Hamburg-based photographer Jochen Lempert tracks nature’s traces. Here, a firefly’s glow has exposed the film, and there, small frogs have hopped across sensitive photo paper as it was exposed, leaving ghostly footprints. Photography’s possibilities for depicting merge with animal traits: the resulting work can be read as artistic variations on biology.
Frogs, doves, swans, insects, plants, people, clouds, and the sea: nature populates Lempert’s photographs in all its variety. On closer examination, the photographs reveal an interplay of associations and echoes. Delicate forms are reproduced, playing both with such natural imagery as a butterfly’s wings, and with our means of perception. Lempert’s hand-printed grainy black-and-white images enable us to experience our environment in an abstract way.
Their pointed utilization invites us to look more closely, to take time and wonder at the magic of natural patterns. The delicate arrangement of freckles on a shoulder, the perfectly balanced leaf on an ant’s back, and the trembling towers of sea foam. The extraordinary of the seemingly ordinary comes to the fore. When else has the banal appeared so beautiful?
But Lempert’s poetic work depicts nature in a state that is increasingly under threat. Humanity’s irreversible interference in the environment shrink the chances of survival for our world of flora and fauna. At present, one million species are in danger of extinction. Since the 1990s, Lempert has consistently used photography to investigate how human and world interact. Today, this takes on more relevance than ever. The fascination, curiosity, and excitement each of his images express can only remind us how important it is to preserve this unique diversity.
The exhibition Jochen Lempert . Lingering Sensations at C/O Berlin is the artist’s first institutional exhibition in Berlin. Three sections organized by topic include wall-mounted works and works presented in display cases. They explore the parameters of the artist’s work, from the 1990s to today. The display includes a visual biography which uses invitations, posters, and other printed matter designed by the artist to tell the story of how this exciting, internationally singular body of work has developed.
The exhibition is curated in collaboration with Centre Pompidou, Paris (FR) and Huis Marseille, Amsterdam (NL). The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive artist book published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König.
Jochen Lempert (b. 1958) is a biologist. As a member of the experimental film group Schmelzdahin between 1979 and 1989, he explored the combination of chemical processes and celluloid film. After this productive collaboration, he began working as a photographer and has been researching the dialog between nature and humans since the 1990s. He has received numerous awards for his photographic work, including a fellowship for contemporary German photography from the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation (1993) and the Camera Austria Award for Contemporary Photography (2017). Lempert’s work has been exhibited at Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2010); Hamburger Kunsthalle (2013); Sprengel Museum Hannover (2017); Center d’art contemporain d’Ivry – le Crédac and the Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius (both 2020); and at Portikus, Frankfurt/Main (2022). His works are held in international collections including Center Pompidou, Paris and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.