Harald Stoffers has been writing letters every day for over twenty years. Long ones. Short ones. Tall ones. Skinny ones. Some of them measure over ten feet high; others are only a few inches tall. Occasionally, he tears them apart. Most of them are addressed to his mother with the loving words, “Liebe Mutti” (Dear Mother), though he rarely sends them to her.
The substance of the letters varies from the banal activities and formalities of daily life—like what he is planning to wear the next day or the price of a cup of coffee—to personal thoughts and reflections. Most of the text is legible, but Stoffer’s process of writing and line-making sometimes obliterates what he has already written. At times the individual letters might be written so closely together that they become clouds of black ink.
Stoffers works every day at Galerie der Villa, an art studio associated with the Elbe-Werkstätten GmbH (an employment and rehabilitation centre in Hamburg, Germany). The daily discipline of letter-writing has proven an essential, perhaps vital, part of his daily routine; the process allows him not only to express himself but to create a framework for his own existence, framed by the four corners of the page and written on undulating lines of ink.
The photographs in this post, graciously shared by Galerie der Villa, show Stoffers writing his largest letter to date, an impossibly long drawing that is 11½ feet tall. Writing a letter to one’s mother can be, of course, an arduous and complex task. Stoffer’s letter is lengthy and charged, twisting and turning across the lined page with rhythm and feeling. At times, it is illegible but some words emerge. It is exactly the kind of letter I would write to my own mother. Long, honest, complex, but also occasionally illegible.
—Phillip March Jones
The untitled drawing featured in this post is currently on view at Christian Berst Art Brut as part of the exhibition: Do the Write Thing: Read Between the Lines, on view through December 21.
Exhibition link: http://www.christianberst.com/en/exhibition/do-the-write-thing.html
Harald Stoffers, Brief 338, 2014, Waterproof felt pen on paper,137.5 x 59.5 inches.
Photographs: Fred Dott. Courtesy of Galerie der Villa and Christian Berst Art Brut.