In her art, Jorinde Voigt has developed a coded form of writing in her drawings to transform the phenomena of our world into visual compositions. No matter how complex the processes may be, they arrive at a state of order through the systems employed by the artist. Through poetic webs of lines, mathematical grids, and musical patterns Voigt examines the processes of our perception in her drawings.
In the thirty-two-part cycle, the artist for instance takes an exemplary approach to translating Beethoven’s music into her own personal language of symbols, with an aim to highlight its universal state. Music illustrates how, in our everyday world of experience, emotions develop into structures. This is in turn expressed in musical compositions through changes in melody and rhythm, as well as tempo and volume. The latter is notated with performance instructions like “piano” (quietly) or “forte” (loudly). Moreover, expressive direction like “cantabile” (in a singing manner) or “maestoso” (majestically) instruct musicians to give voice to a certain emotional state through their playing.
In this series of drawings, the artist works with thirty-two piano sonatas composed by Beethoven between 1795 and 1822. Voigt uses one sheet for each sonata, which is traditionally comprised of two to four sections of the movement. The artist listens to the sonata while simultaneously making notations of the various strains—contingent on the interrelationship between the movements—in the space of the drawing. She labels them with the related expressive directions after having translated them into English. The spectrum of musical expression thus becomes decipherable: “majestically, in a stately fashion,” “cheerful or brisk, lively, fast with spirit/vigor, and passionately,” or “at ease very simple and in a singing style.” It is along these “trails” that Voigt chronologically lists, measure for measure, all further performance instructions for the entire sonata. Moreover, according to the number of movements, the artist drafts eye-catching axes across the paper, which she connects with the “trails” through sweeping lines. Voigt describes routes that can be taken to enable sounds, words, or sentiments to find expression. What is more, she situates the extractions from Beethoven’s sonatas within her recurring notational system made of spatial and temporal parameters, such as “interne Zentren” (internal centers) and “externe Zentren” (external centers), “Rotationsrichtungen” (rotational directions), “Rotationsgeschwindigkeiten” (rotational speeds), “Nord-Süd-Achsen” (north-south axes), or “Beats” and “Loops.”
At the heart of her exhibition cycle is the transformative character inherent to notation. By example of Beethoven’s sonatas, the artist translates music into the medium of drawing. Moving beyond a linear approach to listening to sounds, Voigt offers a visual experience that allows us to embrace the essentials of the composition with one glance. Earlier drawings like Symphonic Area 1-27 and Beat (both from 2009), which explicitly involve musical motifs, may also be considered to follow similar conceptual approaches.
Works by the Berlin-based artist, who was distinguished by the 5th Drawing Prize of the Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation in 2012, are represented in collections at various art establishments, including Centre Pompidou Paris, Museum of Modern Art New York, Bundeskunstsammlung Bonn, Kupferstichkabinett Berlin, Kunsthaus Zürich, and the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich. Jorinde Voigt’s notations, musical scores, objects, and installations have been shown at a range of venues, including the Nevada Museum of Art, Royal Ontario Museum Toronto, Museum van Bommel van Dam in Venlo, Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal, and Gemeentemuseum Den Ha
Jorinde Voigt, Ludwig van Beethoven Sonata No. 32, Berlin, Courtesy Jorinde Voigt