Hans Kotter
(Germany, b. 1966)

Hans Kotter currently lives and works in Berlin. His work has been exhibited widely throughout Europe and the United States. Highlights include participation in exhibitions at Villa Datris (L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France), Kinetica Museum (London), Museum of Contemporary Art (Zagreb, Croatia), and the Museum of Applied Arts Cologne (Gremany). His work in collections including the Targetti Light Art Collection (La Sfacciata, Italy), Museum Ritter (Waldenbuch, Germany), and Kinetica Museum (London). Kotter‘s theme is light.

Solo exhibition “Light- Colour- Space“ at MAKK- MUSEUM OF APPLIED ARTS COLOGNE, 2020

Interference, International Light Art Project , Tunis

Museum Ritter, Germany

Tunnel View “Down Under”, Plexiglas, Metal, Mirror, LED Light with Colour Changes, 2011 (collected by Museum Ritter)

Private collection

Private collection

Private collection

Hans Kotter is an expert when it comes to colours and light. His main interest during his study of painting lay with colour compositions, handling plane areas and structure, and colour and form. At the end of the 90s he began to concentrate more and more on the medium of photography. Devising his own experimental set-ups, he devoted himself to a study of light and its segmentation into colour spectra. The visualisation and aesthetic staging of light refraction, and colour compositions of great virtuosity have been part of Kotterʼs basis repertoire of works since then:“There is no other element with such a lasting impact on life on our planet as light. Light fascinates me in a huge variety of ways and I have investigated the medium of light, with its composition, physical contexts, colours, perception and cultural history for many years. The experiences and insights resulting from this investigation are later implemented in my works.”

 London Bridge Station, 2008

Hans Kotter’s work is an exquisite commentary on the way that light interacts with the environment. His creations oscillate between technical perfection, naturalness, artificiality and painterly appearance, creating works of art that cannot be comfortably categorized. His light-based sculptures show a pluriverse of optical possibilities that break through the boundaries of space and extend it on a material and immaterial basis. They reflect the mutability of light due to the steady change of colors as one flows into the next, as well as a strong interest on the part of engaging his audience. This is achieved primarily through the interactive quality of his work, where the appearance of each is customizable according to viewer preference.

Education

2014 Nominated for the International Light Award, Centre for International Light Art Unna, Germany
2007 – 13 Lecturer at State Academy of Art and Design Stuttgart, Germany
2011 Artist in Residence, Art Radionica Lazareti, Dubrovnik, Croatia
2004 Bavarian Culture Award (E-ON), Germany
2001 – 03 MediaDesign Akademie Munich, Germany
1993 – 94 Art Students League, New York, studied with  Bruce Dorfman und William Scharf

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2022 Benjamin Eck Gallery ,Munich, Germany
2021 Pure, Gallery Lausberg, DÜSSELDORF
2021 Bluerider ART, Taipei, Taiwan, Beyond Light
2020 De Buck Gallery, New York, MAKK: Selections
2020 Light, Colour, Space, Museum of Applied Art, Cologne, Germany
2020 Futurs Antérieurs, La Chapelle, Chaumont – FR
2020 Regards d’Artistes, Château d’Aunoy, Champeaux – FR
2019 The Invisible Generation, Galerie Pascal Janssens / Keyes Art Mile, Johannesburg – SA Crackography, Galerie Pascal Janssens, Gand – BE
2018 Leuchtende Unendlichkeit / Luminous Infinity, Galerie Michaela Stock, Vienna, Austria
2018 More Light, Stern-Wywiol Galerie, Hamburg
2017 Point of View, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London, Great Britain
2016 Beyond light, Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie, Bielefeld, Germany
2015 Beyond light, Bildraum 07, Vienna, Austria
2014 Light Flow, Galerie Nery Marino, Paris, France
2014 Interruption, De Buck Gallery, New York City, NY, United States
2013 Superposition, Galerie Michaela Stock, Vienna, Austria
2013 Replaced – light flow, Kubus Export, Vienna, Austria
2013 Light flow, Osthaus Museum Hagen, Hagen, Germany
2012 Home sweet home, Galerie Klaus Benden, Cologne, Germany
2012 In the flux, Galerie Nery Marino, Paris, France
2011 Light flow, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London, Great Britain
2011 Light sensitive, De Buck Gallery, New York, United States
2011 Point of view, Priveekollektie, Heusden aan de Maas, Netherlands
2011 Deflection, Studio d’Arte Contemporanea Pino Casagrande, Rome, Italy
2010 Transformation, Priveekollektie, Heusden aan de Maas, Netherlands
2009 Replaced, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London, Great Britain
2009 Replaced, Galerie Michaela Stock, Vienna, Austria, (catalogue)
2008 The very best…, Gallery Benden & Klimczak, Cologne, Germany
2008 Balance, Shunt London, Great Britain, with Kinetica Museum London, Great Britain
2008 Colour rush, Gallery Bernd Lausberg, Toronto, Canada
2007 Ccolour rush, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art London, Great Britain, (catalogue)
2006 Luminale Frankfurt, Germany – Biannual light culture festival, with Patrick Heide
Contemporary Art London, Great Britain
2006 Licht Farbe Raum, Gallery Bernd Lausberg, Düsseldorf, Germany
2005 Chromatic impulse, Berlinische Galerie with Company Spectral, Germany
2004 Balance, Raum für Kunst/Art space, Art Association Ravensburg, Germany
2004 Illuminations, Aedes, Berlin, Germany
2004 Macro landscape, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London, Great Britain
2003 Lichtecht/lightfast, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, Frankfurt, Germany
2002 Light and colour, Bezirks Galerie Oberbayern/Gallery District Upper Bavaria, Munich, Germany
2002 Beauty in plastic, City Museum Neuötting, Germany
2001 Blue line, Factory Pasinger, Munich, Germany
1999 Stillleben, Gallery Benden & Klimczak, Cologne, Germany
1998 Spurensicherung, City Gallery in the House of Culture, Waldkraiburg, Germany
1997 Diary with sound-collage, Modern Theatre Munich, Germany
1997 Tagebuchnotizen, Gallery Hofmeisterhaus, Massing/Rottal, Germany
1994 Body language, Radio centre of Bratislava, Slovakia
1993 Stadtmuseum Waldkraiburg, Waldkraiburg, Germany
1993 Daydreams, Chuck Levitan Gallery, New York, United States

