Vernissage on Friday, January 12, 2024, 7pm
For twenty years, Jan Scheffler has travelled to northern Europe, especially to Iceland, Norway, and Finland to make photographs, longing for the silence and the light characterizing these pristine landscapes. It is not just the grandiosity of nature, one still nearly untouched by mankind, that fascinates the traveler to the north, but also the light that illuminates the landscape. The radiant light of the north leaves an indelible mark.
Despite the harshness of the treks at temperatures as low as minus thirty-five degrees, the physical conditions are not evident in the images. Rather, they express the peace and happiness Jan Scheffler felt during the moments of outer and inner silence. His travels to the north are inner journeys, towards a state of arriving in a landscape that is capable of bringing to the surface feelings of utmost tranquility, the deepest peace, and greatest inner strength: “The aesthetic of this nature, which is untainted by man, is based on the absence of disharmony. There is nothing disturbing it. In this landscape you’re not searching for anything. It comes to you. I can set up the camera almost anywhere, the motif comes to me. The landscape has to exert its pull on me, so that I’m inspired to get out my camera, then I forget space, time, eating, drinking, then I am the landscape.”
The word “light” is connected to positive values such as brightness, warmth, and hope, it is the opposite of darkness and symbolizes what’s good, knowledge, awareness, and truth. Jan Scheffler’s photographs do not speak, however, of the grandeur of nature nor the experience of the sublime. They do not possess a transcendent dimension. And yet, on his travels to the north, he works with the origin, cause, and purpose of all being. This being is inherent to the landscape itself. His photographs are not the idealization of what exists, but are an expression of the feeling that a pristine, light-drenched, deafeningly silent, screamingly beautiful Nordic landscape can trigger in the viewer. His images are not poetic expressions of landscapes, but expressions of poetic landscapes.
Jan Scheffler’s lust for landscape minimalism is in opposition to the horror vacui driving the experience-thirsty adventure tourist. With him, it is the nothingness that first makes the experi-ence possible. These images do not appeal to external experiences but rather to inner ones. And he has to be capable of making these emotions visible and evoking them in the viewer. In doing so, he is not following any overpowering strategy, but applies quieter methods. His compositions are based on the law of the square, which conveys more tranquility than a rectangle, because the center is equidistant from all corners. This lessens the dynamics of the baselines that determine the image and gives the image structural stability. And yet his compositional lines always exude tension. The often abrupt shift between foreground and background, the colliding of oppositional elements, the avoidance of central perspective in addition to significant variations in colors and shapes avert an overly perfect harmony or oversized voids. Only friction generates heat.
Apart from the luminous spectral colors of the sunlight, the element of water in its three states of aggregation characterizes the expressive effect of these images. In his photographs, Scheffler manifests the interwoven nature of elements, when ice crystals vibrate in the air, the ice whispers, the winds breathe or the light dances, jumps and beats. Clouds become mountains, glaciers become clouds, lumps of ice become salt crystals, trees become blocks of ice, snow cover becomes water surfaces, salt water becomes gel, light becomes stone. Everything is in an energetic state, according to Einstein’s formula E=mc2 – mass and energy can be transformed into each other. In these photographs, the constant metamorphosis of energetic states can be experienced and the flowing energy of the elements becomes pure emotion.