Ruprecht von Kaufmann
(Germany , b. 1974)

Ruprecht von Kaufmann (b.1974, Munich, Germany) was educated at the Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles, CA., As Dr Brigitte Hausmann, curator for the Art Program of the City of Berlin has written in her introduction to Leben zwischen den Stuhlen (Distanz, 2021), Von Kaufmann ‘ranks among the important contemporary positions in figurative painting’. His forceful and emotional paintings are unsettling and purposefully so, since Von Kaufmann places great emphasis on storytelling, resulting in his figurative work being full of dark humor as well as dense melancholy. In his artworks, he captures moments that are deeply personal while also hinting at a universal experience.

2019  Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany(德國現代藝術陳列館)

2019  `Inside the Outside´, UN Headquarters, New York (紐約聯合國總部)

2018  `Die Evakuierung des Himmels´, Kunsthalle Erfurt, Erfurt (

2019  “The three princes of serendip” Kunstsammlung Neubrandenburg

Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s figurative paintings are awash in dramatic lighting and deep tonal palettes, resulting in expressionistic, cinematic works. His melancholic canvases are imbued with mysterious, absurdist narrative details, featuring lonely travelers, ghostlike circus scenes, and theatrical tableaux full of enigmatic motifs and details. Kaufmann frequently leaves his subjects faceless and open to interpretation. He has exhibited in New York, London, Berlin, Prague, Hamburg, Milan, and Seattle. Kaufmann’s works are in the collections of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Deutsche Bundestag Art Collection, the Hort Family Collection, and the Uziyel Family Collection.


Solo Exhibitions

2023 Leben zwischen den Stühlen´, Buchheim Museum, Bernried
2022 In the Street´, Kristian Hjellegjerde Gallery, London
2022 Monologue, Bluerider ART, Taipei, Taiwan
2021 Just Before Dawn´, Galerie Thomas Fuchs, Stuttgart
2021 Dreamscapes´, Cermak Eisenkraft Gallery, Prag
2020 The Three Princes of Serendip´, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London
2020 Inside the Outside´, City Gallery Gutshaus Steglitz, Berlin
2019 Inside the Outside´, UN Headquarters, New York
2019 Inside the Outside´, Museen Böttcherstrasse, Bremen
2019 Die drei Prinzen von Serendip´, Kunstsammlung Neubrandenburg, Neubrandenburg
2019 Die Augen fest geschlossen´, Galerie Thomas Fuchs, Stuttgart
2018 Die Evakuierung des Himmels´, Kunsthalle Erfurt, Erfurt
2018 Liederbuch´, Galerie Thomas Fuchs, Stuttgart
2017 Event Horizon´, Kristin Hjellegjerde Galelry, London
2016 The God of Small and Big Things´, Galerie Crone, Berlin
2016 Phantombild-Blaupause´, Nordheimer Scheune, Nordheim, Germany
2015 Grösserbesserschnellermehr´, Forum Kunst, Rottweil
2014 Fabel´, Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin
2014 Carna(va)l´, Museum Abtei Liesborn, Liesborn
2013 Die Nacht´, Junge Kunst e.V. Wolfsburg
2013 Die Nacht´, Galerie Rupert Pfab, Düsseldorf
2012 Der Ozean´, Galerie Christian Ehrentraut
2011 Altes Haus´, Galerie Rupert Pfab, Düsseldorf
2011 Zwischenzeit´, Neue Galerie Gladbeck, Gladbeck
2010 Äquator Teil I´, Galerie Christian Ehrentraut, Berlin
2010 Herr Lampe´, Bundesbank, Frankfurt
2009 Nebel´, Galerie Christian Ehrentraut
2009 Halbmast´, Philara Collection, Düsseldorf
2008 Ruprecht von Kaufmann´, Galerie Rupert Pfab, Düsseldorf
2007 Eine Übersicht´, Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, Berlin
2006 Bathosphere´, Ann Nathan Gallery, Chicago
2006 Bathosphere´, Kunstverein Göttingen
2006 Als mich mein Steckenpferd fraß´, Galerie Christian Ehrentraut, Berlin
2005 Bildwechsel´, Galerie Christian Ehrentraut, Berlin
2005 Neue Zeichnungen´, Kunstschacht Zeche Zollverein, Essen
2003 `Of Faith and Other Demons´, Claire Oliver Fine Arts, New York

