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339 Gräser / Eva-Fiore Kovacovsky

During my research on arrangement and reproduction of plant specimens at the Library of the Botanical Garden in New York (in early spring 2010) I got to know about the Nature Print technique. The library posses a large collection of rare books and herbariums, that reveal many early methods of reproduction. The nature print technique intrigued me in it’s potential to depict the physical surface of the plant. Although this was already used by Leonardo da Vinci who simply colored leaves and pressed them on paper, the invention of the “Naturselbstdruck” 1850 in Austria is significant. This was in a time when photography was still in its beginning and of no competition. For a “Naturselbstdruck” the physical shape and surface of an object or specimen gets impressed on a led plate by being rolled through a press under high pressure. The technique captivates though its ability to feature every detail in texture and structure. To modern eyes it reminds one of a scan or an x-ray photograph. One of the most famous and interesting examples is “Physiotypia plantarum austriacarum” (Wien, 1855-1873), a book featuring almost 1000 specimens in 8 volumes. The plants are arranged in a way it seems natural although they are strictly composed and highly stylized. Parts of the plants are added or taken away, bent and folded, to make growth and structure apparent, and to create tension within the compositions. Nature prints are always 1:1 transfer in size of the object impressed. Thereby the composition is determined by the size of the paper and the object depicted.

Inspired of this research I started to collect and press grass specimens. I became interested in grass as it is on one hand extremely simple (can be illustrated with one green line) and on the other complex and implying a large diversity of kinds, structures and shapes. It has a big social, symbolic and cultural meaning. Also; one never thinks about grass as a flower.
Out of this interest developed the work “339 Gräser”. The book is made by photocopying this collection of pressed flowering grass specimens with an inkjet printer on colored paper. The colors are (with a view flashy exceptions) in a pastel spectrum, varying from pink, blue, green and yellow. In a playful attitude the grass is placed on the plate and in a random manner printer on a total of 10 different colors. The variety of colors and grass specimens makes each page an original and appear different; sometimes the straws are turned and repeatedly printed on the same page (giving the illusion they are mirrored). The roughness of the photocopy is making the prints almost appear like drawings, confusing the spectator about what he is looking at. On others different straws are arranged forming a composition together. In this way, although limited to their 1:1 scale ratio and reproductions of the real, the pages gain an otherworldly aspect. Within the two extremes of what is there and what it transforms into, a tension is created. While browsing through the book the combination of these aspects and transparency of the paper that allows the previous straw to shine through (giving tempo to the flow) an inner rhythm is created. The work reminds on herbariums from the past, is a dictionary of options, yet not naming anything, functional in its dysfunction.