Exhibition text

Micromégas, a young man about 40 km tall, travels on solar rays and comets from Sirius to Saturn and from there, accompanied by a Saturnian, to Earth. This is how Voltaire "reports" it in his eponymous story of 1752. The different dimensions of size in this story force the reader to constantly change perspective: as a child Micromégas dissects insects twenty times the size of a human being under the microscope, the Saturnian is only a tripping lapdog in relation to Micromégas, the tiny human beings only become visible when enlarged by diamonds weighing centners in Micromégas' necklace. In the narrative, these changes of perspective repeatedly lead to a relativization of one's own limited ideas.

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The alternation between the very small and the very large has a parallel in abstract art since Kandinsky and Klee. The latest scientific discoveries such as the theory of relativity or quantum theory, the ever-increasing range of telescopes and the ever finer adjustment of microscopes have opened up new worlds of images and, in relation to them, have caused the realm of what man perceives as reality to shrink extremely.

The imitation of nature in the naturalistic picture, is no longer realistic against this background. Art now takes place on the level of atoms and cells on the one hand, and between planets and cosmic nebulae on the other. But not that art now imitates nature in its extreme dimensions. It has the claim on the one hand to reproduce the order that prevails in the large as well as in the small, on the other hand the transformations that are going on there. This can be seen in geometric abstraction in Lazlo Moholy Nagy or De Stijl, as well as in abstract biomorphic forms in Kandinsky, Klee, Hans Arp or Fritz Winter. According to Klee, art does not reproduce the visible, but makes visible, even if this is partly more connected with speculation and esotericism than with natural science.

Informel, the dominant form of abstraction in Europe in the 1950s, goes one step further. It no longer depicts nature in its order and transformations, but equates the artistic process with natural processes. Informal painting no longer represents nature, but is itself an expression of nature. It no longer represents reality, it is itself real, as the movement of the artist in the act of painting and as modeled color matter. In the process, surfaces emerge that make a natural impression: proliferating fabrics, plant-like thickets that can become calligraphy-like signs, earthy, crusty surfaces, cloud-like formations of cosmic proportions.

The process that results in Voltaire from the change of perspective in the exchange between the protagonists has its parallel in informal painting in the exchange between painter and paint. The painter begins as if by chance, letting paint run over the canvas or applying it with palette knife strokes. The reaction of the material determines the further action of the artist. The interaction between the painter, the material, and the emerging image thus gives rise to the work of art. Informel thus represents the high point in the development of painting towards autonomy: The painting no longer serves the representation, but the reflection of their own conditions: the painting act and the picture material.

The back and forth between painter and color is repeated between viewer and image. The abstract paintings, which never become concrete, can also be seen as proto-states, forms in their manifold possibilities before their definitive formulation. In the non-representational, the viewer must make his own way through the picture and is not, as in classical painting, prescribed forms, relationships, perspectives, and lines of sight. In Schultze's work in particular, as in Surrealism, the aim is to bring the subconscious to light in this way.

The exchange between artist and picture, just as that between picture and viewer, continues between the viewers in the exchange about their different views of the picture, which never comes to an end, just as the protagonists in Voltaire never come to a final conclusion about the spirit the soul and the essence of things. The images of the Informel thus also reflect the spirit of the times. The emphasis on the individual, his self-determination and freedom, leads to different perspectives, which in interaction provide a model for democracy. Especially in Germany, this is directed against the paternalism of the Nazis, which had been overcome shortly before, and communism in East Germany. As an expression of freedom in this sense, Informel was then also politically instrumentalized but not prescribed, as was Socialist Realism.

In the development of painting towards autonomy, Informel as a climax is at the same time the end point. The performative and material conditions of painting, the act of painting in Goetz, Sonderborg, Thieler, etc., and the color and painting surface in Thieler, Schuhmacher, and Schultze, etc., subsequently become independent. The process of autonomy continues in the exploration of action and material in performances and happenings and in Arte Povera, Landart or Nouveau Réalisme, in which the real material and nature itself are worked on, arranged and exhibited. A step in this direction is also represented by Bernard Schultze's Migofs, which result from the outgrowth of color and the picture surface from the second dimension and manifest themselves first in reliefs and finally in color sculptures that stand freely in space.

The exhibition shows mainly our large-format works: Fritz Winter, who analogizes microcosm and macrocosm in the form of cells and planets; the informalists especially Schultze with his early painting "Vitalité", his reliefs and his late work suggesting vast mountainous, celestial or cosmic spaces and evoking fantastic beings that could represent giants the Micromégas and the Saturnian; Thieler with a putty painting and cosmic formations; Bott, who creates from a bird's-eye view meshes of urban formations and these surrounding landscapes and cosmic ray formations, the Swiss abstract Theo Eble, who approaches a geometric abstraction through a mesh resulting from the abstraction of branches and the sculptor Karl Hartung, who, starting from human forms, comes to "vegetative" and "organic" forms, among others, in the almost two meter tall "Urgeäst".

Kai Schupke


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