Selected Group Exhibitions

2021 NEW LUX新奢華, BLUERIDER ART, Shanghai, China 
2021 LAKEVILLE X Bluerider ART, Shanghai, China
2021 Light!, Kunststation Kleinsassen, Hofbieber, Germany
2020 Bluerider ART, Taipei, Taiwan, Switch ON
2020 JD Malat Gallery, London, Shifting space
2020 International Light Art Project, Cologne, Germany, Collumina II
2020 Valletta Contemporary, Malta, up to now
2020 Algorithm & Appropriation, Bluerider Ren-Ai Gallery, Taipei – TW
2020 Hemera, IBU Gallery, Paris – FR
2019 The Invisible Man, Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh – USA
2019 Linha Atemporal, Dan Galeria, São Paulo – BR
2019 ArtJaws, Zurcher Gallery, New York – USA
2019 Einsichten IV, Galerie Hengevoss-Dürkop, Hamburg – DE
2019 Cape Town Art Fair, Galerie Pascal Janssens, Cape Town – SA
2019 SP-Arte, Dan Galeria, São Paulo – BR
2019 Art Paris, Galerie Hengevoss-Dürkop, Paris – FR
2019 Wechselspiel, Pforzheim Galerie, Pforzheim – DE
2019 Mutatio, Garage Amelot, Paris – FR
2018 Infinity by Hans Kotter & Annett Zinsmeister, MPV Gallery, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
2018 Mehr Licht! Stern-Wywiol Galerie, Hamburg, Germany
2018 LIGHT BOX – 18 aktulle Positionen, Kunstmuseum Celle, Germany
2018 Interference. International Light Art Project, Medina, Tunis, Tunisia
2018 A to Z. Works from the Collection, LH2 contemporary, Berlin, Germany
2018 Geometrics + Reflections, LH2 contemporary, Berlin, Germany
2017 Licht und Bewegung, Messmer Kunsthalle, Riegel am Kaiserstuhl, Germany
2017 PAD London, with Adrian Sassoon Gallery, London, Great Britain
2017 Art Berlin, with Gallery Klaus Benden, Cologne, Germany
2017 Colored Light | Summer Select, De Buck Gallery, New York, United States
2017 Dallas Art Fair, With De Buck Gallery, New York, United States
2017 THE THIN VIEL – Kinetica Anniversary Show, Kinetica – Museum of Kinetic Art, London, Great Britain
2017 SIGNAL – Lichtkunst aus der Sammlung Robert Simon, Kunstmuseum Celle, Germany
2016 Luminous perception, Galerie Michaela Stock, Vienna, Austria
2016 SPATIAL MIRACLES Installations, Spatial Constructions, Light Sculptures, Museum
2016 Ritter, Sammlung Marli Hoppe – Ritter, Waldenbuch, Germany
2016 Sculpture en partage, Foundation Villa Datris, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France
2016 Deck Voyage, Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul, Turkey
2015 Lumiere & Lumieres, Galerie Nery Marino, Paris, France
2015 Lunapark 2000, Museum Ritter, Waldenbuch, Germany, Germany
2015 Appropriation, Galerie Michaela Stock, Vienna, Austria
2014 Contemporaries, New Budapest Gallery, Budapest, Hungary
2014 Couleur et transparence, Galerie Nery Marino, Paris, France
2014 Common Ground: Earth, Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul, Turkey
2014 Insanitus Festival 2014 – Insanitus Festival, Vilnius, Lithuania
2014 Geometriks, Galeria Impakto, Lima, Peru
2014 Kinetica Museum feature show – Kinetica, Museum of Kinetic Art, London, Great Britain
2014 Summer Selections, De Buck Gallery, New York City, New York, United States
2014 Scheinwerfer. Part 2, Light art in Germany in the 21. century, Kunstmuseum Celle, Germany
2014 Out of our Heads, ARTinTRA, London, Great Britain
2014 Cielo y Tierra, Galeria Impakto, Lima, Peru
2014 LUMINALE 2014, bestregARTs, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
2013 The Art of Light and Movement in the Marli Hoppe-Ritter Collection, Museum Ritter, Waldenbuch, Germany
2013 Scheinwerfer. Part 1, Light art in Germany in the 21. century, Kunstmuseum Celle, Germany
2013 Ceci n’est pas une lampe.., Gesellschaft für Kunst und Gestaltung, Bonn, Germany
2013 BRIGHT Ideas, Galerie Nery Marino, Paris, France
2013 Segment #3, Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul, Turkey
2013 Kotter luther mack, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London, Great Britain
2013 Lumino Citiy – Galeria Impakto, Lima,Peru
2012 Quadratic equations, Kepes Institute, Budapest, Hungary