Group Exhibitions

2022        `On the Wall´, Building Gallery, Mailand
2022       `Das Eigene im Fremden – Einblicke in die Sammlung Detlev Blenk´, Museum Bensheim
2021        `Gefühle r(aus)! Global Emotion´, Motorenhalle, Dresden
2020        `Neue Wilde und Andere aus der Sammlung Stefan Neukirch´, Coesfeld
2019        `Feelings´, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany
2019        `Metaphysica´, Haugar Art Museum, Tønsberg, Norway
2019        `Birkholms Echo´, Faaborg Museum of Art, Faaborg, Denmark
2018        `Contemporary Chaos´, Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium, Vestfossen, Norway
2018        `Schwarze Romantik´, Künstlerhaus Thurn & Taxis, Bregenz, Topicuv Salon, Prague
2017       `Ecce Creatura´, Kallmann Museum, Ismaning
2017        `Paintingguide NYC´, Booth Gallery, New York, USA
2017        `Schwarze Romantik´, Bukarest, Berlin, Backnag, Bregenz, Prag
2016        `Wahlverwandschaften, German Art since the late 1960s´, National Museum of Latvia, Riga
2016        `Prozac´, Kunstverein Glückstadt, Glückstadt, Germany
2015        `The Vacancy´, Friedrichstr., Berlin
2015        `Kunst Wollen?´, openAEG, Nürnberg
2015        `Du sollst Dir (k)ein Bild machen´, Berliner Dom, Berlin
2015        `Time Lies´, KinoInternational, Berlin
2014        `The Sea´, Brandts Museum, Odense
2014        `Revolution´, Rohkunstbau, Roskow
2014        `Waffensichten´, Museum Galerie Dachau, Dachau
2014        `Malerei am Rand der Wirklichkeit´, Haus am Lützwoplatz, Berlin
2013        `Tierstücke´, Museum Abtei Liesborn
2013        ‘Alles Wasser’, Galerie Mikael Anderson, Copenhagen
2013        ‘Weltenschöpfer’, Museum für Bildende Kunst, Leipzig
2012        `Convoy Berlin´, Bzarsky Gallery, Budapest
2011        `I am a Berliner´, Tel Aviv Museum, Israel
2010        `Werkschau I der Erwine Steinblum Stipendiaten´, Kunst:raum Syltquelle, Rantum / Sylt
2009        `Menschenbilder 1620/2009´, Museum Hoexter-Corvey, Hoexter
2008        `Daydreams & Dark Sides´, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin
2007        `Stipendiatenausstellung´, Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, Berlin
2006        `Full House´, Kunsthalle Mannheim
2006        `Gletscherdämmerung`, Eres Stiftung, München
2003        `RePresenting Representation VI´, Arnot Art Museum, New York
2002        `The Perception of Appearance´, The Frye Art Museum, Seattle
2001        `Representing LA´, The Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Art Museum of South Texas and Orange County Museum of Art, LA

Publication

Dissonance – Platform Germany, DCV, Texte: Mark Gisbourne, Christoph Tannert, 2022, ISBN 978-3-96912-060-6
Leben zwischen den Stühlen, Distanz, Texte: Dr. Brigitte Hausmann, Daniel J. Schreiber, Sylvia Volz, 2020, ISBN 978-3-95476-354-2
Inside the Outside, Distanz, Maynat Kurbanova, Michele Cinque, 2019, ISBN 978-3-95476-270-5
Maynat Kurbanova, Michele Cinque, Inside the Outside, Distanz
Magdalena Kröner, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Kunstmarkt
Robert Hughes, Rolf Lauter, Julia Wallner, Ruprecht von Kaufmann 2005-2006, ISBN 978-3-00-020112-7
Leah Ollman, Los Angeles Sunday Times, ‘Painting a Mirror for Humanity’, 16. Juni 2002
Garrett Holg, Art News, ‘A futurist Manifesto’, Ruprecht von Kaufmann at Ann Nathan Gallery Chicago’, Januar Ausgabe 2002

