The portrait of an imaginatory artwork

pavement with flower leafs, berlin

pavement with flower leafs, berlin

To portrait an artwork, especially one that does not (yet) exist, at least as far as the author knows, has to begin before the artwork is actually executed. The first line to draw is the conception of an artwork. All starts probably with an interest, an idea, a research. Out of this engagement an invariable amount of possible executions of this engagement into a material work of art is possible and most likely thought about by the author. Most possibilities are never executed, although they may be just as fitting to approach the issue at hand. This stage of selection one of numerous ways is one of the most important steps in a creative process and is done partly conscious, partly unconscious and is manipulated by all kinds of associations and perceptions: the line of work the artist is pursuing, films he watched, books he read recently, personal life issues, travels, preoccupations and so on. Even if you just start to put colours on a canvas, leaving behind every concept and will of composition, you will not be free of your subconscious, your training (if you happen to be a painter) and your emotions at the time you start to paint, which can literally change in the process and thus turn the work midway around.

Our imaginary artist is in his to be executed imaginary artwork dealing with his personal perception of continued travelling and his experience of nomadism in his day to day life. His approach to articulate this experience is to take photos of sidewalks with his smartphone in the cities he is staying in for a limited time, may it be for a residency program, a short holiday or an exhibition opening. Sure enough there are numerous other possiblities of documenting this experience, from the frottage of sidewalks, walls etc., to taking photos out of the rooms he spents the night in to collecting residues of the travels to name just a few. To trigger a more subtle and reflected way of articulating as well the alienation as the excitement of a life on the road, he decides to use the smartphone pictures as a basis to work with. As our young friend is mainly a painter, he now looks for ways to change the medium from photography to painting, experimenting with different methods, ending up with uisng low quality jpgs created from the original smartphone files to project on the canvas. These jpegs merely show the slight changes in the grey and the structures, sometimes added to by the angle of the sun, shadows and different kinds of pavement. Next to the applying concept of documenting and the main theme to address travelling\alienation\nomadism in a subjective, yet accessible way, our artist has also established a functional transformatory process that lessens the imediateness and recognizability of a photography into the more vague medium of painting, also allowing a transition from concrete (photography) to abstraction (structural abstract paintings in mostly grey shades). After a series of six tableaus derived from the original pavewalk photos is established, the work has entered the material sphere in its completeness, as he does decide not to do more of them.

Although the artwork as an ensemble of six abstract paintings does exist now in its materiality, it remains in obscurity as it is not shown publicly. You can very well discuss where an artwork begins to exist – in its materiality, in its accessability to the public or even in a further step, that it is noticed, the importance of letting the work be seen, reflected upon and being discussed in a form of public accessibility constitutes the most important step in the life of any artwork (not just this imaginatory one) after its conception. In the past we know a lot of examples of artworks being created, shown to the public and being neglected by the contemporary audience for the most part, but afterwards (sadly enough mostly after the death of the artist) gaining art historical notority. One good example may be Van Gogh, but there are many others to be found in what is called respectively avantgarde. On the other hand, a lot of very succesfull artists in their time have been shaded into obscurity over time. How this will apply to contemporary art as we have it nowadays remains to be seen, but the sheer amount of works, artists, museums and institutions of all kind and their collecting of contemporaries does make the late discovery of an artist less possible and probable, although cases like that do appear from time to time. Be that as it might, it is time for our imaginatory artwork to grow up and be presented to the public.

The artist shows his series of six paintings for the first time in a commercial gallery. The show is called „Pavement“, a fitting title that also annotates popculture through the pop group of the same name, although the artworks and the group have nothing in common as such. During the show people see the paintings and each spectator (if willingly or not) enters into a dialogue situation with the work being confronted by it. Although some might experience the concept intended by the author, some will be most probably not connecting at all with the works and others will find very different layers of meaning in them, that are inherent in the work but not intended by the author. For instance one might see in it a deconstruction of the concrete world of the city in which most of us live, someone else might see in them the contemporary reinterpretation of the Flaneur theme originating in the french literature of the early to mid 19th century, while others will stick with the subjective documentation angle or even with a merely compositional approach of abstraction in different (and not 50!) shades of grey. All of those reinterpretations done by the spectators are as „true“ and lying sleeping in these works as is the intended meaning given to them by their author.

The future of this imaginatory artwork will be defined by a series of probable events. Is there an article in a magazine, will there be a second exhibition of these works, will some of them enter into a bigger groupshow concerning urbanity or whatever in an institution, will the gallery take them to art fairs, will someone buy them and hidethem away for his own pleasure over the next twenty or so years, or are they incorporated into a collection of some sort. All these events will have a very significant impact on the artwork as well as will the further carreer of the author. The next step for an artwork, after being material and after having entered the world and having therefore gained its multiple layers of intention and reflections into the human mind would be the reevaluating in books, essays (as this one) and being made accessible to the public on a nearly permanent basis (in a museum, a collection or in an institution). The latter is the knighthood for a work, as it enters what you might call the „canon“ of contemporary art or art history.

 

Über philippkoch

author and curator, specializing in literature and writing on visual arts
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