Astrid Ehlers, born in Kaltenkirchen in 1985, lives and works in Hamburg. Having studied under Prof. Matt Mullican at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg (HfBK), she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in 2017. She has been a member of the Saloon Hamburg network since 2018. Her artistic work was nominated for the Hiscox Prize in 2013. In 2015 she was among the nominees selected by the Karl H. Ditze Foundation. In 2019 she received the artist-in-residence grant from the Dresden Fine Art Printmaking Workshop (Grafikwerkstatt Dresden) in cooperation with the Hamburg Department of Culture and Media and the Dresden Department of Culture and Historic Preservation, which involved both studying and exhibiting her work in Dresden.
The work of Astrid Ehlers is always an expression of an interest to look beyond the surface of things. Her drawings, drypoints, and installations tell of scientific and philosophical connections that are inherent in seemingly mundane objects. Her reflections and artistic explorations result in artwork that is reduced yet sensuous, opening up new contexts and associations, inviting the viewer to take a different perspective on things that are supposedly familiar to us. The joy of natural philosophical contemplations and transferring them into images are just as integral to her work as the captivating meticulousness with which the artist puts on paper or etches into the plate line for line. The act of altering the surface of the printing plate, a process associated with physical strength, itself becomes a metaphor with the drypoint technique: “Scratching the surface of the metal plate with an etching needle is drawing, sensing and manipulation […], the physical penetration of the surface with the needle and the conceptual comprehension of an object become synonymous in the artworks” (Astrid Ehlers).
Projected.Capital, Roehrs & Boetsch, Zurich, Switzerland
Zeichensysteme, Emerging Artists 2018, Affordable Art Fair, Hamburg
Farewell to Matt Mullican, HfbK
#WELCOMETOTHEREALWORLD, group show, Gudberg Nerger Gallery, Hamburg
TYING UP SATURN, with Anneke Kleimann, Künstlerhaus Frise, Hamburg
A needle scratches the surface, MfA graduate show, Hochschule für bildende Künste, Hamburg
“-“, with Marko Mijatovic, Goscha Steinhauer and Malte Stienen, Galeriefest Kassel, Tokonoma, Kassel
Open Class, xpon art, Hamburg
Hiscox Art Prize, Kunsthaus, Hamburg
About Astrid’s edition for leikela
Astrid Ehlers – Still Better: Solution III, 2019, drypoint print on laid paper, 33 x 36,5 x 1,5 cm, beechwood, Edition of 10
What is it about the mind that fundamentally attempts to recognize patterns, create context, and answer the question of how something can be used? The enigmatic nature of this fine-lined drypoint makes the viewer confront his or her own sense of perception. The drypoint, which is printed on laid paper, depicts two sticks connected by a thin sisal rope. Why are the sticks connected? The open narrative triggers the mind to find a solution to the question posed by the image, to discover a narrative, to draw inferences. Through this process, there arises a parallel to the developmental steps of consciousness that are initiated in the endeavor to find meaning in everything and anything.
The element of the stick emerges in the work of Astrid Ehlers time and again in various constellations, for a simple twig is not only a piece of nature, but it is also one of the first archaic tools. The version that is depicted here was derived from an experiment about the sequential tool usage of crows. By logically chaining pieces of the construct together, these animals were capable of gathering food from a hollow tree with this construct. The twig is thus transformed from an object to an instrument, is has been assigned a purpose that transcends its mere existence.
The marvel of evolution is put into poetic imagery, which is characterized by the reduced form. However, in this case, reduction is relative. Although there is little to see on this sheet, the little that is there in fact reveals a multitude. Every little notch of the twigs can be recognized; each individual, fine fiber of the rope can be seen. With scientific simplicity, Astrid Ehlers isolates the essential aspects and creates images that simultaneously embody complexity and sensuous beauty, thereby successfully translating the tradition of drypoint into the contemporary.
Text by Anne Simone Krüger
Translation by Theodore Kuttner
Other works by Astrid:
Photos: Courtesy by the artist
More about Astrid’s work: