Passionate about literature and language, Irma Blank (born in 1934 in Celle, Germany) moved to Sicily in 1955. This geographic, cultural and linguistic uprooting was the foundation of her work. Realising that ‘there is no such thing as the right word’, she started working on her first series of introspective drawings, Eigenschriften (‘self-writings’, 1968–1973). This was the start of a lifetime of work based on the association between writing and drawing, stripping words of their usual meaning.
In 1973, Irma Blank moved to Milan where she still lives and works. The Trascrizioni series (1973–1979) was based on her everyday readings (newspapers, poetry etc.) of which she transcribed pages with her asemantic writing, copying with ink on paper the layout of text rather than its letters, words, and sentences.
She then moved on to the Radical Writings series (1983–1996) where colour became more important. Composed of paintings or drawings on cardboard based on her breathing patterns, this series highlighted the importance of the colour blue (traditionally used for handwriting) representing harmony and utopia for her. She also used pink and red, which she associated with energy and reason.
At the turn of the century, Blank started her longest and most multifaceted series, Global Writings (2000–2016) in which she continued to develop a ‘universal’ form of writing by inventing an alphabet made up of eight consonants with which she created text-drawings, or superimpositions of silkscreened texts on canvas or aluminium using the computer.
Following a health problem that immobilised the right side of her body, she learned to draw with her left hand and has created, since 2017, the series Gehen, Second Life, in which she draws horizontal lines on a page-size paper as if the lines of the notebook merge with the written word. The experience, carried out like a choreography in slow-motion, expresses how the movement of the line stems from the body of the writer.
The retrospective exhibition BLANK has seven iterations that are adapted to each of the touring venues. At the CAPC, the exhibition mirrors the symmetrical architecture of the museum spaces, split in two like an open book. This layout also refers to the right and left hemispheres of the brain and demonstrates the emotional variance of Irma Blank’s work. It explores Blank’s experimentation with books and writing through drawing in general and more specifically through the line, proposing to delve, on one side, into an introspective aspect of the work, whilst opening up to the world and to communication on the other. For the first time, a series of historical performances by the artist will be re-enacted, with the help of students from theatre, dance and music schools of Bordeaux.
Irma Blank is represented by P420, Bologna.
Curators: Johana Carrier et Joana P. R. Neves
In collaboration with Culturgest, Lisbon; Mamco, Geneva; CCA and Bauhaus Foundation, Tel Aviv; ICA Milano; Museo Villa dei Cedri, Bellinzona (Switzerland) and Bombas Gens, Valencia. A monographic book has been published with Koenig Books, in connection with the exhibition and its partners.
With the kind participation of the École supérieure de théâtre Bordeaux Aquitaine (éstba) and the Pôle d’Enseignement Supérieur de la Musique et de la Danse (PESMD) of Bordeaux Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
Project supported by the Italian Council (7th Edition, 2019) program to promote Italian contemporary art in the world by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism.
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