So here I am, reading ‘Caspar David Friedrich and the subject of landscape’ by Joseph Leo Koerner, and looking at Friedrich’s painting ‘Early Snow’. A path lightly covered takes the viewer towards a dark forest of pines. It bends to the right, but then a small conifer beside the path blocks the view of what happens next. There is a sense of suspense, of mystery, of risk. This is a Holzweg.
‘Evening’ – Caspar David Friedrich 1820
“These paths are paradoxes, since their existence means that someone was already there, yet their abrupt endings make us wonder where their first travellers have gone. In German such a path is called a Holzweg, which means both timber track and, figuratively, wrong track, as in being utterly at fault. Martin Heidegger saw in this double meaning a metaphor for thought and its itinerary. Every Holzweg leads off separately, but in the same forest, and ‘it seems often as if one is like the other. But it is only apparently so’. Like the foresters, the philosophers ‘know what it means to be on a Holzweg.’ They know, that is, the geography of truth and error from within, and can bring us to the threshold of something never thought before. To pursue the Holzweg is to enter the new, although the new with obscure origins in the past.”
(Koerner, page 189)
‘The Chasseur in the Forest’ – Caspar David Friedrich – 1814
Why am I thinking about this? It seems very appropriate somehow, probably because the solo exhibition I am planning for April next year is suddenly starting to become more substantial, and I feel like I have a Holzweg before me, a path that is there but soon peters out. I can’t see where it goes or where it ends up. However, to me the forest is mysterious, rather than forbidding, an invitation to see beyond the known and to risk something new, rather than a place that is oppressive and frightening. It’s a challenge I find difficult to ignore.
My exhibition, to be titled ‘The Archaeologist’s Dance’, is to take place at the Kirkleatham Museum, Redcar, and promises to be an exciting venture involving painting, drawing, archaeologists, original music and dance. It involves collaboration, and a close intertwining of fine art with archaeology. It’s a path that leads off into the future, one which brings a frisson of exhilaration with it, the kind I imagine that is known by explorers as they set off without even a map in their hands. The question is what kind of Holzweg will this turn out to be? A timber track, or a wrong track?