Closer to the eye

Porträt Stefan Heyne ©

Stefan Heyne, stage set designer for theater and opera and photographer born in Brandenburg an der Havel in 1965 and based in Berlin, presents the exhibition NAKED LIGHT. Die Belichtung des Unendlichen / Exposing Infinity  at the Städtische Galerie Dresden until September 14 showing 30 of his works including 15 new photographs. His use of extreme focus makes us wonder about the role of psychology in our perception of reality. His compositions playing with surfaces, textures, colours, lights and spaces, have developed photography beyond the portrait of people and landscapes, not leaving reality behind but creating new questions about the way our mind creates our image of reality not only from our senses but also from our imagination. The result of his works has a pictorial air directly connected to abstract art of which Stefan Heyne is one of its most interesting current exponents. Heyne transforms daily objects and spaces, like the angle between a wall and the floor, into something completely different by showing them from fuzziness and suddenly nothing is so obvious. The angle, the shapes and everything else remains the same but not our perception of it. Reality, as we conceive it, is just a convention, nothing else, and art is the best way to never forget it. It’s all in our minds.

What concept is behind the NAKED LIGHT. Die Belichtung des Unendlichen?

For around 175 years people have been creating photographic images. The practice of creating concrete images was rarely called into question. It appears to be some kind of taboo: photographic depiction without resemblance? Impossible.

“Naked Light” pursues photography that overcomes self-imposed limitations and doesn’t stop at the surface of things. Thus, it goes back to its core: the combination of light and shadow.

You are also a stage set designer for theater and opera productions. What's the influence of that staging experience in your photographic work?

There are definitely links between the two. The works are kind of similar, but nonetheless differ fundamentally from each other. Stage design is all about space, photography about surfaces. They both are visual expressions, and have suggestive or connotative meaning.

In Dresden, a large-scale architectural work of mine is going to be presented for the first time. This opened up a world of new opportunities for me. This would not have been possible without all those previous experiences.

It could seem your works always give a complete freedom of interpretation to the viewer but the title of the series can make us focus our imagination in a more concrete direction. That's the case of one of your earlier series titled Tatorte (Crime Scenes). How do you achieve the balance between freedom and determination?

Ideally the viewer’s relationship with the art object is not arbitrary. I provide a basis for interpretation. The titles of my works are very short and can only offer clues.

Our senses give us a distorted perception of reality, also our brain so how could we experience the essence of existence?

Life is all about experience. I believe the foremost problem is how experience is spent. Can words reflect this reality and is there a language that is able to express our experiences in the first place? If there is a possibility to describe it, then it would be art. Art is the result of fundamental human experiences. Distortions come into existence when art is pursued as a means to something else, when it is presented for a specific purpose.

Do you think the current technology and the new scientific theories can give you the way to get free of our sensorial boundaries in your artistic work?

The emancipation, or at least the deviation of traditional standards, is essentially the basis of every art. Therefore art is on the contrary always one step ahead of science and technology. Science and technology serve specific purposes restricting the view from the beginning.

The lack of definition in many of your works gives to the photography a role beyond portraying reality in a world where data are the new gold. What do you think about this excess of information?

Information is always good and on my opinion there can never be enough information around. It is fascinating that very large amounts of the data consist of images. The wealth of images is overwhelming. For example: There is a certain building in Paris, the Eiffel Tower. In the past, if you wanted to glance at it your only chance would have been to travel there and get a first-hand look at the building.

Initially only a few people took photos of The Eiffel Tower which were then spread out worldwide. By now millions of photos are made of this building on a daily basis. These images themselves are shared and copied over and over again. The number keeps on growing and most likely will never stop. By now, the sum of these pictures has become its own reality quasi a second shared collective Eiffel Tower. Images create realities.

What’s abstraction for you?

Abstraction is the basis of art. If I press the trigger, I aim to eliminate the mind and be closer to the eye. Then, everything will be abstract.

And when can we say something is a piece of art?

Art enables us to peek into infinity.

Do you think the times are becoming lighter or darker? And why?

The times are becoming darker, but no one has to be afraid of this. The idea of lighter times is a superseded image propagated by the enlightenment. The light-giving goddess of knowledge, Minerva, is indeed an outdated image. If you look into the universe, you’ll notice that it’s dark, very dark.

About our perception of reality, what’s the role of our dreams on it and on your work?

I believe in the separation between reality and fiction, and this includes, as we understand it, the distinction between dream and reality. But ultimately, that's an outdated view. Reality is nothing more than a collectively shared fiction, a truth that we accept. Art destroys this separation by bringing them together. By doing so, art is truth and fiction at the same time and is never unambiguous.

We always ask to the artists to explain us a dream. Could you explain us one of yours?

Certainly all of my images can do that much better.

Stefan Heyne | NAKED LIGHT. Die Belichtung des Unendlichen Exposing Infinity
Exhibition at the Städtische Galerie Dresden until September 14 2014

A selection here

An interview by Juan Carlos Romero
Stefan Heyne website
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