Through the various art forms we meet, one facet of the jewelry-like basic thread of existence is that sensitivity comes before creative expression. LEVEKUNST · art of life is proud to introduce the artist Nathalie David’s sensitive narrative around creating Gego, a documentary on the painter Gertrud Louise Goldschmidt, while at the same time using her own words and footage to paint an entirely new piece of art.
The film GEGO, Gertrud Louise Goldschmidt, was commissioned by the Kunsthalle Hamburg, the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. It means that I worked with five different curators and art historians. I think that curators or art historians have something in common with artists or film-makers. Both are passionate about what they do. To show and enable people to make discoveries without being didactic, this is the goal of an exhibition.
A film about art has the same goal in a way, but what it can do in addition to this is to add different levels – sound, music, shooting works in movement, such as The Green Book in this film.
When I start my work, I begin with a great deal of research on the artist. This may involve catalogues and books, but also exchanges with art historians and curators. Then there is my own view, as an artist looking at another artist, to feel the work and to ask myself why this work is important in the history of art and which aspects of the artist’s biography mean that this kind of work can come into existence.
In the case of Gego, the key was a questionnaire she received from Professor Trapp of the University of Hamburg. The university was researching for a study about exiled Jews. She filled out the form, but she never sent it back. For me, this was the connecting thread for the film, and I had part of her answers read at the beginning by Gego’s daughter, Barbara, who looks exactly like her mother… It is moving to watch her reading because it is also moving for her to read aloud words her mother wrote concerning question of Jews in exile and her mother’s destiny, as well as that of her entire family. I think that viewers can feel this unconsciously.
Even for Jewish families who suffered a more fortunate destiny than many, as in the case of Gego’s family, all the members are now dispersed all around the world. When we look at Gego’s work, Reticularea (1969), there is a mathematical dimension to link one form to another, but there is also a human dimension to link people, like a network to join imaginatively all her family members.
Generally, I do the photography of my films myself and I have a deeper approach into the work with the camera. Often I can see more through the lens than in nature. The camera I use is like a photo camera, it takes time to compose a picture. As a result, I am very economic when shooting. I digitalise any footage quickly and thus quickly know precisely what I have and what I still need. I shoot a lot from a tripod, very rarely from the shoulder if I feel it is necessary for a particular situation. My framing depends on which artist I’m working on. As I would like to stay close to the artist’s work and the period he or she worked in. I try to stay in a lot of the place where I am working, try to return there a number of times and search for what I need to be closest to the work. Because I both photograph and edit my own films, I’m thinking of the editing when I’m shooting and vice versa. For me, the script has something in common with a sketch. It is like a “prima idea”.
The pictures I create with the camera have something in common with painting. The editing has something in common with sculpture. Putting in, taking away, replacing, turning. I like this kind of work in several dimensions because you have sound, music, the speaking or singing voices.
For Gego, her work is based on the line. She took this idea from Paul Klee. For him, the line was a dot going for a walk. I wanted to draw a line into the film, a thread with all the protagonists, so I asked them all to wear white and also to read the Gego quotes in different languages. One begins a sentence in English, the next continues it in German and the third will conclude it in Spanish. With this kind of story-telling, I had my aspect in line with her way of thinking on art and my biographic aspect: Gego spoke and thought in these three languages.
Gego didn’t grow up in a Jewish tradition but in a German tradition. This was an important component in deciding which kind of music to use for the film. We decided to have something close to the style of J.S. Bach for all the biographical parts in the film, while using a little melody that is almost out of tune to underline the fact that Gego was an enfant terrible, as she described herself in her writings. An almost acoustic music references the spatial dimension of her work.Photo: Self-portrait by Nathalie David.
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