by Shraddha NairSep 09, 2021
In the world of art, it is commonly stated and practised, to let the work not speak for itself, but its success lies in its ability to reveal itself in-steps, gradually, yet, firmly. The classic view of art as a representation of pure high culture was thwarted with the rise of eclectic kitsch art that would catch the undivided attention of the viewers. Over several decades, the tug of war between these two has led the artists to pursue their aspirations aligning amongst the classic and the kitsch. Having said that, the lines are often smudged to disavow a hasten exercise to assign an aesthetic or an economic value to it. Successfully treading a similar terrain is the art practice of the Germany-based artist, Anselm Reyle. It is from the saturated use of fluorescent colours, materials such as Mylar foil or mirror, and found objects that Reyle tabs on the curiosity of the viewers.
To reconfigure the found objects or motifs in a new context of the large-scale abstract paintings and installations involves a task to endow a new meaning to it. Brimming with the essence of abstract art, Reyle’s works seem to be persistently remaking and exploring the definition of paintings. Furthering upon this, in an interview with STIR, Reyle says, “Originally I started to do gestural painting, but at the same time I was always interested in experimenting with different materials. For me, in both cases, coincidence is playing an important role as well as the requirement to work with the unexpected. After my work had become increasingly conceptual and technically perfect in the past years, I recently started to open up my artistic practice again to a more free and gestural approach. In the end, I guess it’s these two poles that are determining my work.”
The abstract paintings by Reyle with the blocks of multiple shapes filled with bright hues directly underline the influence of abstractionist painters such as Kenneth Noland (American) and Otto Freundlich (German). “What fascinates me in abstract art,” Reyle affirms, “is the inscrutable, the mystery. It is something that cannot be explained with logic and words can hardly begin to describe what is perceived.” Besides Freundlich and Noland, Reyle has been inspired by the artists during specific periods of his artistic journey including, “Victor Vasarely, Lucio Fontana as well as artists like Barnett Newman and his colour field paintings”. Also touted as German Jeff Koons, Reyle adds, “I took influences from non-abstract artists and styles for example from pop art all the way to Jeff Koons.”
Reyle’s foil pictures have given him a distinct identity in the world of his profession. Soon after completing his studies in Karlsruhe, South Germany, the artist moved to Berlin. Unlike the unidimensionality of the then Baden-Württemberg, Berlin of the early 1990s was vibrant with cosmopolitanism, which invariably had a significant bearing on the works of the artist. It was during his stay in Berlin that he witnessed a store window having foil as a tool of embellishment. If the cost-effective foil, unarguably, does not go unnoticed, it is unlikely to find a space in the white-cube. Reyle made an exception. When the everyday object of utility catapulted to be an effective source of material in the hands of the artist, it was bound to bring in conflicting viewpoints. Reyle in detail expounds upon his appeal to the material foil, “I have been doing foil paintings for almost 20 years now and I am still constantly working on further developing them. When I see an older foil painting sometimes, I am a bit shocked regarding the rawness of the craftsmanship and the material, although it has its very own quality. When I first discovered the foil as decoration in a store window, I bought regular foil and started to drape it on painted canvases. Later on, I had the foil specially produced and so I was able to exactly define the alloying, materiality and strength of the material. The foil paintings were attracting a lot of attention, but I also received a lot of criticism for them. The reason was that I incorporated a material that is made and used for decorative means in our consumer society into abstract art. These works consist of the two elements that especially for the serious artist appear in negative terms: effect and surface. It took me a little while to understand that.”
Talking about his intentions to visually communicate meaning to his audience with his works, Reyle states, “Actually I do not really think about that. First of all, I want to create works that are interesting for me and motivate me to go and work in the studio. I always try to reach that point of the inexplicable, which most of the time is a rather long process. In the end, I can just hope that the work has the same effect on the viewer as it has on me.” Often the verdict of the art market and the art critic on Reyle’s art practice swings between the points of fine economic investment and sorted of miscellaneous kitsch. Indeed, to please people of both the sections remains impalpable. But, as Reyle mentioned about the “inexplicable”, it is the explicit meanings of the works that continue to allure his audience.