Collection

Collection of the Federal Republic of Germany
Collection of the German Bundestag
Collection of the National Bank of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frankfurt
Coleccion Solo, Madrid
Collection Ole Faarup, Kopenhagen
Collezione Coppola, Vicenza
Hort Family Collection, New York
Uzyiel Collection, London
Sammlung Philara, Düsseldorf
Sammlung Hildebrand, Leipzig
Sammlung Holger Friedrich, Berlin
Sammlung Museum Abtei Liesborn, Liesborn
Sammlung Veronika Smetackova, Pragu

Trailer:「潛意識獨⽩ Monologue」- Ruprecht von Kaufmann 魯普雷希特.馮.考夫曼 在台首個展
Artist Video:Ruprecht von Kaufmann 魯普雷希特.馮.考夫曼 藝術家影片

訪談文章及學術評論 Art Critique

Image formation as a (distoring) mirror of reality — Dr. Sylvia Dominique Volz

By Dr. Sylvia Dominique Volz

人類存在的所有複雜性—那種透過操縱來控制他人的努力,一種無關乎理性或非理性的原始本能行為—是Ruprecht von Kaufmann作品的主軸。在這裡,人類因為其世俗存在中的需求、脆弱、與有限性,被大自然與自身物種視為是一種威脅。

既深沉又神秘地,這些畫作吸引著觀眾並使他們著迷。我們受到作品的加密與相互矛盾性質所帶來的多樣性與複雜性挑戰。它們釋放了我們內心的各種聯想,從而產生了一種混合的情緒;正如同藝術家所指出的,這些情緒與我們自己的生活經驗最密切相關:從焦慮不安、沮喪、與感覺到受威脅,到喜悅、愛、與希望—而且有時候混合這所有情緒於一張畫作之中。我們試圖參與、破譯、和理解事物,最終得出結論發現這所發生的一切不全是在眼前,更多的是發生在我們自身上面。這些畫作主角是反映出我們自己嗎?我們扮演著什麼角色?我們是否參與於展開的畫作前並將其意念延伸成為自我的一部份呢?

因此,這些成為與身為觀者的我們產生共鳴與互動的圖像。在社交媒體的世代,這對我們來說似乎很自然。Ruprecht von Kaufmann本人著迷地觀察著所謂的用戶如何利用敘述來塑造他們自己的個人特質。這些即是被操控的主觀真相,因為有些圖像的設計確實旨在向外傳達意念。觀看的時候,腦中所感知到的是情感上觸動觀者的一幅美麗(被美化的)肖像,因為它產生了一種匱乏感且喚醒了深沉的隱性需求。簡而言之,Ruprecht von Kaufmann藝術地捕捉了現實與虛構之間的差異。在他一幅描繪一位背對著的女性正在脫去她比例勻稱的皮膚的畫作中,顯現出來的是一位瘦到近乎消失的纖弱人形,而且她與即將要被拋掉的皮膚形象幾乎沒有任何共同之處(Take off Your Skin[譯:脫去你的外皮])

然而,人們套用各種角色或扮演操控形象這種行為,不僅是現代現象,而是或多或少地貫穿了整個人類與藝術史;人類始終在乎著他們想成為什麼樣的人以及他們想要被看到的角色。即便是在古代,人或表面形象的概念也普遍地被演員應用於所使用的面具以及其於生活中或戲劇中所扮演的角色。幾個世紀以來,肖像,不論是文字還是圖像,從輪廓到每個小細節都經常被精心設計著:想想那些以精心部署的象徵手法來炫耀自己社會地位、教育程度、以及所謂高尚特質的統治者們,從而以最真實的意義建構了他們的形象。

