Maria Laet

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Maria Laet follows the traces of time in her own personal way: she is fascinated by cracks in the walls and on the street, which seem to lead a life of their own. Their explosive impressions mark the passing of time on walls and floors and at the same time award them with a distinctive appearance.

In London she filled street cracks with milk and photographed this fleeting work. Fascinating in these photographs is the tactile quality of the different characteristics of the materials tar and milk and the tension created by this. Polaroid photos are the starting point for her work; this medium is already obsolete and very difficult to find, but she prizes it for the tactile qualities of the surface and also because the respective depiction develops in seconds before the eyes of the developer.

In Bad Ems, she also took Polaroid photos, including of the heavily damaged Villa Diana and, in Balmoral, of the cracks in the floor of the historical hall. The short life of the medium of reproduction underscores the ephemerality expressed in the craquelures in the walls and floors.

To trace the – mostly plastered – cracks, Maria Laet uses another means: frottage, i.e., rubbing. To do this she uses very thin paper and charcoal. Depending on the state of the wall and the texture of the plaster this results in very particular impressions, which are also determined by the choice of paper that is used. The different series work very distinctively: on many sheets the plaster around the riverine course of the crack looks like a kind of galaxy, following the course of a crack; in a different series the surface is much rougher, as if made of concrete. Through pressure and regulation of the distance in the drawings Laet gives the sheets their own embossing. Then there is the free impression of the abrasion. The cracks always come together, creating a landscape, but this is no picture of reality, but an expression of the artist’s artistic will.

Laet’s working process would be misunderstood if one interpreted it as limited to giving visibility to the traces of the past. Her photo series untitled (Sand), in which she sews coarse stitches in wet sand, shows this. Here the artist is the one who creates the traces – with a means associated worldwide with women’s work. The marking that thereby arises has the effect of a lane line on the street. But here, too, the transience of the activity is underscored, because as soon as the sand dries, the seam will be lost in the moving sand. The action has something surrealistic about it, an indication of the triviality of every human activity when measured against the persistence of nature.