2012 Mouvement et lumiere, Villa Datris, L´Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France
2012 Luminale frankfurt – shine shine shine, Bestregarts, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
2012 Effects in relation, Galerie Lisi Hämmerle, Bregenz, Austria
2011 New works 2011, Bestregarts, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
2011 Reflection reflected, NEXT DOOR galerie michaela stock, Vienna, Austria
2011 Stories for reflection, Galerie Michaela Stock, Vienna, Austria
2011 Segment #1, Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul, Turkey
2011 Summer group show, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London,Great Britain
2011 Summer selections, De Buck Gallery, New York City, New York, United States
2011 Lazareti – artist in residence, Art radionica Lazareti – Gallery Otok, Dubrovnik,Croatia
2011 Click clique, Galerie Lausberg, Toronto, Canada
2011 Sculptures plurielles, Villa Datris, L´Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France
2011 Sensitiv EXTRA, MSU Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
2011 Deflection, Gábor ERDÉLYI & Hans KOTTER – Viltin Gallery, Budapest, Hungary
2011 Konkrete abstraktion, Bernd Lausberg Gallery, Düsseldorf, Germany
2010 Dialog, Galerie Grazia Blumberg, Recklinghausen, Germany
2010 Beyond painting, Gallery Bernd Lausberg, Toronto, Canada
2009 Best of lausberg contemporary, Gallery Bernd Lausberg, Toronto, Canada
2009 Trilogie: berlin – london – rome, artMbassy, Berlin, Germany
2008 Best before…, City Gallery Klagenfurt, Austria
2008 Infected, Priveekollektie, Heusden aan de Maas, Netherlands
2008 Play it, Art Foundation Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart, Germany, curator: Werner Meyer (Kunsthalle Göppingen)
2008 Targetti art – light art collection, Florence, Italy
2008 German photography Today, Gallery bkhf, Miami, United States
2007 Preview 2008, Gallery Benden & Klimczak, Cologne, Germany
2007 Obsession durch Technik, ArtMbassy, Berlin, Germany
2007 Suitcase, Italian Culture Institute, Cologne, Germany
2007 In the flux, Kinetica Museum London, Great Britain
2007 Best before…, Art Association Aschaffenburg, Germany
2006 Life forms, Kinetica Museum, London, Great Britain
2006 Fire and ice, Rosenbaum Contemporary, Boca Raton, Florida, United States
2005 Reflections, Gallery Kashya Hildebrand, Geneva, Switzerland
2005 Rot als farbe, Gallery Bernd Lausberg, Düsseldorf, Germany
2005 Spectrum, Gallery Kashya Hildebrand, New York, United States
2005 Look!, ArtProject Berlin, NY Arts Magazine, Berlin, Germany
2005 Solaris, Gallery Kashya Hildebrand, Zurich. Switzerland
2003 Lichtung II, Bake-Factory, Berlin, Germany
2001 Kraft und magie, Upper Bavarian Culture Days, Altötting, Germany
2000 Culture Model, Passau, Germany
2000 Große kunstausstellung, Haus der Kunst/Art House, Munich, Germany
2000 City Gallery in the Park, Viersen, Germany
1999 The museum as muse: artist reflect, Museum of Modern Art, New York (United States), Online-Exhibition
1999 Snapshot, exhibition on tour taking pictures: Siemens AG, Munich (Germany), City
1999 Gallery Regensburg (Germany) & Gallery Monique Goldstrom, New York
1998 Country without borders, Gallery Abraham Lubelski, New York, United States
1998 New Gallery Oberhausmuseum, Passau, Germany
1997 Keine erinnerung, Old Revenue Office, Rosenheim, Germany
1997 The power of words and signs, exhibition on tour: Gallery Casa, Tokyo (Japan), Gallery
1997 Index, Osaka (Japan), Sala Franco, Triest (Italy), Gallery Abraham Lubelski, New York
1997 Metamorphosia, Culture Model, Passau, Germany
1997 Biennale New York, NY Arts Magazine, New York, United States
1996 Sonic identity, 450 Broadway Gallery, New York, United States
1994 Annual art exhibition, City Museum Waldkraiburg, Germany
1994 Cyber culture, Gallery Dariusz Gubala, New York, United States
1993 vertigo art, Gallery Dariusz Gubala, New York, United States
1993 Gallery Madelyn Jordon, New York, United States

