Raimund Girke 'Arbeiten von 1960 bis 2002'

Raimund Girke 'Arbeiten von 1960 bis 2002'

Thursday, October 28, 2010Saturday, January 29, 2011


Berlin, Germany

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What Belongs to Us

Raimund Girke’s art on the occasion of Galerie Fahnemann’s exhibition to mark the painter’s 80th birthday on 28th November 2010.

Adam Seide, who later became the painter’s friend as well as his original gallerist, was one of the first to discover Raimund Girke’s art – and he recognised something, even in the early pictures, which remained a feature of Girke’s painting until his death: the transmission of a thought, a concept of “a wide expanse of space that can make us believe it belongs to us”.

Initially, Seide’s observation related to paintings like “Colours of the Earth”, which Girke produced from around the mid 1950s, still influenced by the compositions of his teacher Georg Meistermann and the predominant stylistic forms on the scene at the time: Tachism and art informel. The impression of an expanse of space was heightened even more for the viewer when Girke reduced the colour tones of his paintings more and more around 1960 – in favour of the bright shades of white that seemed to capture all other values within themselves from then on, defining the picture surfaces completely. “White”, the painter noted at the time, “is limitless, dimensional space.” He developed this notion programmatically in a different context in 1964: “In my white pictures I am not aiming to fix the picture space, but to lead the image into a state that allows unlimited spatial motion far beyond the movement inside the picture area.”

His dream was unlimited motion, white waves which – starting out from two-dimensional space – make three-dimensional space tangible and also fill it. In order to fulfil his dream, Girke the painter restricted himself and his means, reducing what was actually available in the colour repertoire, instructing himself to use white. That was the radical nature of his work. However, his triumph was just how much he could show, nonetheless: delicately placed, usually horizontally arranged structures, a kind of ribbing, which generates modulations of white; shades of grey developing from the basic colour, pressing into a bluish tone; quiet processes which arise and fade, captivating the viewer for one important moment.

It is as if all this white energy is engaged in self-study. The horizontal divisions help; they appear disturbing and indeed disturb deliberately because the intervention quietly interrupting the monotony repeatedly reveals something new, like an arresting interjection. To that date, no one had ever seen anything of the kind: white upon white, always leading back to itself. It was as though everything should and could begin all over again with these pictures; painting, thought, love, life – simply everything.

And so a process then actually began in Girke’s oeuvre, during which the picture areas changed, scarcely noticeably at the beginning, and then very decisively in the eighties. Gradually, he abandoned monochrome work and white encountered its opposite, black; sometimes flickering zones evolved in the pencil drawings, where there is interplay of contrasts, confusing the eye.

Consequently, the brush strokes came into their own with increasing dynamism and force. In the works of the nineties, they push visibly beyond the boundaries of the picture surfaces. It is quite obvious that in this process the painter was able to develop something which he called his “signature”. This is what holds and realises the artist’s emotionality and spontaneous reactions to the world in the individual painting. In conversation, Girke once described the process in the following way: he said that only when he felt that he had entered a painting with his signature, that is, only when it contained and evidenced such a trace of his being, was he able to accredit it his own.

The late paintings by Raimund Girke, who died eight years ago and would have been eighty this year, display an astonishing vitality and dramatic quality. More agitated than the white paintings of the early years – but very close to them, nevertheless. The urgency and magic of his early oeuvre can still be found here, with different forms of expression; in the rhythmic quality of the movements and in the wide spaces that are opened up as if we were experiencing the sky and landscapes, suggesting that these expanses belong to us.

What I remember about Raimund Girke from the many occasions when I met him is his thoughtfulness. Like his painting, as a person he was always exploring the deeper motivation behind what he was doing and what he wanted. That defined his attitude. And that is why we miss him so much today: Girke the painter and the person.

Peter Iden

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What Belongs to Us

Raimund Girke’s art on the occasion of Galerie Fahnemann’s exhibition to mark the painter’s 80th birthday on 28th November 2010.

Adam Seide, who later became the painter’s friend as well as his original gallerist, was one of the first to discover Raimund Girke’s art – and he recognised something, even in the early pictures, which remained a feature of Girke’s painting until his death: the transmission of a thought, a concept of “a wide expanse of space that can make us believe it belongs to us”.

Initially, Seide’s observation related to paintings like “Colours of the Earth”, which Girke produced from around the mid 1950s, still influenced by the compositions of his teacher Georg Meistermann and the predominant stylistic forms on the scene at the time: Tachism and art informel. The impression of an expanse of space was heightened even more for the viewer when Girke reduced the colour tones of his paintings more and more around 1960 – in favour of the bright shades of white that seemed to capture all other values within themselves from then on, defining the picture surfaces completely. “White”, the painter noted at the time, “is limitless, dimensional space.” He developed this notion programmatically in a different context in 1964: “In my white pictures I am not aiming to fix the picture space, but to lead the image into a state that allows unlimited spatial motion far beyond the movement inside the picture area.”

His dream was unlimited motion, white waves which – starting out from two-dimensional space – make three-dimensional space tangible and also fill it. In order to fulfil his dream, Girke the painter restricted himself and his means, reducing what was actually available in the colour repertoire, instructing himself to use white. That was the radical nature of his work. However, his triumph was just how much he could show, nonetheless: delicately placed, usually horizontally arranged structures, a kind of ribbing, which generates modulations of white; shades of grey developing from the basic colour, pressing into a bluish tone; quiet processes which arise and fade, captivating the viewer for one important moment.

It is as if all this white energy is engaged in self-study. The horizontal divisions help; they appear disturbing and indeed disturb deliberately because the intervention quietly interrupting the monotony repeatedly reveals something new, like an arresting interjection. To that date, no one had ever seen anything of the kind: white upon white, always leading back to itself. It was as though everything should and could begin all over again with these pictures; painting, thought, love, life – simply everything.

And so a process then actually began in Girke’s oeuvre, during which the picture areas changed, scarcely noticeably at the beginning, and then very decisively in the eighties. Gradually, he abandoned monochrome work and white encountered its opposite, black; sometimes flickering zones evolved in the pencil drawings, where there is interplay of contrasts, confusing the eye.

Consequently, the brush strokes came into their own with increasing dynamism and force. In the works of the nineties, they push visibly beyond the boundaries of the picture surfaces. It is quite obvious that in this process the painter was able to develop something which he called his “signature”. This is what holds and realises the artist’s emotionality and spontaneous reactions to the world in the individual painting. In conversation, Girke once described the process in the following way: he said that only when he felt that he had entered a painting with his signature, that is, only when it contained and evidenced such a trace of his being, was he able to accredit it his own.

The late paintings by Raimund Girke, who died eight years ago and would have been eighty this year, display an astonishing vitality and dramatic quality. More agitated than the white paintings of the early years – but very close to them, nevertheless. The urgency and magic of his early oeuvre can still be found here, with different forms of expression; in the rhythmic quality of the movements and in the wide spaces that are opened up as if we were experiencing the sky and landscapes, suggesting that these expanses belong to us.

What I remember about Raimund Girke from the many occasions when I met him is his thoughtfulness. Like his painting, as a person he was always exploring the deeper motivation behind what he was doing and what he wanted. That defined his attitude. And that is why we miss him so much today: Girke the painter and the person.

Peter Iden