May 9 − June 15, 2014
Stefan Hunstein – Im Eis (Ice)

The magic of the polar regions has fascinated and attracted explorers for centuries. This desolate world, characterized by gigantic icebergs, drift ice, and Arctic temperatures, conforms to everyone’s conception of a pristine, archaic landscape, which, however, is accessible only for a short time and at the cost of enormous physical effort with the aid of sophisticated technology. Those who visit this bizarre landscape of ice and snow are overwhelmed by the sensation of being just a tiny, insignificant entity in the midst of a grandiose natural spectacle.

In the last few years a number of artists, such as Olafur Eliasson and Darren Almond, have discovered these Arctic regions and responded creatively to their natural wonders in different ways. One of those who have braved the polar seas is the photographer Stefan Hunstein, who traveled to Greenland in 2012 and returned with an enthralling portfolio of breathtakingly beautiful images of the ends of the world.

Stefan Hunstein rendered the varying moods of light and nature just as they presented themselves to his eye. He eschewed any subsequent manipulation for the purposes of artificial exaggeration or alienation of the natural situation. Many of the pictures were recorded from a slightly elevated perspective, thus modifying not only the perception of the actual proportions of the subject, but also the texture and material structure of the ice formations, exposed as they are to constant metamorphosis. The wan, leaden light so characteristic of the region merits particular attention. Horizons occasionally dissolve into a vague nebulosity, while atmosphere, water, and ice merge almost imperceptibly into each other.

Stefan Hunstein’s images of the infinitude of the icy wasteland arouse contradictory emotions in the spectator, alternating between an overwhelming impression of beauty and one of menacing horror. The spectacle presented by nature at the same time takes on a theatrical quality of its own, which casts its spell over the viewer. For the individual, the perception of this monumental environment, which is so hostile to life, is a numinous experience and gives rise to a particular state of mind, tellingly described as follows by the philosopher Georg Simmel in relation to the glacial world of the high Alps: “From the solitude and wilderness of the glaciers, however, there emanates a joy in sheer activity, [...] a sensation with an intensity exceeding that of life itself and a happiness perhaps unmatched by that aroused by any other purely external situation” (Georg Simmel, 1895, ‘Alpenreisen’ [Alpine Travels]). Similar feelings of the sublime are aroused by the images of nature vouchsafed to us in Stefan Hunstein’s masterpieces.

The exhibition “Im Eis” (Ice) features 25 framed original works each measuring 154 × 114 cm. Using a unique photographic technique of his own (UV Direct Print), Stefan Hunstein has printed his images on glass. This device confers a monumental, three-dimensional character on the landscapes portrayed, which draws the spectator inexorably into their depths.

An exhibition catalogue bringing together approximately 60 images and essays written by Ulrich Pohlmann, Michael Krüger and Petra Giloy-Hirtz will be available in fall 2014. Copies of the catalogue can be pre-ordered during the exhibition.