- Rebecca Horn born 1944
- Graphite, coloured pencil and acrylic paint on paper
- Support: 2055 × 1600 mm
frame: 2070 × 1745 × 45 mm
- Presented by the artist 2017
Earth Seed 2012 is a large-scale work on paper featuring clusters of gestural marks made in graphite and acrylic paint in various shades of blue and yellow. The marks are denser along the central axis and spread wider across the top of the sheet, continuing in brief strokes along the two sides and forming a discontinuous curve towards the bottom edge. The overall composition is whirling and chaotic, yet roughly symmetrical. Some of the strokes are heavier, others more fleeting, and include strings of drips possibly left by the fast whisking of a fine brush near the surface of the paper. A graphite inscription near the top left of the sheet reads, in the artist’s distinctive cursive handwriting: ‘Weltensamen / Mondsüchtig / in azul getauchte / Eisschleier / 3.7.2012’ (‘Earth seed / Moonstruck / immersed in azure / ice shrouds / 3.7.2012’).
Horn works across a range of media, including performance, sculpture, installation, film and video. She has, however, always considered drawing central to her practice, as demonstrated by the role of her early sketches and ‘hospital drawings’ in the development of a key group of early wearable sculptures and performance props known as ‘body extensions’ (see, for example, Arm Extensions 1968 [Tate T07857] and Finger Gloves 1972 [Tate T07845]). Since the late 1980s Horn has created several mechanical ‘painting machines’, and has returned to investigating the medium of drawing with a particular interest in mark-making and seriality, creating groups of abstract works on paper of varying scale.
Earth Seed is part of an ongoing series of large-scale drawings started in 2004, which Horn calls ‘Bodylandscapes’. This series is based on the artist’s body and its range of movements, leaving multiple gestural marks throughout the full height and width of sheets of paper of identical size (1820 x 1500 mm). These drawings are to be displayed as close to the floor as possible, with the bottom edge at a maximum height of 150–200 mm, in order for the viewer to establish a direct connection with the position and proportions of the artist’s body during the process of their making. These abstract works thus have strong connections with the human figure, while their titles often evoke landscapes or refer to natural phenomena.
The title of each drawing in the series is usually inscribed on it and sometimes, as in the case of Earth Seed, can take the form of a brief poem. Writing has always been a key component of Horn’s practice, and textual elements are a recurring feature in her sculptures, drawings and installation. An example of this are the inscriptions that Horn added to the lids of most of the boxes she made for her early ‘body extensions’. Throughout her career, Horn has written poems and poems-in-prose to accompany her visual art output, which she likes to publish alongside images of her works to highlight their interdependence.
According to Horn,
In these … drawings, which correspond to the radius of my body, from the first stroke there is a tacit agreement with the pencil’s line to dissect the paper, to divide it into new forms, with each mark explaining its existence to the next: it rejects, resumes, plays, destroys, empties, leaps, dives down into the depths, spirals up towards the light, catches fire, melts, flies like ash, claps hold of the fox star’s tail, burns out in shining red and descends deep down into the roots of the paper.
(Quoted in ‘A Smile: The Cage is Too Small for my Body: Rebecca Horn in conversation with Joachim Sartorius’, in Martin-Gropius-Bau 2006, p.192.)
On the subject of the overarching title for this series, ‘bodylandscapes’, the artist has said:
To look inside bodies and meditate one’s own way into them makes it possible to let them become landscapes that are permeated with streams of energy, pulsating craters and mountain-like formations … You approach a hidden centre, maybe the solar plexus, and follow the circular motion or energy threads of breathing. It’s almost as if you were … using colour to penetrate the layers of an enigmatic landscape that gradually finds its own rhythm in the lines.
(Quoted in ‘Birth of a Pearl: Rebecca Horn in conversation with Joachim Sartorius’, in ibid., p.289.)
The relationship between body and landscape is also a recurring motif in Horn’s work, beginning with those ‘body extensions’ and related performances whose key preoccupation was to establish a relationship between the body and its surroundings, such as Trunk c.1967–9 (Tate T07855), White Body Fan 1972 (Tate T07844) and In the Triangle 1973–4 (Tate T07856). The body of the artist and gestural repetition as instruments for mark-making were also at the core of Pencil Mask 1972 (Tate T07847), an iconic early work where Horn is seen ‘drawing’ by dragging a headpiece mounted with a grid of pencils pointing outwards against a white sheet. However, whereby Pencil Mask has negative connotations in its appearance as a restrictive cage used to enact drawing as a compulsive, exasperated gesture, the ‘Bodylandscapes’ stem from a much freer and more meditative type of bodily experimentation: as products of simple, essential body movements, like deep breathing or swinging one’s limbs around their natural axis, they embody drawing as an expression of primary life forces.
Carl Haenlein (ed.), Rebecca Horn. The Glance of Infinity, exhibition catalogue, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover 1997.
Armin Zweite, Katharina Schmidt, Doris von Drathen and Rebecca Horn, Rebecca Horn: Drawings, Sculptures, Installations, Films 1964–2006, exhibition catalogue, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin 2006.
Doris von Drathen, Rebecca Horn: Between the Knives the Emptiness, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Lelong, Paris and New York 2014.
Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.