Exhibition | Peter Tollens | GrauOrangeRotWeiss + Schwarz | Contemporary Art at Thomas Rehbein Galerie | Köln (Cologne) | Art Week

Peter Tollens | GrauOrangeRotWeiss + Schwarz

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Date: 
Saturday, 12 January 2019 to Saturday, 16 February 2019
Opening: 
Friday, 11 January 2019 - 6:00pm

Painting (i.e. spreading paint on a surface) that does not represent anything (i.e. that refers toneither a figural nor an abstract reality), can seek to attain immateriality as a coloured surface or,as is the case with Peter Tollens’ paintings, can develop as coloured materiality into a concretepresence in space. In his recent work Peter Tollens has intensified the corporeity that has beencharacterising his paintings more and more since the early 1980s. The crucial element – the surface of the paint – has acquired a crusty, earthbound heaviness but at the same time thelightness and fragility of dust, for the seemingly tough mass of paint looks extremely dry andmatt. The colour-relief emerges from layer upon layer of paint whose different characters finallyinteract on the fissured surface, hinting at how the painter handled the paint, how it was spreadover the surface. Tollens uses only oil and egg tempera pigments and mixes them himself; theirconsistency, due to various additives and subtle variations in the mixture, enhances theirmateriality. He applies his paint to prepared rectangular wood or canvas carriers, always with abrush. The width of the brush and the length of the brushstroke depend on format and paint; theyalso tell us how close to his surface the painter worked. The painting is a visual record of how itwas made, and time plays a part in the viewing of it. Not until he has decided on his principalcolour does Tollens differentiate the chromaticism during the painting process, constantly reactingto feedback from what he has already done. He may react by completely covering the first layerof paint, sometimes by inverting the colour-witness the edges of colour on formats filled in allover with painstaking thoroughness. While the underlying layers are importantly involved informing the relief, their effect on the surface colour varies considerably. Those fragments whichdo remain visible correspond with minute scraps of colour which Tollens works into the top layerof paint at the same time as his principal colour. The tiny reserve areas of colour stand out on that final, layer as patches of graduated mattness, occasionally glinting with restrainedhighlights. Given the minimal differences in a densely packed gamut of colour, this produces anincredible sense of depth that is particularly effective in different lighting, i.e. when lit from thefront or the side. Tollens eschews decorative effects such as maximum contrast; he wishes toprevent the colour from monopolizing the beholder’s attention. The painting process is not apreconceived development towards the topmost layer; together, the layers are meant to produce acontinuum which the beholder can extend in the act of seeing. The mutual dependency of paint,brushwidth, length of brushstroke and picture format is just as decisive for this act of perceptionas the format’s relationship to the beholder is. The sparse insertions of colour expand the originalimpression of a principal colour into a perception of a chromatic tension which is ambiguous, butwhich because of its remarkable individuality generates concrete, material associations which onlyachieve the utmost precision in one situation for each beholder. The first experience is that different lighting causes a fundamental change of chromaticism. Due to the surface’s pronouncedrelief character and its shifting shadows, this first experience may be forgotten. The pictureregains its non-referential autonomy and perhaps, in another situation, give the same beholder adifferent experience. In this act of memory the corporeity of the works attains a realism surpassing the possibilities of representational painting.
Contrary to any kind of conceptualism, Peter Tollens adopts an almost romantic position in hisintuitive handling of paint, thereby rendering plausible the ostensible contradictions in the act ofpainting – such as reverting to a colour from one of the underlying layers of paint. Tollens is notprimarily concerned with an ontological approach to painting, colour and its perception, whichmight merely be prompted by an object resulting from a dogmatically employed artist concept.The material presence of his works shows painting to be more a process of craftsmanship,producing an object which faces us as something unmistakable, personal. This does not mean that Tollens’ art should be seen as „radical“ – if there were any justification whatsoever for such alabel -, since it frankly does not seek to formulate as its goal any other artistic concept in thetradition of the modern. The painting acquires a pre-modern, almost semantic function in the actof seeing. It may be that this tradition in painting as revealed by Tollens, starting with theselection and handling of his materials, that this aura of a work of art’s originality, is ananachronism inasmuch as the possible effect of these works evokes structures of memory in thebeholder which are as earthbound as the works themselves. As objects of haptic experience theyrepresent a reality which, in the virtual era, is in increasing danger of becoming lost to oursensory faculties. Our perception is still influenced by the awareness of the loss of this reality andof possible memories aroused by the works. But what if these works, by virtue of their materialpresence, were able not only to recall fundamental material experiences but could also enablereality to be experienced in them? That is exactly the question from which the necessity arises fora fundamental realisation, in every generation, of painting’s sensory and hence meaningfulpotential. „New“, in view of this necessity, is not an adequate criterion; awareness of means, theirdescribed interaction and contemporary relevance would be better. (Stefan Kraus, 1995)

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Aachener Str. 5

50674 Köln

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