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Less appearance than reality – or was it more?

Image: The artist Hanna Roeckle in the studio in 2020.
Photo: Studio Hanna Roeckle

Not to be read judgmentally: The one currently looks promisingly forward, the other no less interestedly back, respectively uses the past – his own as a photographing stray, to be sure. But one looks in vain for longing. And he does not practice a specific culture of memory. It is rather a contemplative cautiousness with which Romeo Vendrame goes to work, while Hanna Roeckle follows the technical achievements of modern science with a wary eye: Interstellar travel, comets (Tschuri) and space probes (Rosetta) are only a microscopic excerpt of what she subordinates to her understanding of art. Purely spatially isolated from each other, they each work in their own studios. Impressions of it now from someone who has the privilege to stand equivalently in the solde of both and is therefore able to report unclouded objectively:

In the studio, the Italian-born Vendrame likes it rather quiet – and tidy. Not exactly spartan Zen, but definitely tidy. With a system, that’s what you would call it. With Roeckle, the overall impression is a bit more differentiated: Their system transforms into a crystalline landscape. When the light is on, it borders on sensual sensory overload – in a thoroughly pleasant way. And completely without psychedelics. But see for yourself! Sharing a studio? Out of the question, both would testify vehemently. Yet, as the crow flies, they are separated by barely a hundred meters: He photographs in the Staffelstrasse, she conceives and realizes in the Binz. City? Zurich. What they share, however, is a life together for many years and a profound, mutual respect, also for art – and Björn: a dog. More precisely, an Icelandic dog. One of the most loving and accessible kind, even if temperamental from time to time.

Image: Photographer Romeo Vendrame in the studio.
Photo: Jonas Schnydrig

Already in her younger years she escaped from the neighboring country (Liechtenstein) and often has music playing in the background in her studio – played on the radio or digitally via SoundCloud. Is it a rhythmic remnant from her 90s in pulsating Berlin? Probably. Vendrame’s rudiments from his wanderings in – no, not Berlin – but in the equally pulsating London of the 1970s, are of a different nature: visually plastic.

So Vendrame photographs, Roeckle paints – don’t misunderstand, she actually makes volumetric-concrete sculptures of every size, always paying tribute to a certain scale. But to call her a mere sculptor would not be fair to her plurivalent oeuvre. She experiments by hand on the final appearance of the sculpture to be constructed. To develop a feeling for the form, prototypes are worked out of plasticine – the Play-Doh for excited adults who let off steam creatively. With colored pencils on white paper, the colorful appearance is honed. Shimmering metallic Caran d’Ache boxes lie on the dark work table, the very long ones with the largest possible selection of crayons!

Image: Romeo Vendrame’s slides from London in the 70s.
Photo: Jonas Schnydrig

At Vendrame there are slides – these same “rudiments from London”. Dozens, who knows, hundreds – I have never counted them. But in their sum they constitute the veritable legacy, comparable to Richter’s atlas, from which his work draws. To which he refers back. Even recollects. They embody his archive. Each individual slide is a specific moment of memory, in the broadest sense also a contemporary document of a city that no longer exists architecturally. Moments and times that Vendrame manipulates to his liking through deliberate interventions are polished up by the application of a contemporary mask and thus both re-contextualized and staged and interpreted by the photographer. Tools. Slide projector, a film as a projection surface that renders the projected image on both sides, tinkered filters, and transparent and translucent materials-yes, even perfume bottles from Prada are at times stripped of their primary function. And, of course, his camera, with which he photographs the back of the film and the resulting light image. Witnesses of the time become contemporaries. “Vendramize” is what I should call this technique. No sooner said than done: Romeo Vendrame vendramizes!

“Columns,” “Scutoids,” “Crystalline Needles,” and “Rosetta,” among others, are the names of these sculptures by Hanna Roeckle, which, emancipated from the burden of contextual location – they hang, stand, or lie – are multi-layered in their car paint color structure, yet monochromatic in actual execution, reflecting their immediate surroundings. They do not have to decide how to appear. This role is excellently taken over by the light. And, of course, the respective perspective of the viewer: Roeckle’s systematically calculated approach. Geometrically and constructively, moreover, clarity prevails. Lines and edges are mathematically determined, volumes and surfaces are coordinated, gradual progressions are pre-programmed. Likewise Roeckle. Her sculptures become figures and transform into figurines, animated by the dancing incidence of light. And yet they collapse when the last person extinguishes the light on leaving the room. Just like Vendrame’s projected light images, when the plug is pulled from the slide projector before it is photographed. An ephemeral choreography of light and color – conditioned by the electricity meter.