Art Fairs

TEFAF Maastricht, TEFAF New York, Art Berlin, Art Cologne, Art Central Hong Kong, Viennafair, Arco Madrid, Arte Fiera Bologna, Design Miami, Design Miami/Basel, Art Forum Berlin, Collect London, Art Moscow, Art Toronto, Art Amsterdam, PAN Amsterdam, Art Fair Köln, Art Miami, Art Palm Beach, Kunst Zurich, Art Frankfurt, Scope London, Scope New York, MiArt Milan, Kinetica Art Fair London, Kunst Köln, Pulse NY, Pulse Miami, Art Karlsruhe, P.A.D London, P.A.D. Paris, P.A.D. New York, Art Bodensee, LA Art Show, Object Rotterdam, Art Chicago, Parc Lima, Art Wynwood, Art Dubai et al.

Collections

MAKK Museum, Cologne, Germany
Targetti Light Art Collection, Italy
Collection of the German Federal Parliament, Germany
Museum Ritter, Germany
Osthaus Museum, Germany
Kunstmuseum Celle, Germany
Villa Datris, Fonds pour la Sculpture Contemporaine, France
Borusan Art Collection, Turkey
Collection Fidelity Investment, United Kingdom & United States
Collection DEKA Bank, Germany
Collection Candy & Candy Hyde Park One, United Kingdom
Collection Ron Dennis, United Kingdom
Kinetica Museum, United Kingdom
Collection Jean et Colette Cherqui, France
Collection Ichikowitz, South Africa
Collection Aareal Bank, Germany
Collection Jan des Bouvrie, Netherlands
Collection Heubeck, Cologne, Germany
Topping Rose House’s Collection, Bridghampton, New York
Collection Gerald and Jody Lippes, Naples, FL, USA
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
AT&T Collection, Dallas, Texas

Public Art

2010 Warburg Pincus, Frankfurt, Germany
2009 Aareal Bank, Hamburg, Germany
2007 Booz Allen Hamilton GmbH, Berlin, Germany
2007 Hotel Maximilian, Nürnberg, Germany
2007 School in Bavaria, Germany
2005 Immobilien Investment Frankfurt, Skyper, Frankfurt, Germany
2005 Derag AG, Hotel Kanzler, Bonn, Germany
2004 E-ON Bayern Regensburg, administration building, Regensburg, Germany
2004 Neuga Bauträge, object at Burghauser-Tor, Neuötting, Germany
2003 DEKA Immobilien Investment Frankfurt, Leomax, Munich, Germany
2003 Staatliches Hochbauamt Rosenheim, land surveying office, Germany
1999 Passauer Neue Presse, media center, Passau, Germany
1998 Stadt Burghausen, community center, Burghausen, Germany
1998 Passauer Neue Presse, editorial office, Passau, Germany
1997 Wochenblatt Burghausen, editorial office, Burghausen, Germany

“Art is nothing but the light of nature.” - Goethe

Hans Kotter is an expert when it comes to colours and light. His main interest during his study of painting lay with colour compositions, handling plane areas and structure, and colour and form. At the end of the nineties he began to concentrate more and more on the medium of photography. Devising his own experimental set-ups, he devoted himself to a study of light and its segmentation into colour spectra. The visualisation and aesthetic staging of light refraction, and colour compositions of great virtuosity have been part of Kotter’s basis repertoire of works since then:

“There is no other element with such a lasting impact on life on our planet as light. Light fascinates me in a huge variety of ways and I have investigated the medium of light, with its composition, physical contexts, colours, perception and cultural history for many years. The experiences and insights resulting from this investigation are later implemented in my works.”

It is the playful treatment of a wide range of materials such as oil, water, acrylic glass, stainless steel, chrome etc. and their effects in relation to light and colour which fascinates Hans Kotter and inspires him to try out new forms of expression continually. This diversity in the handling of materials is revealed in his works’ great power of expression and variety.

The abstraction of colour and light creates diffuse landscapes, the illusion of distance, mysterious waves, the impression of water, shimmering heat or the finest of fabrics, which seem to glide across the picture surface in undulating folds. The apparent materiality of these unmanipulated photographs of the immaterial – of light and colour – points to their origins in painting, yet at the same time they document physical processes. The incredible degree of beauty, opulence, brilliance and simultaneous mystery with which natural scientific insights can be manifest in art is quite remarkable.

The artist’s treatment of colour plays a key role in all this. Hans Kotter employs his profound knowledge of colours and their very different effects in relation to light conditions and proximity to other colours to relate colours to each other systematically yet intuitively, so creating harmonies as well as extremely exciting contrasts.

Indeed, the room always plays an important part in Hans Kotter’s installation works. Light is brought into play in a subtle way, for example, as a blue line: the cubature of the room disappears into the darkness, reduced to its contour lines. This abstraction of three-dimensional space certainly causes many details to disappear, but other elementary spatial information is manifest more clearly as a direct consequence. Three-dimensional compositions with fluorescent tubing and illuminated objects immerse different rooms into changing currents of light, and the viewer experiences a roller-coaster ride of sensory impressions and emotions.

In his latest works, the so-called “Tunnels”, Hans Kotter is concerned with an illusion of space: in newly developed light objects consisting of filigree, reflecting glass volumes that generate a special aura of their own due to their superior material quality and precision, the approaching viewer is compelled by a mysterious and forceful attraction, which gradually develops into a deep rapture. As if by magic, the reflecting surfaces of the light object are transformed – when the source of light at the object’s centre is switched on – into an enchanting tunnel of colours, the end of which is unforeseeable, and which – as in Alice in Wonderland – offers us apparently infinite freedom to develop our fantasies and imagination.

The tunnel pointing into infinity, whether curving or straight, is a phenomenon that appears so realistic one would like to extend one’s hand into it; one is overcome by an irresistible attraction. But it is a game with illusion, with the apparently endless, constantly surprising and astonishing ways to stage light and colour artistically. This extremely aesthetic and simultaneously mysterious interplay of reflecting surfaces and endless colour compositions propels the viewer into a rapture of colour and depth from which he has no desire to recover quickly, thanks to the artist Hans Kotter!

Author: Annett Zinsmeister
Annett Zinsmeister is an artist and author, and Professor for Visual Arts and Experimental Design at State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. She lives in Berlin. More information: www.annett-zinsmeister.de

Although this may sound rather deflating, actually it is great art visualizing the nothingness all around us. For without light, without refraction and reflection, we would live in a world without colour and so without contours. In a unique way, therefore, Hans Kotter interprets the illusion that surrounds us every day; he develops the essences of this optical illusion and familiarizes us with the beauty of details and vision as such. He makes shadow into his protagonist, moving everyday objects quite literally into the best light; he allows them to act with neon light and so irritate both the eye and the intellect equally by suspending their function. Visual stumbling blocks as radiant objects of smooth aesthetic quality.

