What the engraving wants and can accomplish?
Facing a work of art, the questioning is often stimulating: What is it? What is it about? What is at stake?
The answer, obviously, will have nothing of univocal or definitive, it will always be partial and temporary. With luck, it will be possible to clarify one aspect or another.
The questioning returns now, in front of the series of metal engraving that Karen Axelrud (Porto Alegre, 1965) brings to the public for the first time.
The artist is best known for her paintings of careful geometric composition: the superimposition of color and lines suggesting depth and movement, the planes being articulated with design and elegance, the music staff and the visual melodies that they define, syncopating the game between contemplation and reverie. Karen prefers, at this time, a more restricted palette and a more concentrated scale. These are engraving, on paper, to look closely and unhurried. The subject, however, seems to persist: these works deals with precision and strength, regularity and accuracy. Everything is built in a fair way and well thought. Small modules are associated with rigor and austerity.
The different images and essays that unfold on each other, within the greatest series of engraves, evoke a very specific mathematical seduction: beauty, quality, distinction of what stands with science and engineering. There is synthesis, refinement and excellence. The subject, we recognize, it is beautiful.
At this time, the economy of means and extensions seems to call for a Suprematism reminder: black on white, black on black, white on white, planes with planes, contours with contours. This Malevich combination, gives clues, perhaps, of a spiritual dimension of the geometry - and of art itself.
But, there may be a topic even more interesting, that doesn’t decouple much from these firsts. These pictures are about, perhaps, experimentation, or, even more than that, they comment on how the experimentation, trials and inquiries about what a language can offers leads this language to its own limits or beyond. If a print depends on an engraving matrix, what happens when this matrix is independent of ink? What happens when the matrix only transfers its volume and thickness to the paper? And if the matrix, covered in paint, does not contain a drawing for tinting, no drawing beyond the plane itself and its own outline? Or more, what if the matrix, covered with ink again, starts to backslide on its own spot?
Karen Axelrud tests, in these small series, what the metal engraving wants and can accomplish. Are there limits in this expansion? Until when the engraving resists as an engraving? Perhaps, it is the self-consciousness that is at stake.
Professor of the Arts Institute, UFRGS
Porto Alegre, 2016