Commentary of Ernst Wasmuth
Although perhaps difficult to believe in our hype-filled cultural world, there are still those artists whose modesty is such that they must almost be forced to show and exhibit their works. Until now, this is something I had only experienced with musicians. They made music just for the fun of it, to fulfil some inner need, and rejected the notion of concerts and the like.
Roswitha Grützke belongs to this species (and, as if by coincidence, she also has a beautiful black grand piano at home...). Roswitha weaves. Tackling and solving the most varied problems with the aid of the weaver's art is her very special passion and gift. Just like her, I too am awestruck by medieval tapestries, such as the famed "Dame à la Licorne" and the large Baroque Gobelins in France and Italy; such incredible artistry. How many busy hands it must have taken to create this splendour; these scenes of battles and gods, which the rulers of Europe then countervailed with gold. One must stand very close indeed to be fully sure that all this really is woven - a genuine wonder!
In today's video-neon-plastic culture, this thrill of the woven fabric appears only to receive the most sporadic of attention, also because it is based on something that one almost disrespectfully refers to as "handcraft". I mean to say, who on earth wants to be known as a "craftsperson" these days, when the thing to be is a concept artist, simply putting out ideas that only very few - if anyone at all - can actually understand and which, in the majority of cases, are never implemented.
Yet the artful act of weaving is one of mankind's oldest occupations, particularly among women, and goes back to the very beginnings of our civilisations. It is much older than the story of Penelope, who unravelled her day's weaving at night, in order to remain true to Odysseus... it has accompanied us through the centuries and, besides the indispensable cloth, has produced ever grander fabrics and been transformed into artworks of all kinds. Parallel to this, ever more complex forms of loom have been developed - a technical history whose decisive breakthroughs have quite evidently occurred in the Middle East, leading to even greater varieties of looms and weaving techniques, as proven by the masterpieces of textile art that have come from Venice, Florence, Lyon and Paris.
As early as the 19th century, artistic production had split away from the ever-increasing industrialised production to seek its own pathway, firstly in England and then once more, but differently, in Bauhaus and thereafter.
Roswitha Grützke's works, which were documented in a small volume in 1982, come from this tradition of handcraft and art. At the close of the 1950s, after having begun an apprenticeship in tailoring, she switched to the "Master College for Handcraft" at Berlin's Charlottenburg Gate to take up weaving; here she completed training both in craftsmanship and in painting. The benevolent rector at that time was the ceramist, Bontjes van Beek. One after the other, she completed her apprentice exams, designer diploma and, finally, her master's certificate.
Next, Roswitha turned her hand to converting the works of her then husband, Johannes Grützke, as well as those of other artists, such as Otmar Alt, to tapestry, before, encouraged by Rob Krier, she then took her own route, daring to tackle a wide variety of themes without once ever giving a moment's thought to automation or the abrogation of the loom.One instantly feels Roswitha's fascination with the special tension at play between the technical possibilities afforded by the loom and the respective motif:
The sheen on pots and jugs in her still lives, light and depth in the architectural views, the reproduction of graphic half-tones or the conversion of an architectural floor plan into woven fabric! Woven interiors, woven pianos and cellos and the thrilling series of finely woven tapestries showing breezy, sun-drenched curtains - all of these have a really quite special appeal.
Stairs in Potsdam, architectural views and vistas, games of architectural deception and mirror effects, as well as classical quotes, inspired by themes from the Provence and Italy; all of these impart a feeling of calm, joy, surprise and the desire to take another look and to be dumbfounded anew. One could be forgiven for believing that hushed music can be heard in the background.
What more can one want from works of art?
We thank Roswitha Grützke for finally showing us her timeless works, these unique pieces that have each taken her up to half a year to create!
Opening of the exhibition at Modus Möbel, Berlin 8.12.2000