Hans Kotter finds his inspiration in life – in real life. In do-it-yourself stores and at fairs, wherever concrete matter offers him opportunity in the shape of specific material qualities. For every material reacts differently to his primary tool, reacts differently to the physical phenomenon of »light«. The actual fascination of his works, however, is not necessarily the staging of the objects used in their original size, or the fact that he lends (new ) meaning to them – instead, it is their astonishing interplay that leads to change in our perception. Hans Kotter not only performs magic with sources of light; he illuminates, highlights things that actually take place in the dark. Just as his means of expression is intangible, his works are not obvious, by any means: Hans Kotter manifests messages that have to be discovered first. They are metaphors that sometimes confuse us, making us question our own capacity for interpretation. So is freedom of interpretation permitted? Of course, but attention should be paid to the irony that is a vital constituent of Kotter’s works!

However, none of his installations could evolve or exist if there was no space. The field of play surrounding Kotter’s works may be likened to a canvas from which he develops sleek references to current affairs, or humorous allusions to life’s absurdities and therefore very personal stories, all subtly narrated.

In this present exhibition the viewer is permitted to explore the finite or rather the infinite quality of space – imaginary worlds evolve in impressive 3-D graphics, drawing the viewer on and on like a spiral, apparently unwilling to let him go: an undertow that pulls down his gaze, making him curious about the unfathomable – in the sense of literally intangible depths. In addition, a new work entitled »Big Bang … Interruption« invites us into another confusing game, presenting an everyday phenomenon in a fresh context. »It shows the snapshot of a disaster, but simultaneously highlights the evolution of something new and purportedly better«, Hans Kotter says and so addresses the fascination and beauty of catastrophe.

Light – not only the instrument of artistic creativity, but also a focusing spotlight on life, on society with all its weakenesses and vanities. A spotlight that causes us to blink and may hurt for a moment or two, but soon – with its aesthetic qualities and irony – reconciles us to the world. As so often, therefore, here we should emulate Goethe, whose famous last words were a call for “More light!”

Author: Bettina Schultz

Driving a car through big cities at night, the colours of neon advertising on the facades of old buildings and the roofs of high-rise blocks begin to blur. We may still notice it but we no longer attempt to decipher words. The omnipresence of the writing on the neon advertisements means that it is separated from any relevant meaning; something like a film set emerges, creating the atmosphere of the big city.

Hans Kotter uses his light works, in which groups of circles and lines or shimmering colour spectrums often turn the gallery space into an alchemist laboratory illuminated in many colours, to transform the big-city atmosphere into abstract landscapes of light. What is left is nothing more than the magic of light, its atmospheric and manipulative power. This is adopted indirectly from the basic experience of modernity: the perception and experience of the big city, which is – as sociologist Georg Simmel wrote – “the intensification of nervous life, which proceeds from the rapid and uninterrupted fluctuation of external and internal impressions.”

By contrast to the early 20th century, the perception of the metropolis and the overstimulation of the senses that is concomitant with it have become a normality of life in the 21st century. Today, the way that things appear, the way in which they are presented is usually more important than their reality and function. In other words: in the context of the big city, the spectacle of light and colours in the worlds of advertising and consumerism often outshines the actual product or event. The spectacle becomes a purpose in itself; the light becomes abstract. Kotter makes this enchantment of light into the subject of a key part of his work.

In the clear, geometrical formal langage of Kotter’s objects and installations, it is possible to find an obvious reference to modernist art. The work “Edge”, for example, suggests that he has transposed a graphic artwork by El Lissitzky or a painting by Piet Mondrian into three dimensions. But by contrast to the artists of modernism, in his art Hans Kotter does not call for an aesthetic reinvention of the world. Advertising and design took over that task long ago. At first glance Kotter’s sculptures and objects, his light-boxes, give the impression that they have been created in order to beautify space – but Kotter’s art is about more than that.

The philosopher Gernot Böhme defines space as “the affectively charged constriction and breadth into which one enters, the aura one encounters.” In Kotter’s works this aura creates aesthetic experiences that exert a familiar yet simultaneously alien effect on the viewer, especially if he comes from a big city. They lie outside everyday experience while being deeply rooted in it. They demonstrate the way in which light can create atmosphere, the way its sensual intensity manipulates and captivates the viewer.

Even as a child, Hans Kotter was interested in futurist painting, especially that of Umberto Boccioni, but also in Victor Vasarely’s Op Art. To the present day, Kotter’s art oscillates between these same two poles: reference to modernism and a play with the senses. Besides his light objects and installations, Kotter has been working mainly on a series of close-ups showing the refraction of light for some years now. The outcome are photos that resemble abstract graphic works generated using a computer at first glance – in fact, however, they show the physics of the work, or perhaps a better description would be the metaphysics of light. Whether Kotter solemly stages endless hypnotic spirals in a glass cube as if we were approaching a doorway into a different dimension or transforms the lights of the big city into abstract spatial landscapes; his works are reflections on the process of perception, studies in the production of atmosphere. The affective aura they pour into space radiates beauty and insight. It allows us to experience the sensual state of the present and simultaneouly charges it with magic. Kotter’s works make seeing into an act of alchemy.

