Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Constructed Worlds

“It’s fine for the picture to talk to itself,
to keep rummaging through itself,
like in a washing machine.

Michael Bauer

In the German artist Michael Bauer’s paintings figuration and abstraction compete in portrait like configurations to produce incomplete narratives reminiscent of the memories of a road trip or the allure of a movie trailer.

For Art in America’s Becky Brown the road trip predominates. As she wrote in her 2014 review of Bauer’s New York exhibition “Instead of repeating a one-shot stunt to generate paintings in the model of mass production, he builds a complex visual language that follows the logic of a successful road trip: the right combination of planning and intuition. Each painting offers the freedom to chart one's own perceptual course, in which spontaneous detours and surprise encounters yield the best results.”

Whereas the artist prefers the analogy of the movie trailer. As he explained in a conversation with fellow artist Stefanie Popp “I’m also thinking here of film trailers, what happens in your head, developing an idea of the whole film when you only know fragments… You watch a trailer and you have a thousand new images in your head. ‘Piranha’, that one was extremely good. And ‘Jaws’. A trailer like that is initially just a claim. And thus a promise of something brilliant, something exciting. That’s like painting.

With an eye turned to his European traditions Bauer creates his own worlds peopled with an assortment of characters of his own invention.

About which he says “The nice thing about such collectives is this urge to invent. To generate all manner of absurd concepts. That comes quite close to the way I approach painting. All my works are claims, too. Painterly inventions… They’re portraits, of course. And they all end up in the archive. For a while my pictures also featured strictly symmetrical compositions. That also had an element of obsessive collecting and cataloging. The result was a family tree, a chronicle. And I can play around with making links, establishing hierarchies. It’s a very childish approach. Taken together, the pictures make up something like an army, or a system that’s constantly being extended. Or a large tea party coming together. In my head I use them like actors. Which is fun, as it fosters a healthy distance to the pictures if you use them as playing cards. Then I begin to see the pictures as posters or flyers. I’ve always liked that. It means I have my own banana republic.

Bauer’s current exhibition Butter Bebop (Transatlantic Creme Dreams) is on show at London’s Alison Jacques Gallery until the 7th of October.

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