I learnt about Sieglinde Ludes being an artist in a casual conversation with her. Not that she said she was an artist. Not that she said she made art. All she said was, that she worked with felt. We spoke about felt. Our chat exposed our appreciation for this material. Our conversation revealed that felt is an evocative substance without being definite. Felt may allude to hair. Felt may allude to cloth. Felt may allude to the sea and things within. Felt may allude to warmth and comfort. Felt may be seen as a too neutral a material, too devoid of emotion. But with this in mind, several artists have explored the detached evocative symbolism of felt. I have always been fond of Joseph Beuys works containing felt. His assemblages confirm his gratitude to this material. It saved his life during the war. I have always wanted to use felt for similar reasons. It did not prevent me from death at anytime but I do remember moments of warmth and comfort from it.
I was intrigued by the thought of Sieglinde´s art. I wanted to know more. I had become familiar with the paintings and manipulated Polaroids of her husband, Guido Ludes, who is more direct in his creations. Guido´s works have more obvious artistic intent. Sieglinde´s work is less obvious. Her pieces are philosophical and emotional musings utilizing textile manufacturing, sewing, engineering and construction. In comparison to other art, Sieglinde´s work may appear to be inaccessible and nonartisitc. But hers is a unique proposition in form and material she has chosen to explore.
Our next meeting was at a Japanese haute couture exhibition held at New York´s ACE gallery. While viewing a piece, Sieglinde excitedly began to describe her experiments with her work. She spoke about the fragile structural component of the material. She described her techniques and methods of construction. I was taken by her passion. I was taken by the thought of Sieglinde´s art. As she described it, her work was not involved with the common function of wrapping the body for shelter, protection, or fashion. It was not about the art of drawing or painting. Nor was it about a split second optical documentation on film. I wondered what her pieces were like.
Some time after those two initial meetings, Guido sent me color photocopies of Sieglinde´s work. The photocopies, by their very nature, did not reveal the intricacies of the objects. Intriguingly, they appear to be fossils; I wanted to actually see them. Not as reproductions, but in the same space I inhabit. I warn you this might happen to you with this book. When I finally looked at them, the pieces appeared to be encoded modern relics.
They seemed noble, self-possessed objects with no intention to condescend. The photocopies were a slight help. They revealed the volumetric quality of each piece. They also indicated how elusive the work is.
After much time, the day finally came when I was able to see and feel the actual pieces. At this profound but relaxed moment, I realized that Sieglinde Ludes was an artist. Her work speaks for itself. It avoids the classification of craft by provoking thought. Her pieces express the creator´s intent. An object is not just an object in Sieglinde´s work. There is an narrative, even if the story is not obvious.
The pieces appear to be diagrams of unbiased feelings drawn into the strands of the felt. The abstract reasoning balances their focused emotions. The „letters“ are a prime example of this dichotomy. With simple lines on the „paper“, one imagines a grid or a scale system. It may appear at one point as if the support has absorbed the words to conceal the letters´specific narrative. These love letters can not be read any longer. They do not divulge their secrets but do the only proud thing – they provide a testament of their sentiment.
There is a logical progression in Sieglinde´s works. The first pieces tend to be planar, diagrammatic and unstructured. They are structurally adhered to a support. These earlier sculptures defy and contradict their material. This is not true with the later works. Where the structure is created by the very construction of the pieces. The later works merge structure and ideology, the intellectual and the physical, expressiveness and restraint.
The newfound intricacy in the minute folds gives the object the ability to defy supports. The folds and creases structurally fortify their existence. In the „big cocoon, brown“, the work´s construction is the basis of its form and structure. Its engineering is so intricate that it becomes an achieved intellectual object. At the same time, this piece appears to be an object at home in the natural world.
In a circular manner, Sieglinde´s three-dimensional constructs do not initally appear to be sculptures. They avoid traditional sculptur´s ability to proclaim itself as art. Sieglinde´s structures defy a pretense in defining themselves as art. The works on simple truths. They are three-dimensional, discreet objects immersed in their unique personal history. They articulate the innate human desire to create and transform. Serving as shorthand for a Jungian text, Sieglinde´s work illustrates the human tendency to endow objects with narrative meaning. All her pieces show this human yearning to express thought feeling and soul. And this is what is important about Sieglinde´s work. Her work exhibits all the noble qualities of a rational animal, an animal that is involved in the physical world but can fill an abstract notion with the sensations of existence. These pieces are present and detached; somber, yet quite playful. They seem to converse with you only as far as you are willing to converse with them. They are magical, yet quiet. Theirs is a discrete involvement. I am mesmeriezd by the thought of Sieglinds art.