Ruprecht von Kaufmann對於在真實與虛構世界之間搖擺不定的形象特別感興趣;因此,對於美國創作歌手 Tom Waits所寫的歌詞成為他的靈感來源之一也就不足以為奇了—這位音樂家本身就是一位難以自我受限的創作家,他以在歌詞中呈現各種虛構人物並營造出一種不一致且複雜的氛圍為特色,如同我們在Ruprecht von Kaufmann的作品中所感受到的那般。畫作中的主角以不同的形式出現,有些帶有強烈的操控或威嚇感,有些則是有需求或脆弱的感覺。我們會遇上一些奇特的混合型生物,例如半人馬這種怪物睡在床上,然後一位裸體的女性信任地依偎在牠身上(Monster [譯:怪物]),或者是一個完全被包裏在像麻布袋中的生物蹣跚地在房間內移動著(Die Gefährten [譯:夥伴們])。他們的真正身份其實並未向我們揭露,尤其因為他們的頭被轉向、被扭曲得面目全非、或者被遺漏了。由於我們總是試圖閱讀與識別臉部特色以定位我們與對方之間的關係,這樣的呈現更是讓人感到困惑。

基於明顯受到人們與其行為控制的因素,當觀察那些有時顯得複雜的圖像空間時,我們容易疏忽地斷言Ruprecht von Kaufmann的作品缺乏敘述性。事實上,這並非藝術家本意:在他看來,敘事是觸動人們情感的基本手法。因此,他不願意單純地從形式或知識層面上接觸繪畫。這確實值得注意,因為這使他的畫作與當前藝術語境對繪畫敘事的消極態度相悖。此外,這種立場十分有趣,因為Ruprecht von Kaufmann讓人對他的印象是擁有高智商的人,而且他的畫作更是證明他對歷史、文學、古代神話與音樂有著深入的研究。

儘管如此,在觀眾眼前展開的一切無論如何都不能被視為一個完全發展的故事。相反的是,它們是片段,或者更確切地說,它們是帶有暗示意味但不是解答的敘述線索。一開始,藝術家使用符合我們既定觀看模式與主觀經驗視野的有形手法來喚起敘事,因而提供了一種看似簡單的方式進入圖像。這種手法同樣適用於馬戲團場景、山景、或例如童年或成年過渡時期的自傳主題等應用。

隨後,我們便會對自我假定的見解產生懷疑。Ruprecht von Kaufmann便向我們展示各種難以理解的細節,像是一匹有兩個後驅的馬(Pastorale [譯:牧人]),一個不合建構邏輯的空間結構,或者甚至是圖像中的間隙;當獨自觀賞時,不只無助於釐清情境,反而延伸出更多的疑問。觀眾更是被鼓勵自由發揮幻想、解決矛盾之處、並化不合邏輯為合理。Ruprecht von Kaufmann表示:「圖像實際上只在觀眾自己的腦海裡出現。」敘事片段因此扮演著藝術家為我們搭建的橋樑角色,而他本人則在基地周遭徘徊,並且在鼓勵我們持續前進之後。

另一個Ruprecht von Kaufmann的作品與純粹敘事性質背道而馳的方面是他在開始工作之前並不會準備一套填滿細節的概念。他從一個模糊的想法開始行動,允許這些想法引導他。最後在繪畫的過程當中,整體的作品細節才會逐漸變得清晰。

藝術家本人喜歡提及「偶然性」原則,意即偶然觀察到一些原本無意探尋的事物,卻展開新的驚喜發現。這種原則反映在Ruprecht von Kaufmann的創作藝術過程之中,使他不需考慮整體的概念,能夠自由地從一個靈感進行到下一個想法。偶然的連結從這裡或那裡突然冒出、或者產生改變方向的想法,而這些有時會帶來意想不到的發現。最後的結果可能是鑽孔或拼貼狀的元素,破壞作品的表面使其產生動態感。

畫作的標題通常也是在創作過程中才確定。如果,以例外的情況來說,假設作品主題在一開始就設定好,它將會是參考啟發藝術家靈感的一句名言、聲明、或者歌名—例如Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (譯:寶貝,我要離開你了)You never know (譯:你從不知道)。然而,隨後在圖像表面上所形成的東西將會與純粹的示意圖相去甚遠。

