Irma Blank was born in Northern Germany and moved to Italy in her early twenties. Her oeuvre unfolds via a series of central lines like a solitary journey through the complex relationship between writing and image. She develops her own drawing systems that attempt to transcend the limitations of a verbal language and to communicate visually. Instead of using words to express meaning, the artist explores ways in which marks can portray existence and the passing of time in a universal manner. Her practice, which is fully immersed in strict precision – almost like a meditative ritual – has developed into an embodied, solely sensory cycle.
Blank defined her visual language in Eigenschriften, an early series of pastel-coloured drawings on paper that she made shortly after her arrival in Sicily. The confrontation with an unfamiliar language and culture elicited a sense of isolation. By turning her gaze inwards, she sought out new, individual forms of self-expression. In 1973, she went to Milan and encountered concrete poetry, a style that would have a profound influence on her. The following cycle of works, entitled Trascrizioni (Transcripts), comprised typographic layouts drawn in black ink of texts that she found interesting. In Radical Writings (1996) she links the rhythmic duration of her breathing to the linear gesture of writing as a repetitive act.
After an exploration of digital possibilities, she returned to the ritual form of handwriting with the series Avant-testo. The work Global Writings is built up of varying combinations of identical letter sequences. In 2017, she started on a new collection entitled Gehen, Second Life, which she made with her left hand after the right-hand side of her body was paralysed, and in which her work and life become tightly intertwined
Blank has exhibited internationally and participated in Venice Biennale in 1978 and 2017. In 2019-2021 a retrospective exhibition of her work was organised by MAMCO, Genève; CCA – Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv and the Bauhaus Foundation, Tel Aviv; CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux; Bombas Gens Centre d’art, Valencia and Museo Villa Dei Cedri, Bellinzona.