Author: Hendrik Lakeberg
Lives in Berlin, where he works as a cultural journalist. He writes for art magazines such as Kunstforum, Monopol. He also writes catalog texts for artists like Georg Baselitz, Albert Oehlen, etc.

‘Art that impresses the eye’ is a heading that suits the latest works by Hans Kotter: cheerfully colourful three-dimensional and wall-mounted objects, and forms combining mirrors and light in wall-boxes all define the overall spatial context with their sensitively selected placement. At first glance, the compact exhibits with their bright colours and visual illusions suggest cheerfulness and innocence, making the dismal concrete surroundings of many an office building appear in a different light. But a second look reveals a deeper, meaningful dimension, which promises a profane ‘illumination’ full of insight.

Points of light arranged in a ring within a reflecting wall-box shine with absolute technical perfection, as can be seen in the work ‘down under’ (2011). Submerged in bluish or reddish light, the configurations of lights and mirrors develop a more intense atmospheric aura. The eye wanders rather disquieted through the objects’ suggested depth, constantly attempting to find some visual hold. With a wry smile, Kotter highlights the inadequacy of the human perceptual apparatus, our eyes happily joining in his receptive game of lively ‘conversation’. The tunnel formation of these points of light, however, causes the viewer’s attention to wander away from the factual to the metaphorical dimension: in Kotter’s works the well-known concept of tunnel vision, used to criticise a narrowing of perception and one’s limited interpretation of key contexts, is extended into the infinity of three dimensions. Closure and opening thus become vital metaphors, not only in this single work from the artist’s most recent creative phase.

From this perspective Kotter goes a stage further than the aesthetically related innovations of the previous generation, particularly associated with the name Victor Vasarely and with Op Art. Vasarely’s interest lay in illusionist effects, which he attempted to achieve by means of colours, forms and lines; he aimed, therefore, at irritations of vision, at immediacy in the contemplation of art, and ultimately at aesthetics that required no prior knowledge. But Kotter, who claims to see himself within a line of tradition from Vasarely, extends the field of visual irritation. While Vasarely, still entirely in the spirit of Minimal Art, had wished to ban meaning from art and employed his formal aesthetics as a pointer to the limitations of human perception, the semantic and therefore the narrative return in Kotter’s work – which is characteristic, among other things, of the post-modern generation.

The several-part photographic works entitled ‘cliffs’ or ‘chromatic plants’ (2009-2011) convey a disturbing impression. Their powerful colours form strange configurations, which appear indeterminate: are they artificial or natural phenomena? However, they are not materialisations, by any means, but refracted prismatic rays of light, images that Kotter took using a traditional photographic camera. Here, the viewer is confronted by his own conditioning: in the digital age he expects a computer-based formal language, but ultimately this process emerges as consistently analogue, or manual. Such a media-critical conception – quite literally – that sets the analogue against the digital is also revealed in the meanwhile long-sustained conflict between painting and photography. For despite all their technical perfection, some artefacts give the impression that Kotter is referring to painting with his use of sweeping forms. Thus the artist reopens a long-smouldering dispute regarding ascendancy among the artistic genres: in an almost exemplary fashion, the conflict between photography and painting raises the issue of which medium best meets the claim to truth: painting with its great affinity to philosophy, endorsed for centuries, or photography, which provides documentation of reality via a physical-chemical and so incorruptible process. Kotter leaves it to the viewer to answer this indirectly posed question. His own pictorial works point simultaneously to photography, the new media, and to painting, so that the viewer begins to brood upon the questionability of his own perception, making the credibility and evaluation of each medium into the theme of the works.

Another difficult factor is that Kotter works with and through light: in these, as in other works from the series ‘replaced’ (2009-2011), light is used as a means of expression. Looking at the history of light-art in the broadest sense, painted light has been understood both as a purely physical and as a philosophical dimension. This basic assumption, which allows the appearance of both profane and sacred light, is still retained today, although slide and video projection, the technology of the new media, photography and film are now represented alongside painting. Sometimes light is employed as a simple dramatic aid in images and installations, and sometimes it is a carrier of meaning; its themes including technological utopias, anthropologies, media-oriented epistemology, culture-critical and social scientific perspectives associated with names like Robert Delaunay, László Moholy-Nagy, Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman, James Turrell or Mischa Kuball. This brief historical sketch is reflected not only in Kotter’s media-critical colour photographs, but also in his light installations: Kotter arranges a row of light boxes of the same and differing formats as if on a rehearsal stage, usually located in a monochrome context in the corner of a room. They are found objects, which – thrown away from industrial sites or offices – are given a new meaning. Like a palimpsest, on the one hand the light objects refer to their original usages, for example when their forms are reminiscent of lighting in manufacturing halls and can be seen, therefore, as a warning reminder of industrial production’s alienating work atmosphere; on the other hand, they indicate something new, providing messages – new or long-concealed – in the field of art. Deputising, almost, for what is hoped for but never achieved in social and cultural fields, it seems that these objects succeed in liberating us from the constraints of social responsibility. Kotter offers the viewer such a dimension of his works – i.e. critical, self-reflective and oriented on insight, and in the same breath he re-conjures the elementary utopias of modernism.

Author: Kai-Uwe Hemken
Kai-Uwe Hemken is Art historian and Professor for Art Science at the School of Art and Design Kassel, Germany. He also curated several Exhibitions about modern Art at the K20 in Düsseldorf, New Museum Weimar, Sprengel Museum Hanover, Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven and other. He lives in Bochum, Germany.

