Constant movement and ever-changing form are of the essence of clouds. Their mobility and variety make them impossible to pin down—yet by the same token, clouds can be anything: from the sublime embodiment of longing and an ominous portent, to the dwelling of the gods, to a mere accumulation of condensed water. But if the essence of clouds consists in their perpetual motion and formal metamorphosis, how can they be captured in an image? Is a cloud on paper or canvas inherently a trapped or even dead cloud? The works in the exhibition show how clouds can survive this change of location from sky to paper, and even flourish—if the cloud-catcher understands his craft. For each of the many techniques of printmaking is uniquely suited to pay homage to a different aspect of clouds and thus invites intentional use.
The power of clouds to inspire enthusiasm for science in the realm of the arts has been celebrated ever since Johann Wolfgang von Goethe composed poetry in response to the categorization of clouds by meteorologist Luke Howard. And isn’t Howard’s own poetic sense reflected in the names he chose to describe the clouds—cirrus, cumulus, and stratus, which in Latin mean “lock of hair,” “heap,” and “outspread blanket”? Clouds and their inspiring potential for synthesis are the focus of the exhibition. The perspective of artists from seven centuries—including Lucas van Leyden, Lorenzo Tiepolo, and Meret Oppenheim—is complemented by works from the inexhaustible holdings of the Image Archive of the ETH Library, here represented above all by the
photography of the scientists and expeditioners Arnold Heim and Walter Mittelholzer.
Curated by Susanne Pollack (Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich) and Nicole Graf
(Image Archive, ETH Library)