HAMBURG - Galerie Sfeir-Semler is proud to announce our 4th exhibition of works by Elger Esser (*1967, Stuttgart). This exhibition will feature new landscape photographs as well as the artist’s new series of large-scale heliogravures inspired by Marcel Proust.   

Esser studied photography at the Düsseldorf Academy under Bernd and Hilla Becher, but he has been called “the heretic of the Becher class.” (Britta Sachs - FAZ 19.01.2010) Veering from the Becher’s visual language of stark, concrete documentation of architectural typologies in specific historical moments, Esser animates his landscapes with profound sentiment, atmosphere and poetry.  His lush pictures are pin sharp and deeply precise, but removed from our identifiable time in history to become dreamlike fantasies of a place as it might exist in one’s imagination.   

On view will be a selection of Esser’s landscape photographs, vivid sweeps bathed in hues of blue and yellow ambience. These landscapes stem from the Veduta tradition of 19th Century travel painting, inviting the viewer to gaze into expansive pastoral scenes, empty of people or the markers of contemporary life.  Amid these natural landscapes, Esser allows details - fragments of architecture, a bridge, a jetty, a stony wall - to suggest infinity, a place out of time, a kind of mirage. His quiet, meditative, ethereal images are simultaneously vast and vivid, with the sea, rivers, or water opening up to the sky on a brilliantly nuanced pictorial surface.  

In addition, we will present Esser’s new heliogravures that conjure Marcel Proust’s imaginary town of Combray with images taken at sites around France. These black and white photo-engravings printed on cotton paper use an antique method of printing that was developed at the dawn of photography and was widely used as a method of illustrating fine publications at the end of the 19th Century. Calling upon his interest in the history of art, photography and literature, this printing technique brings to Esser’s images the most delicate, detailed range of blacks and whites printed at large scale (122 x 139cm, a highly unsual size for heliogravure). The heliogravure emerged from the earliest explorations of photography, aiming to capture and preserve images in time. The poetry of this technique, its relationship to literature and book illustration, the stillness and mystery of Esser’s sites, the indefinable temporality of these images all bring the viewer into their own “recherche du temps perdu,” illuminating the atmosphere of our past, our history, our memory.   

We look forward to seeing you!  

Please visit Elger Esser’s concurrent retrospective museum exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart:
Eigenzeit, on view though April 11, 2010.    
SPIEGEL ONLINE, February 2010

Interview with Elger Esser

Sehnsucht nach dem verlorenen Ort

read article at Spiegel Online