A hotel in Germany, not far from the River Rhine. I inquire at the desk if it might be possible to look at the work by Hans Kotter that I had read about being here. The receptionist, obviously clueless to what I am talking about, gives me vague directions to one of the upper floors. I go up and down the halls for a long time, searching to no avail, until I discover in a roomy niche three large, elegantly-proportioned objects on the wood-paneled wall. In the dim light I am unable to recognize much of what is on the front surfaces. I notice a light switch and turn it on, not suspecting it has anything to do with this object. There is a short flickering within the three upright rectangular boxes – and suddenly a veritable miracle of light takes place. Across nine square meters of surface a cascade of colour forms lights up in bright cobalt blue, yellow, and bottle green, undulating in slanted waves across one other. To the right the colour culminates in a magnificent cognac-coloured glow. The light-flooded forms remain inexplicable, like in an abstract painting, and at the same time oddly real, material, photographically precise. They seem organically animated – and yet their colours are so cool, their appearance so smooth, that they maintain an air of something confusingly foreign and inapproachable.

Confronted out of the blue with Hans Kotter’s photographic works, oscillating between abstraction and materiality, naturalness and artificiality, technical perfection and painterly appearance, a person will inevitably question whether or not these are phenomena that have been digitally produced or altered. The truth of the matter is that the artist takes his camera, zooming in on drops of oil or glass prisms he has built himself in order to observe there the confusingly complicated play of the refraction, diffraction, and reflection of light. Through skillful lighting from various sources, forms of strange beauty and splendid colour quality emerge in the interior of these transparent media. During this process, transitions that are difficult to identify even though they result from light-flooded matter, colourful backgrounds and reflecting surfaces, create phenomena which evoke corporeal impressions, but do not materialize to any comprehensible shape. Thus, pseudo-organic formations come about that seem like paradox plants or landscapes made of fluids, and yet remain at the same time, immaterial, energetic, and indefinable in their innermost. These forms, which Kotter then exhibits as laser-chrome prints or slides in light boxes, are not subsequently altered digitally; on the contrary, they are presented in the way they revealed themselves to his camera.

Kotter’s theme is light. His works always address light, tracing its most-unexpected effects. In doing so, the diversity of the light phenomena allows the artist to break fresh ground in finding highly varied possibilities of expression and ever-new techniques, materials, and manners of presentation, which extend beyond the customary boundaries of the genre. Hans Kotter not only constructs light boxes, he also builds objects, pours things he has found into transparent resins, marks entire rooms with paths of light made of luminescent foils, and, using his camera, approaches the most subtle phenomena of light. In conversation he refers to his photographic works as “painting with light”, pointing out that he only discovered photography as an aid after much experimentation and mostly by chance. Kotter is not primarily a photographer, but an artist of light. As such, he is also necessarily an artist of space, since space reveals itself to us visually as a void that contains light. Not only his room installations, but also his light boxes lit with neon tubes reveal a presence that has a considerable effect on the room, and in fact, changes it. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that he repeatedly receives commissions for large-format installations in public spaces and office buildings.

It is highly interesting that a connection has been made between these light boxes and the windows of gothic cathedrals. What is diaphanous, i.e. the penetration of light through transparent matter, as well as the flooding of light into a room were often considered by art historians as an expression of the medieval metaphysics of light. The magic of the diaphanous certainly also occupies Hans Kotter in his photographic experiments, but it should not be overlooked that the artist is also aware of the fact that today our relationship to light is deeply profane. In his forays into the microcosm of optics he does not succumb to the abstract beauty of the light effects he has observed. He is too much the critical contemporary for this, acutely aware that the notions of light anchored in western thought as symbols of the divine, of truth and of reason have long since been subjected to a far-reaching secularization and finally, a drastic trivialization. One of the preconditions of the western metaphysics of light was no doubt, for the most part, the unavailability of the sun as it sought its natural course through the day and year. With electricity light became a constantly available, producible, and manageable quantity. For all of us artificial light has become a self-evident prerequisite of our modern everyday life. At night, thanks to the glow of neon advertisements, the headlights of cars, and streetlights, even the ugliest city can share in the profane magic of artificial light. At the latest with Dan Flavin’s installations of fluorescent tubes in the 1960s, artificial lighting had become at once the theme and the “material” of a new artistic genre, the art of light.

In Kotter’s installations and light boxes, the forms and mirror-smooth objects flooded with light always seem “sparkling clean and pure”, as the self-ironic title of an exhibition of 1999 suggested. This motto that sounds like some kind of advertising can serve as a reminder that the western metaphysics of light has fallen today into the hands of product designers and advertising agents with their questionable promises of happiness. All of us are familiar with ads where the sun always shines and each tile, each chrome and paint surface gleams, where cavity-free teeth sparkle in their hygienically perfect condition, and metallically-painted limousines shoot across the pictures like beings from other spheres, silent and in utterly pure perfection. Hans Kotter’s works consciously place themselves optically in seductive, almost flirtatious, proximity to the aesthetics of the consumer products that are perfect and sterile alike. Light boxes, the way Kotter uses them, are known to us outside the context of art, above all as an advertising means used in department stores and fashion boutiques. And in his installation “The very Best …” he makes everyday objects from the sports world, a table-tennis table, and club trophies, gleam in a cold splendor that emphasizes the material. By exaggerating the sleek design, imbuing it with an alienating effect through his use of light, the objects are enhanced ironically, mutated to become “cool” signs of themselves with no utilitarian value. A turning of aesthetics into fetishes may be sensed in the table-tennis table, transparent and lit from below, but not usable for playing. Although its measurements correspond precisely to the measurements required in tournaments, the tabletop contains a water-and-oil-mixture that would make a real table-tennis ball stick upon contact. Is uselessness a price one pays for beauty? In his works Kotter tests the borders of the narrow line between art and design, between beauty and functionality. Likewise, his light boxes, hung on or leaned against the wall, alternate between the status of minimalist sculpture and chic design object. But as soon as one activates their fluorescent tubes hidden in their interiors they become magic lanterns that reveal haunting pictures from the wonderland of light. Kotter’s works are etudes of the inexhaustible fascination with light.

