Tina Teufel: Turning Point Entombing (after Caravaggio)


In his pieces Stefan Heizinger often thematizes political subject matters, combines personalities that are active in politics, political symbols with seemingly ordinary subjects, and links the contents of behaviour with an elaborate pallet of stylistic subtleties.


In contrast to numerous colleges, Stefan Heizinger is not concerned with the painterly realisation of a media image, as this is merely a bearer for more profound image information, an ensemble of supernumeraries for discourse between the meaning of painting and the means of painting. It is hardly surprising then that he takes an interest in famous paintings from art history. In this case he chooses one of the most famous paintings of the Roman baroque and one of the most important works of this era and of one of its most recognisable and polarising artists: The “Entombment of Christ,” created 1602-04, by Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio (1571-1610). Caravaggio, whose works often sparked controversy, stayed unpaid for and had not only heated clerical tempers, emphasises his works with a socio-political note. His “entombment”, which is only marginally larger than that of Stefan Heizinger, exists not as a “template” for a political-sacrileges matters, but rather it is a method of the lombardic artist, his handling of the absence and presence of color, his theatrical staging of light and shadows, and his stage-like handling of space.


It is these themes, which are relevant to artists, that never lose actuality, that are a primacy in current art discussions. In the baroque, inter alia in the confrontation of Caravaggio and the equally famous Carracci brothers, juxtaposing styles and artistic preferences are also common practices. In his image Stefan Heizinger unifies two old, rivalling disciplines: painting and illustration, volume and line, objectivity and abstraction. By dissolving the homogeneous and arising group in Caravaggio’s painting and by accentuating and “splitting” the almost black background, he creates a new weight distribution, partially nullifies gravity and interlaces the spatial planes that are clearly defined in Caravaggio’s piece. The known becomes a new challenge for the perception, the color gains strength weight as opposed to the indicated body volumes. The gaze of Nikodemus, which is directed at the viewer, is now not just a request to bring oneself into the happenings, but one to dismantle the sceneries and to find new solutions. He emphasises schemes and dynamics in composition, which can only be noticed in the original piece at second glance, and only in direct comparison to Heizinger’s.


Already in 1999 the Dutch cultural scientist Mieke Bal attested, in her book “Quoting Caravaggio. Contemporary Art, Preposterous History” (The University of Chicago Press) a much deeper relationship between contemporary art and “old art”. While the approach occurs in the form of an analysis, which evokes consequences for the viewing and the understanding of the works and their stylistic devices in both eras and awards the contemporary image an equipollent function as a source, the author underlines that we rarely view images, depictions or paintings with a “pure” eye and (almost) always apply our own contemporary perception schemata, without entertaining the idea that – like in the current example – very different visual parameters were prevalent in baroque Rom.
Not only a tight, historical connection between both artists is established, but also a – deliberate – shift in meaning, as the original image also outlines an interpretation, mostly from a literary context, as in this case the visual implementation of the entombment of Christ from the bible.

 

Additionally Stefan Heizinger, as a contemporary artist, adapts not only the visual depiction of the scene, but also its literary source, which he alludes to in the title: “Turning Point Entombment” illustrates the scene more extensively than the original, which in reality does not depict the actual entombment - let alone the Deposition from the Cross -, but firstly depicts a turning point in the life of Christ that is important to the history of religion and its exposition, and secondly an entombment as an action: Nikodemus, who along with Christ, becomes the leading character in Heizinger’s painting, does not actually lay the body into a grave, but onto the slab that should seal it. The three Maries dissolve into threnodical gestures, while everything that remains of young John is an abstracted face and a supporting hand, thus causing optical confusion. The art historic quote functions as a tie between iconography and intertextuality, and also finds its place in the reference to visual and linguistic traditions of interpretation.