The Filomena Soares Gallery is hosting an exhibition featuring one of the most noteworthy exponents of contemporary abstractionism-German artist Peter Zimmerman. The display, to be housed in Room One at the Gallery, contains a number of paintings and sculptures executed by Zimmerman in 2007 and 2008.
For a better understanding of these recent works, one has to go back at least two decades in the artist’s work to a time when Zimmerman was first experimenting with his favourite material, epoxy resin. It was at this point in time that he began to develop his own particular visual grammar.
The beginning of his artistic journey was punctuated by the landmark series of works Cardboard Boxes and the reproductions in his Book Cover Paintings ), where his artistic creations patently display a method of portraying images that overtly reject any visible “hand of the artist”, placing the spectator instead firmly within the realm of conceptuality. Yet, at the same time, these early works are also characterized by another feature that would later mark his future creative output: a deep-seated philosophical uncertainty regarding the distinction between the nature of the object and its representation.
In his Book Covers - which include the covers of art books, encyclopaedias, travel guides – what particularly stands out are the Art Book Covers on abstract painters such as Mondrian, Malevich and Pollock, since they seem to have acted as sources of inspiration for Zimmerman, contributing in great measure to the ever-increasing abstraction of his art. Zimmerman’s eleven reproductions of different monographs on Jackson Pollock attest to the fascination the German artist held for the American abstract expressionist. Also particularly noteworthy is the exceptional artistic solution Zimmerman found for the difficult task of reproducing in epoxy the works of Pollock on the monograph covers. Curiously, in Pollock, the dripping, a process that is spontaneous, emotional and expressive, is rendered in a meticulous hand that acts as a true artistic counterpoint to the automatic nature of Action Painting. Paradoxically, this work in effect presents us with an abstract motif reproduced in a realistic manner.
The Art Book Covers dealing with the masters of international abstractionism form a significant part of Zimmermann’s artistic repertory and can be positioned in his transition to abstract painting which goes from patterned, geometrical compositions to works that display a disconcerting poetical lyricism.
Zimmermann broke the last ties that bound his work to visible reality and, with a range of computer-manipulated images, generated a number of compositions with a wide range of patterns. What stands out in these images is their vivid combination of primary and secondary colours, rendered with the rhythmic repetition of forms, which all together create a harmonious movement that often suggests industrial or mass production.
These paintings, displaying patterns that are uniformly and methodically placed without any particular hierarchy over the whole surface of the canvass, were to be followed by the Blob Paintings, works composed of fluidly organic forms.
The Blob Paintings, which Zimmermann increasingly produced after 2000, are marked by painstakingly fluid motion and act as an interesting counterpoint to the static forms of the artist’s more rhythmic compositions. The blob paintings include some of the most accomplished examples of his work and attest to the consummate skill with which he uses resin, which is skilfully poured over the surface of the canvass using stencils.
Amorphous, overlaid forms appear to meld together as they spread over the pictorial surface of the work and then recoil. Smaller, darker droplets juxtapose with darker, dimmer drops to form layers of colour that are imprisoned in hardened pools of epoxy. It is an epiphany of colour and transparency that produces luminous surfaces with a quasi-psychedelic colour palette.
The resin, in which pigments are dissolved beforehand, is spread over the white surface of the canvass, giving the viewer the impression that an interior light is shining through, intensifying the colours. At the same time, each colour exerts its own particular effect as it interplays with the background and contrasts with the surrounding colours. Time and again the hot colours seem to jut out toward the viewer, while the cold, sombre hues appear to shrink back. Sometimes the upper layers, which are closer to the surface, owing to the large swath they occupy, act almost as a background, while the lower layers appear to rise to the surface. The overall effect is a masterful interplay of translucencies and optical illusions. At times, the canvass even peeks through, taking part in the complex interplay of the composition.
The tactile sensations that Zimmermann’s work produces bear witness to the artist’s knowledge and skill in dealing with epoxy resin. Over the years, he has adapted the material to a number of artistic contexts and forms of expression. Here, for example, we should also mention the sculptures displayed at this show and other works he has presented at venues such as the Málaga Contemporary Art Centre, where he covered the floor of one of the rooms in resin, demonstrating once again the material’s virtually endless creative potential .
There is no doubt that the artist feels at home with his material. There is a shared ritual that takes place between the painter, the material and the act of painting itself. And though Zimmermann’s painterly position is painstakingly thought-out and intellectual, his technique and approach to the act of painting stand in opposition to the rigidity of pre-planned works and place him more in line with abstract expressionism.
Making use of various ready-made filters and other sundry tools for image processing , Zimmermann deconstructs representational images until they have been converted into abstract images, devoid in content and form of any figurative representation.
The artist takes outside visual material – images he finds on the Internet, references to today’s world or sometimes even photos of old artworks – and puts it through an exhaustive series of digital image-processing steps. The final computerized product is then transposed to the canvass where it takes on new properties: relief, enhanced brightness, transparency, opaqueness and where the original shapes have been metamorphosed beyond recognition.
However, it is important to bear in mind that, though the artist makes ample use of the vast potential offered up by of image.-processing programs, the computer for Zimmerman is merely a preliminary tool in an artistic process that results in a work executed by the artist’s own hand. His work is therefore a happy marriage between technology and manual skill, where the latter predominates and prevails because even though Peter Zimmermann is an expert at wielding new technology, his works are not considered media art.
The images Zimmermann uses as the springboard in his complex, peculiarly personal creative process, may not be meticulously selected, since the artist’s main concern is the abstraction that will be brought about by digital manipulation. In effect, these works are the shadows of a real pictorial body that once existed but one that has been morphed by filters. Lying under the paintings are latent images, echoes of a former reality and catalogues of colours that hint at a multiplicity of spaces and sensations while harbouring hidden intentions and realities.
Though fraught with visually arresting features, Zimmermann’s work is the result of his own painstakingly, particular brand of aesthetic research and his own personal intellectual and technological journey of experimentation. Zimmermann has delved into ways of tapping into and treating images that take the viewer on a mental journey that goes far beyond the borders of the canvas.
At first glance the elaborate, painstaking process behind Zimmermann’s captivating pools of colour may elude you. But there you have one of the most important premises of contemporary art: there’s much more to what you see than meets the eye.