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Poet Lavinia Greenlaw: Why I love the artist Eva Hesse

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When Lavinia Greenlaw looks at the works of Eva Hesse, she is reminded of how a poem comes to her

I had known about Eva Hesse's work for years, but the moment I really paid attention was when I visited an exhibition of what she called "test pieces" in Edinburgh in 2009. Hesse, who was German-Jewish, emigrated with her family to New York in 1939 when she was three. She died from a brain tumour when she was just 34. "I would like the work to be non-work," she once wrote. "This means that it would find its way beyond my preconceptions."

The "test pieces" (also known as studioworks) are difficult to describe. They are small objects that initially appear to be offcuts, or abandoned starting points. They seem unrealised and unsustainable, not least because Hesse often used perishable materials such as latex, wax, string, cheesecloth and plaster, which she made luminously strange. This sense of incompleteness is amplified by the fact that many look as if they ought to contain something. They are almost envelopes, bottles, boxes or bowls things we usually discard on our way towards what matters.

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