Academy Summer Residencies 2016: Leipzig

Our third dispatch from Leipzig comes from Anna Wakitsch MFA 2017.

Even before we arrived in Leipzig, my fate was sealed.  As soon as Laura (the coordinator of the LIA residency) sent photos of the spacious live-work space, I fell in love with the huge, luminous double-paned windows, and I knew I would be spending the bulk of my days during the two months trying to translate them into paint.

The residency is housed in the Spinnerei, a former cotton mill. When we arrived, we toured the space and learned a little bit about its history.  Apparently this type of window with its large glazed area and small shuttered openings was specially designed to keep the heat in and maintain a temperature optimal for cotton processing.  

As Danica and I set up in our shared studio, we gradually realized that our windows were a little different than in the other rooms.  The top two rows of panes were covered with black film that completely blocked out the light.  

Anna-Louise (the director of LIA) explained that a previous artist in residence had worked in the same room, and had done a video performance piece in which she had blacked out all the window panes, and the top two rows were never returned to their original state.  I found it interesting that this particular studio in which I ended up already had a history of artists obsessed with its windows. Here is a link to her piece:

The blacked out panes were intriguing to work with as I sketched and painted, but after a while I longed to liberate the window from its partial blindness.  We managed to get the 5th row cleared with LIA’s ladder, but the top row was too high and remained opaque, like a sleepy eyelid starting to close.   

Finally we were able to borrow a taller ladder and when the top row was clear, the difference was huge— light now bounced off the ceiling and flooded the space.

And so, all summer, I have happily spent my working hours looking at… more than through… the windows. My attention usually lingers in the space between the two sets of panes, caught within the interface between the interior and the exterior.  

As I study the window, I examine the mechanism of my own visual perception, another interface between interior and exterior. 

As I stare into the light, my vision shimmers between contrasts that I struggle to resolve in paint: elements appear simultaneously crisp and soft, light and dark, blue and amber, curved and straight.  

I try to fall back on previous solutions, but inevitably none quite match what I see.  Perhaps the artist’s perpetual task must be to hold each paradox within her being and give it new form. 

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