„Schein ist die Kunst am Ende dadurch, dass sie der Suggestion von Sinn inmitten des Sinnlosen nicht zu entrinnen vermag.“*
*Theodor W. Adorno
“Die Arbeit an der Philosophie ist - wie vielfach die Arbeit in der Architektur eigentlich mehr die Arbeit an Einem selbst. An der eignen Auffassung. Daran, wie man die Dinge sieht. (Und was man von ihnen verlangt).”*
The reason for my own work resembles a blind spot. Maybe because talking about one's own doing is something completely different than doing it. When I go to the studio, I (almost) always know what to do. Of course, conditions have to be met: For example, I have to go to the studio regularly. My head must also be free of everyday questions. But actually there is always something waiting there that needs to be done: Graphite must be applied, removed again, details must be reworked, others added or erased. Decisions have to be made. The opposite is also true: decisions have to be reversed when a job turns out to be short-lived. Doubt is my constant companion. That much I can say.
It is easier for me to talk about what I don't want: Starting from a content, from a prefabricated concept. My radical self-limitation to paper and graphite as a medium of expression can perhaps be seen as an answer to this empty space in content. The material asks, I try to answer. I snuggle up to the material, try to let it speak in its diversity. This may sound a little like the discourse of painting in the fifties and sixties. But I actually believe that there are timeless values in art. And the realization that a work of art is made of material and that the artist makes this material speak in a peculiar way is such a timeless value. (Of course, it is also conceivable that a time will come when such a conception of art or art in general will follow quite different directives. Perhaps there will even be a time when there will be no art at all).
Accompanying my work in the studio, I read, write, as I do now (sometimes I do nothing at all). I do this to get clarity but also out of curiosity about what has made other artists take the trouble to work on themselves. Because actually artistic work is also a work on oneself and a confrontation with the present in which one lives.
So do I experience the present as gray? On the contrary: reality exceeds all expectations: It is the most beautiful and the most terrible thing I can imagine. For me it makes no sense to compete with reality. This also applies to the horrors and disasters of life. These things cannot be depicted in art, and such attempts succeed only very rarely. Art confronts reality. It does not reproduce, but builds up a distance.
I would describe myself as a political person, although I do not see my work as a political contribution to the present. Or maybe it is, but then in a subtle way (just as Bartleby made a critical contribution to life on Wall Street). My work is like a house that gives me security and meaning. It's something I can rely on, and that seems to me to be a high value in a time marked by a loss of meaning. I am also a religious person, without being able to say exactly why. Perhaps the search for meaning in my work is the deepest expression of this belief.
There is a kind of background noise that accompanies my work. This background noise is the present, the hectic life and events in the world, which reach me through newspaper reports and non-fiction, and do not leave me untouched. This also concerns the events that have already happened and those that we can imagine could happen at some point. But I do not want to use my work to comment on these (impersonal) events. Rather my work gives me the opportunity to take a step back. Maybe this work is also a form of meditation, but a meditation without escapism. An attempt not to lose myself and a strategy to evade the common postulates of usefulness.
Sometimes there are also topics. These themes wrap my work in a cloud, create an atmosphere: I have just dealt intensively with Shostakovich. Granted; I don't know much about music. I have no basic musical education and I also like punk. But what is decisive is that I think of my grandmother when I listen to Shostakovich. She came from Dnipropetrovsk. The stories of her hometown and life under Stalin fascinated me as a child and awakened my interest in history, including the history of the country I live in, the history of Germany, to which my grandmother was evacuated as an Eastern worker (Ostarbeiter) in 1944 and where she stayed until the end of her life. It was always important for me to understand where I come from and where I live. History lives on in us.
In a certain way my works are also a reflection of my thoughts, but in a materialized form. A thinking in dialogue with paper, with graphite, with my hands. In a certain way my work is a good conversational partner, a patient listener but also an instance that holds a mirror up to me. For example, my works show me very clearly when I make a mistake.
Then there are more things I don't want to do: For example, painting a colorful canvas (although I draw). I often ask myself whether it is advisable to produce pictures at all. (although I have to admit that I always come across good contemporary painting. Not to mention the painting of modernism and earlier times). What does the reader* think? How do you experience the flood of images of the present? And how do you deal with it?
So why create a new picture? That is the decisive question. Maybe pictures should be there to critically accompany the present? Or should pictures be there to please us, to convey positive feelings? Should they challenge our perception? Perhaps it is even about transcendence: Should they enable us to see the world in a new way? Should they serve to express our most secret wishes and convictions? Or is a picture in the end just a picture and nothing more? And of course, it is not only about pictures, but about all possible forms or non-forms of modern art.
*quoted after Ludwig Wittgenstein. Mixed remarks. A selection from the estate. Edited by Georg Henrik von Wright with collaboration by Heikki Nyman. New edition of the text by Alois Pichler. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1994, p. 52.
„Diese Ordnung ist nicht so fest, wie sie sich gibt; kein Ding, kein Ich, keine Form, kein Grundsatz sind sicher, alles ist in einer unsichtbaren, aber niemals ruhenden Wandlung begriffen, im Unfesten liegt mehr von der Zukunft, als im Festen, und die Gegenwart ist nichts als eine Hypothese, über die man noch nicht hinausgekommen ist.“*
* Robert Musil's "The Man Without Qualities".
