Monday 10 August 2015


HANNE DARBOVEN at the TALBOT RICE Gallery, Edinburgh University. 

I am always happy to see women artists given their due. Edinbro Uni's Talbot Rice Gallery is doing a sterling job here with its committment to showing important artists like  Paula Rego, Jenny Holzer, Rosemarie Trockel, Jane and Louise Wilson and now, the under recognized German conceptualist, HANNE DARBOVEN, ( 1941 – 2009)
Not an easy artist & she seems to have made things even more difficult for herself via a solitary, reclusive life - despite the fact that her life is her art & she recorded & indexed every day in painstaking, obsessive detail via a code all her own. 
The results are stark minimalism taken to the nth degree. Here  754 framed works, a  chapter from a total 2,782 sheets, runs round all the walls: a geometric grid  of what the artist called ‘mathematical prose’; listing  every date from 1900 to 1999  via a code of  typewritten pages (2nd January 1901 becomes 2 + 1 + 01 = 4  `& so on... and on & on ...  )
As curator Pat Fisher explains, "Darboven is under recognised in relation to her male peers and friends  – such Le Witt, Kosuth and Weiner. I hope this first showing of her fascinating work in Scotland help redress this."

The initial impact of all these 100s of what look like identical pages is confounded by the inclusion of 2 dolls houses, full of tiny lamps, chintz armchairs, kitchen appliances - bourgeois in the extreme. Could the same artist possibly be responsible for both? It seems so. But puzzling all the same. 
Upstairs photos of a Xmas gathering for family & friends are again offered without any form of interpretation,
while downstairs a table full of objects from her cluttered Hamburg studio - a veritable cabinet of curiosities, or incredible encyclopaedic collection, has been borrowed to give us some idea of  Darboven’s personal cosmology. A German documentary may - or may not - shed light on this uniquely mysterious & obsessive artist whose work is at once impersonal, yet a heart-wrenching if idiosyncratic record of her lifetime's intellectual exercise trying to address the impossible complexity of anything & everything in this world. An experience shared by us all. 

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