Small wild, yet slightly shy creatures inhabit Elisabeth Czihak’s art. In a series of works titled “creatures” they are featured in ink drawings on paper and in pencil drawings on the wall. Czihak can make do with very little means. All she needs is a hand full of pencils and ink pens. The artist likes to travel light it seems. Just like the philosopher, who only needs his head to think and is thus able to change places easily. The medium of drawing with its readily available materials enables Czihak to nimbly put her artistic intentions into practice.
Since its early days thousands of years ago, drawing (German “Zeichnen”) first of all has meant to put down signs (German “Zeichen”). Looking at the 15.000 year old cave drawings of the Palaeolithic age, we may already detect in those images an attempt by man to define a place for himself in the world surrounding him. Whatever religious and mythical thoughts may have influenced the drawings, in each case they have constituted a process with the help of which the individual has sought to form an idea of himself in time and space. In the course of time drawing has taken on different roles. It has contributed to the intellectualisation of the world, as for example through the organising of the physical world: power, planning and religion could never do without graphic blueprints. The depiction of the new has also availed itself of the draft, as can be seen in the case of inventions, sea voyages, discoveries or conquests.
But apart from its organising function drawing has also served the subtle capturing of the world, or in other words: the sublimation of the things surrounding man. It has been about refining perception and putting down on paper what one had seen. The intentions and the knowledge of the artist have contributed to the design of a drawing, and new techniques have been taken into account. Let us remind ourselves of what Paul Klee once said, namely that “art never reflects the visible, but makes visible”.
Now, to continue along this line, what does the art of Elisabeth Czihak make visible? We can make out a tangle of ever-thickening lines. Knots which, viewed from a certain distance, appear as frayed stains, and these, when seen one beside the other, remind us of small geographical territories. Patches of land surrounded by oceans, coastlines interrupted by bays, territories veined with rivers. Pieces of land seemingly touching and pushing each other away again, and from the observer’s perspective appearing like small badges of land conquering the territory available, the gallery space.
Or are these wall drawings living beings, black, mutating creatures adapting amoeba-like to their surroundings and in no time taking over the gallery space, emerging from a corner and populating the wall or the sheet of paper in no time at all?
In her wall drawings Czihak enters into a dialogue with the room with the help of her pencils. The artist respects the local givens yet her tangled lines undermine the bare walls in a most subtle way. Only once the graphite has been applied to the wall an artistic trace emerges, which gradually spreads spreads throughout the whole room. Over a period of several days her work of art takes shape. A work of art that may be read as an artistic handwriting in the truest sense of the word.
A handwriting or a personal style that can also be found in her paper works. Here, too, there are lines that have been condensed, relating to a conquest of the background through the ink drawings whose statement remains unclear. The manner in which expression, forms and means are reduced here brings forth a sparse rhythmical poetry that characterises the aesthetic of Czihak’s work. In this manner the artist not only creates a highly original, independent work of art that reinterprets the room, but she opens up to the observer rooms for reflection that gradually begins to resonate.
Susanne Rohringer, 2006/07