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Irma Blank- The Artist Who Converted Texts Into Abstract Paintings, Dies At 88

Ved Prakash Bhardwaj


Each script is a type of picture and that is why it is also called a hieroglyph. If you look at the scripts of all languages, each letter has a certain form. This form is actually a pictograph of a sound created to understand that sound as a visual. Irma Blank was an artist who used hieroglyphs as a basis for a language-oriented painting. She called it an autobiography. She used to say that I write myself in my paintings. This German artist living in Italy said goodbye to the world on 14 April 2023. Irma Blank was born in 1934 in Germany. She moved to Italy in 1955 and got recognition very late in her art life, but once people understood her art, then her identity was established as a committed artist. Her death was announced by Gallery Mai 36 in Zurich and Gallery p420 in Bologna. Both these galleries represented her.

Artwork By Irma Blank

Many of Blank’s works appear to be a group of vague scribbles, but in most of the paintings she has given a systematic form to the written lines and turned them into textual commentary. That’s why her paintings look like abstract paintings. All of Blank’s work was about her own relationship with language, as a German woman living in Italy, where few people speak their mother tongue. That is why Blank’s art has been called autobiographical because it also contains the autobiography of a language. Blank said in an interview in 2017, “I think everything you write is autobiographical. All my works, whether big or small, express different aspects of my life.” But her talk does not end here. In her work, we can see that she repeats certain words and lines as if something is being said over and over again.

Artwork By Irma Blank

Blank specifically mentioned “Eigenschriften” for her early works which can be understood as self-writings. She initially worked in pastels on paper between 1968 and 1973, which were in the form of a diary. It was Blank’s visual diary in which she was writing to herself – these notes of sorts from where her real art began to take shape.

This was followed by a new series of her paintings between 1973-1979 called, “Transcriptions”. During this series, she did a different experiment. In this, articles, poems, etc. that were published in newspapers were reduced with black ink. Placing blank paper over the printed text, she would overwrite the printed text below using squiggles and hatching. While transliteration means converting spoken words into written text, Blank was doing a different experiment.

Artwork By Irma Blank

The presence of her work at the Frieze Masters Art Fair in 2013 attracted the attention of international critics. This was followed by the inclusion of her work in the 2017 Venice Biennale, which was a major achievement for her. Some critics called her an undiscovered genius because it took a long time for people to understand her work.

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