Author: Peter Lodermeyer

The light-based works of Hans Kotter show a pluriverse of optical possibilities that break through the boundaries of space and extend it on a material and immaterial basis. Light objects in dark spatial structures define perceptual patterns of colour and spectral formations of changing intensity, enabling the artist to set fundamental architectural parameters in motion. Through his objects, Kotter creates illusionary worlds which not only sound out the physical dimensions of light, but also control the viewers’ perception in technically refined material combinations.

Each of Kotter’s artworks not only tries to re-define the given surroundings and in particular also the interior of the respective object and to change it based on light-generated structures. Bodies of light become bodies of space, which as chimeras push the technical conditions to imaginability limits of what is visible and make the pieces turn into scientifically sophisticated apparatuses. As a result, Kotter takes over the power of definition over the respective space and the underlying parameters, in which light serves as a starting point of an artistically analytical calculation of space. The artist transfers moments of electromagnetic radiation into the field of visibility of the human eye and challenges it to review formations of visual presentation modes that are usually difficult to calculate. The immediacy of perception changes primarily depending on the position of the viewer, in some cases the artist even determines the viewer’s exact point of view in order to enable them to experience the congruence of light and space in optimal agreement. What Kotter demonstrates is not just an expression of artistic considerations, but the result of an elaborate examination of the possibilities of electromagnetic waves and the effect of the waves, which comes into play due to the light-artistic movement in, around and on the objects. The possibilities of wave-dynamic propagation in terms of colour or, very simply, a supposed “white” light evaluation are at the centre of the relationships of clarity, which define the effect of the objects in their singularity or their plural arrangement in space.

Whether in linear propagation like in geometrical optics or in wave-like module formation, Kotter’s art objects suggest spatial moments that in the dark of viewing generate worlds whose factuality is artistically motivated. How do optical illusion and technically reproducible spatial conditions caught between artistic reality and the transcendental function of understanding act? Art and science serve as a symbiotic momentum of a transfer of realities, which is technically motivated and transposes reality into different formats of what is possible. Kotter examines the possibilities of photometric sensation in the most precise manner and realises them in a spatially controlled structure. The dimension these possibilities can take on can be newly experienced in the respective framework of presentation. The spatial context of the presentation defines the spatial content of the object, which may appear real and fictional at the same time. The reference to what is real is founded in the control of seemingly fictional, however technically realisable, methods of visualisation, which provide references to the said possibilities. The seriality of light-sensitive radiation is thus transposed into a materialisation of artistic reflection.

The experimental arrangements that can be tested in Kotter’s light objects are shown in the results in which the experiment is transformed into an artistic patent. The most recent objects bear witness of dealing with formations of “white” light. Although not actually realisable in practice, at least nuances of different colour temperatures and graduations of white can be perceived. This is what the artist uses to produce radiating objects, in which light is directed in multiple directions causing kaleidoscope-like schemes of perception. Forms of three-dimensional spatial elements are seemingly taken to infinity while the objects in their entirety take on a concrete shape. Light mixed of portions of all wavelengths of the visible spectral range is often propagated through glow sticks and evokes magical fields of visual aesthetics. Mesmerising formations of light scattering expand in space and create new materialisation levels of light allowing viewers to focus on different aspects. The effects thus created demonstrate moments of the sublime, emphasising the light space in the body of space. Levels of visibility open out into invisibility spots of darkness caused by the presence and absence of light and its materialisation and dematerialisation in space. The oscillations and movements create new spaces in space which suddenly appear, but may disappear just as fast. LED lights, fluorescent light tubes, glass, plexi, mirrors, metal and other materials serve Kotter as a basis for the creation of his light-art works, which continuously take on different shapes and in their reference test any conceivable forms of dealing with light. In doing so, the artist defines and tries ever new special arrangements which in one of the most recent works make an exact positioning of the object and its components necessary.

If a universally valid statement is to be made about Kotter’s works, it is difficult to categorise them since their appearance and technical finish open up new spaces of image and thought. Whether in an interaction of colour or black-and-white aesthetics focusing on a shadow effect, the result amazes in what is artistically conceivable and technically feasible. Whether subtle or hidden in a niche of the wall, suspended from the ceiling, exuberantly taking over the room or nearly breaking it open, Kotter’s objects form light sculptures bearing the potential of unexpected appearances that can be exposed to moments of impermanence or consistently change their shape in a rhythmical sequence of presentation. Repetition and standstill, Big Bang and black hole, everything is possible, everything remains open.

Author: Walter Seidl
Born 1973 in Graz, Austria, lives in Vienna Studied cultural studies (MA) and contemporary history (PhD) at universities in Graz, Seattle (photography), Paris and New York. Seidl curated numerous exhibitions throughout Europe, North America, Hong Kong, Japan and South Africa. His writings include various catalog essays for artist monographs, exhibition reviews, and criticism. Seidl contributes to several international art magazines, most frequently to Camera Austria, springerin and Život umjetnosti.

Scroll to Top