Konstruktion und Mimesis*
Ein Kennzeichen der zeitgenössischen Kunst ist ihr Hang, aus dem Umgang mit einem besonderen Material, eigene Regeln abzuleiten und aus der daraus resultierenden Logik eigene Maßstäbe zu etablieren. Adorno spricht in diesem Zusammenhang von der Konstruktion, also davon, wie das Kunstwerk gemacht ist.
Dem Material, und wie damit gearbeitet wird, kommt bei der Genese des Kunstwerks eine besondere Bedeutung zu. Es ist nicht nur bloßes Material, sondern auch definiert durch die Art und Weise, wie es bisher in der Kunst oder Kulturgeschichte im allgemeinen verwendet worden ist. Denn darin drückt sich eine historische Relation oder ein weltanschauliches, herrschaftliches Konzept aus. Beispielsweise unterliegt der Tonstoff der Musik einer historischen Entwicklung, die grob in verschiedene Epochen unterteilt werden kann, die wiederum von unterschiedlichen weltanschaulichen Momenten gekennzeichnet sind. Renaissance, Barock, Aufklärung benutzen das gleiche Tonmaterial auf je andere Art und Weise. Auch in der Moderne ändert sich dieses Verhältnis des Künstlers zum Tonstoff oder künstlerischem Material
Der Begriff der Konstruktion trägt diesem Sachverhalt Rechnung. Entscheidend für Adorno ist, dass die Konstruktion nur gelingen kann, wenn sie sich den zugrundeliegenden sinnlichen Impulsen sowohl des Subjekts wie auch des Materials mimetisch anschmiegt. Dieser Prozess des Anschmiegens ist definiert durch eine „Verabschiedung des herrschaftlichen Gestus gegenüber dem Material“*, wie es in früheren Epochen vorherrschend gewesen ist, und eine „konsequente Hinwendung zu dessen Eigentendenzen“*.
Die Suspension des herrschaftlichen Gestus wird nach Adorno zu einem der Markenzeichen der Moderne. Anstelle von Beherrschung tritt Mimesis. Kunst bringt damit die Hoffnung einer von instrumenteller Logik befreiten Gesellschaft und Natur zum Ausdruck.
* Wolfgang Welsch, Adornos Ästhetik: eine implizite Ästhetik des Erhabenen, III Adorno, Lyotard und Ästhetik heute, 2. Ästhetik heute, Seite 208. “ Das Erhabene : zwischen Grenzerfahrung und Grössenwahn”, hrsg. von Christine Pries, Weinheim: VCH, Acta Humanoiora, 1989.
Drawing as Blueprint
In his essay "Painting, or Signs and Marks"* from 1917, Walter Benjamin wrote about the relationship between line and background within drawing practice: "The graphic line marks out the area and so defines it by attaching itself to it as its background, so that a drawing that completely covered its background would cease to be a drawing ... "
Benjamin wanted to establish a criterion to distinguish drawing from painting. The starting point in his consideration was the background on which painting and drawing were carried out. While painting uses the background to cover it with color and thus make it invisible, the visibility of the background would be the prerequisite for the play of the line, a carrier of consciousness, white paper, as John Locke aptly put it: "Let us then suppose the Mind to be, as we say, white Paper, void of all Characters, without any Ideas; How comes it to be furnished?"**
A century has passed since then, and drawing, like art in general, has expanded steadily. Drawing is an elementary artistic field of activity that is executed in a variety of ways in artistic practice. If I had to emphasize one of its most outstanding features, it would be its blueprint character:
In my work I concentrate on the materiality of graphite as an elementary and archaic material and medium of expression. In several layers, I apply graphite dust made of clay and carbon to the paper by hand and broom. This creates monochrome surfaces with increasing density and blackness. The impression of these areas changes depending on the light, installation and perspective of the viewer.
My drawings are often created over long periods in which material is applied and removed. This dialectic of addition and subtraction of material gives my drawings their specific form. Similar to a photographic long time exposure, traces of the working process are created.
Historically, it was a technique for visualizing ideas that were then translated into painting, sculpture or architecture: It served the high arts as a sketch. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that drawing was gradually able to distinguish itself as an independent medium. However, its true essence is and remains its conceptional character. The drawing mediates between our imagination and reality. It forms a hinge between mental processes and factual circumstances. Its stage is its white background, which the art historian Norman Bryson describes as "Perceptually present conceptually absent".***
Hardly any other medium provokes this direct short circuit between thinking and doing, virtuality and materiality. In drawing, the white surface of paper becomes a virtual stage for our imagination as well as for our unconscious.
* Painting, or Signs and Marks , Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, 1: 1913–1926, Walter Benjamin, Edited by Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, Belknap Press, 2004
** An Essay concerning Human Understanding, John Locke. Hg. Peter H. Nidditch. Clarendon, Oxford 1975
*** A Walk for a Walk´s Sake, Norman Bryson, in “The Stage of Drawing: Gestures and Act”, (London and New York: Tate Publishing and The Drawing Center, 2003), 151
“It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. Much later, when he was able to think about the things that happened to him, he would conclude that nothing was real except chance. But that was much later. In the beginning, there was simply the event and its consequences. Whether it might have turned out differently, or whether it was all predetermined with the first word that came from the stranger´s mouth, is not the question. The question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something is not for the story to tell.”*
*”City of Glass”, Paul Auster: Sun & Moon Press, Los Angeles, 1985.