternate with light, milky tones.
All works created on aluminium, such as "Das kleine Glück, See red oder 4 Fälle 1994" or "Opposite Plum Bum I-XVIII" (1998) separate the colour, and with that the luminous quality of the work, from any form of objectivity.
Rosa M Hessling raises colour to a state of independence, thereby revealing the intrinsic value of colour itself. The technical perfection that goes into her works together with the vast experience she has using colour allow her works to attain a quality that goes beyond the image with the optical effects. The fictitious glow radiates from the depths of the picture, releasing a flow of energy that transport the viewer onto a spiritual plane that is very close to Heavenly light. Her last works, "Outro Lado" (2000-2002), are fine examples of this.
You might think the artist has reached the highest limits of her art, in the sense that the light in her paintings does not emanate from a light source - the job that stars do in heavenly spheres - but from her intellectual artistic work. Rosa M Hessling has no gold and silver to give away, but she gives us gilt silver in her paintings.