”Everyone is an artist.” With this saying, Joseph Beuys struck to the heart of his philosophy of a ‘broader concept of art.’
The writer Michael Ende extended this philosophy still further in his legendary (Ravensburg) discussion with Beuys saying: "Everyone is a human being.”
"Everyone draws from the artist within each human being."
If you know Sieglinde Ludes, you will also know this to be true.
She has created a world of images and objects for herself, and by extension, for us. This world can hardly be surpassed in terms of the primitive and the natural. Her materials are wonderful in their archaism, cry out to be touched and are visually fascinating while their spontaneity, in being able to transform observations into a new way of experiencing art, draw us into their spell.
Sieglinde Ludes’ objects of handmade felt or hand-produced paper, shadow drawings, collages, impressions of fossils or prints of the sea-bed in soft ground – each of these are unique pieces which are breathtaking in their form and appearance.
Why is this? They hit the spot, sensorially and visually. They electrify. They create connections to our deepest selves, whether hidden in the genetic coding of our biological souls or in our central nervous system. I know what I am talking about. For some time now I have had the privilege of living with a few of Sieglinde's objects. I am surrounded by others in my office. People say that Sieglinde's art speaks. At times louder, at times very quietly.
Visitors are astonished when they are allowed to take the felt objects in their hands. Their delicateness, their flexibility, their malleability and their resistance to deformation cause moments of surprise. And enduring memories. If I want to think back to something, I take one of the objects in both my hands, close my eyes and suddenly I am in the heart of Scotland, on the Isle of Skye. I can smell the turf, the sea and the sheep and feel the wind and the drizzling rain. When I let go again and open my eyes, the experience remains with me for a time. It is not possible to experience art more mystically and more authentically at the same time than this.
Sieglinde Ludes' drawings transport us from this world. They function like encoded notes from the universe which remind us of blueprints in their use of tectonic and lineal structures. You can get lost in them and at the same time they offer orientation for the journey into new worlds of experience.
Sieglinde is an expert at the art of reducing things to their essence and therefore sharpening the focus on the entirety of our existence. ”Reduce to the max” is a slogan which was coined in Switzerland and drew much attention to the advert. Sieglinde Ludes, however, isn't one for cheap effects. Sensations do not appeal to her. She loves the stress on the sensuous, she loves rituals and she is a perfectionist who believes in metaphysical powers: in her dealings with her family, her friends, when travelling or involved in other activities. If you are prepared and sensitive enough to let yourself, it is possible to communicate telepathically with Sieglinde Ludes.
Our mutual friend, the Cuban - American artist Robert Alejandro Chi, who, surely not coincidentally, is celebrating his 40th birthday this very day in his chosen home of New York, is a soul-mate of Sieglinde's and experiences an intimate connection with her.
This spiritual interface is their joint artistic comprehension and their ability to channel the environment and the experience of art and culture into their innermost being. I had an unforgettable experience at the Issey Miyake exhibition at the Ace gallery in New York several years ago: Sieglinde and Robert swept through the spacious exhibition rooms filled with their multi-media installations. Their dialogue had the air of two creations, similar to microcosms, or to heavenly bodies, transferring their world-view mentally onto the other, internalising and evaluating it and then transferring it back again.
If we manage here in Berne, in this successful exhibition, to strike up a dialogue with Sieglinde Ludes’ art, even if just for a split second we catch a glimpse of this intensive interchange of the senses, we can be more than satisfied. It will make our lives richer and ourselves incomparably more sensitised for the discovery of our self.
To draw my short, very personal remarks to a close: for me, Sieglinde's art is entirely without precedent. It is totally unique. Completely archaic, completely moving, completely self-sufficient (much like her personality). It is better not to talk about Sieglinde's art, but rather to experience it, visually, sensually or even better, in conversation with Sieglinde herself.
Thanks to her friend Robert, Sieglinde is present around the world at any time of the day or night. In his individual style he has put Sieglinde and her art on the internet on our website zeitenwende.com.