Gerhard Reusch transforms her works into abstract and surreal images. The Aschaffenburg artist photographs the bark of native trees.
Trees are everywhere. They are beautiful to look at, often very beautiful. Especially now when they’re green again. As their leaves grow, unfold and provide shade. Even beer gardens make a living from it. And yet one often walks past them without paying attention.
There are particularly old trees, gnarled, venerable, gathered in magnificent illustrated books. Record holders are documented there in terms of height, age and crowns. And then there is the role of trees in myths, fairy tales and religions! The tree of knowledge from the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament is just one case, albeit a special one.
And finally, there is Arbor Day, even International. Behind it is a politician and journalist from Nebraska: Julius Sterling Morton. His idea dates back to 1872, the date is today April 25th. This day is about reflecting on trees, their importance around the world and the immeasurable damage their loss brings.
Gerhard Reusch may know all this, but he appreciates something completely different about trees: their surface with the bark and bark. Reusch is a journalist and photographer. For almost 40 years he worked as an editor at the Aschaffenburg “Main-Echo”. There he was involved with agency pictures. But he has always been tempted to take photographs himself. Even the very usual, like trees and their faces. For him, they are particularly striking because of their bark.
What’s it all about? Wikipedia writes it like this: “The bark (Latin: cortex) refers to all tissues outside the central cylinder of the stem and root of vascular plants (tracheophyta). When the term bark is used in everyday life, however, it usually only means part of the bark of trees, namely the covering tissue, which is more specifically called the periderm or bark.”
Would a photographer like to press the shutter button for this? Rather not. It’s different with Reusch. He takes a closer look at bark. He recognizes their injuries and damage, their scars and cracks, cracks, grooves and tears, their furrows and nicks. What a life that reveals itself far away from the technical vocabulary quoted in local terms!
Arbor Day In Germany, Arbor Day was first celebrated 70 years ago: on April 25, 1952, then Federal President Theodor Heuss planted a maple tree in Bonn’s Hofgarten together with the German Forest Protection Association. A few months earlier, on November 27, 1951, the United Nations had decided on Arbor Day. It should keep the importance of the forest for people and the economy in mind.
During a holiday in Greece ten years ago, a brittle, very old piece of wood lay in front of Reusch. In it he recognized similarities with a baboon head. So, nothing like a picture! That’s how it started – with countless episodes to this day. Now and then he sells his recordings.
“I try to filter out expressive landscapes, striking shapes, structures, and also bizarre scenes and figures, primarily from bark and weathered old wood, and bring them into the picture with the right light – preferably after a downpour,” says Reusch. “The result is abstract, even surreal-looking images.” Subdued evening light is a reliable partner. He doesn’t need a lot of equipment. “I only use an older SLR and a newer compact camera.”
Excursion into painting
For him, the special thing is that “at first they are photos, but they can often no longer be identified as such.” As what then? “They look like paintings. It’s not uncommon for me to believe that elements of Dadaism tumble out of the trees.” For him, this is a photographic excursion into painting, in order to create something from a photograph that looks like a painting. A seascape? A bark, a lump cuckoo land?
Mysterious pictorial worlds open up and promote associations. “I’m thinking, for example, of Hans Arp, Emil Nolde, Max Ernst and Jean Michel Atlan, whose elements can be seen in Borken for me.” These views and interpretations are also encouraged by the weather, the ravages of time, lichens and mosses. Reusch appreciates conifers, especially pines and yews, as well as plane, eucalyptus and palm species, but less so.
Later, on the computer, rotating the recordings can open up a new perspective. “Detail, format and contrast regulation – that’s what I work with primarily. Further processing is done sparingly, if at all: as little as possible, as much as necessary!” It is very important to Reusch that everything fits together to form a homogeneous whole. He also wants to challenge the viewer’s scope for interpretation.
It is clear to him: “Nature is the greatest artist. I became more and more aware of that over the years. And Morbides also has its beauty.” And is that supposed to be superficial?