整體來說,這些標題在某種程度上常常具有令人驚訝的諷刺意味—例如,在My Thoughts Grow so Large on Me (2016) (譯:思想在我身上變得如此之大)的作品中,畫作主角的頭頂上卻幾乎只剩下抹刀塗抹的殘留漆料;這讓人聯想到的反而是廢物而非其他情操更高尚的活動。或者例如Der Entertainer (譯:表演者)中,主角的頭部僅以一縷輕煙呈現。又或者當Rude Awakening (譯:後悔莫及,第138頁)裡面熟睡的情侶從向下傾斜的床上倒掛下來時,彷彿真的被丟棄了一樣。不證自明地,一個幽默的標題能夠相對化作品的陰鬱與沉重;就如同當那隻像是地獄獵犬一樣的生物正在撕毀另一隻野獸時,畫作的標題卻是Sorglos (譯:無憂無慮)。如此這般地產生吸引人的對比性,使人聯想起Martin Scorsese或Quentin Tarantino所執導的電影中,殘忍行徑的場景通常會伴隨著歡快的配樂。

Ruprecht von Kaufmann的作畫手法玩弄著我們典型的感知方式,使觀者的雙眼不停移動著。我們的雙眼找尋支點,然後在找到了之後再次分心;接著可能再次返回稍早停佇過的點,然後再離開朝向其他方向。物理上來說,在畫作前的空間上下移動著似乎仍然無法提供足夠的說明。可能的例子是In the House (譯:房子裡)這個作品,觀者在作品中的視線移動—如電影運鏡那般—由左至右穿過一個屋子。整個過程經歷了六個位置,從樓梯井開始,觀眾被引導至越來越深的內部,直到突然發現自己身處屋外。

對Ruprecht von Kaufmann而言,重要的是視角的變化;這個概念在這裡特別容易理解,因為藝術家分別在鳥瞰方式與採用較觀者視線稍高一些的視角之間交替變化著,一次從左斜對角,然後下個瞬間便改由右斜對角開始。眼神的閃爍掃視為觀者帶來一種不安全感,甚至是一種令人壓抑的感覺—特別是當藝術家從背後的角度向我們展示一位雜耍演員,站在令人眼花繚亂的高空鞦韆上俯視著馬戲團的地板,那是最專注且神經緊繃的時刻。那感覺幾乎像是地板正在從我們的腳下被抽出—好像我們才是負責要像雜耍演員那般地盪那個鞦韆並在空中旋轉(Der Trapezakt (譯:高空鞦韆)。在State of the Art (譯:先進前衛的,第58頁)這種多重元素作品中,其繪畫的視角與繪板的形狀讓我們產生更多的問題,像是一幅可折疊的祭壇畫,卻有著不對稱的外形,讓人永遠無法如願地使其發揮作用。

雖然Ruprecht von Kaufmann多年來一直在畫布上以油彩創作,2014成為了一個轉捩點,他決定使用油氈作為畫布,並從那時起一直這樣創作著。多部組成的肖像作品Die Zuschauer (2014) (譯:觀眾們)就是這種轉換的例子:從55張DIN A4尺寸的畫作中凝視著我們的,是各種人像或「人格特質」;這裡運用的是各種形式的肖像畫技,從頭像到及胸半身像,再到頭肩像至完整的半身像。當你移動視線進入時,你會注意到有些肖像似乎時不時會消失。眼睛部位被挖空、僅以模糊或勾勒的方式呈現臉部特徵、或者是直接以刮刀塗抹並因此可能使其他部份受損。同樣引人注目的是我們看到的各式色彩,這種用色風格從保守的灰與藍色調變化到尖銳的橙色、黃色、或明亮的洋紅色。然而,這樣的色彩試驗不只與肖像本身有關,也似乎是從背景色調中汲取靈感。有時候,油氈上仍然明顯留有奇怪的色調。

在這裡,我們會發現自己處於色彩的核心來源:實際上是油氈本身真正地為畫作定下了基調。Ruprecht von Kaufmann偶然發現了這種材料—一種亞麻籽油與軟木的混合物。當他在家中建構作品時,他發現各種顏色的油氈板,而這很快地引發了他的藝術好奇心。這種材料以各種色調生產,有望成為具有無限可能性的實驗場域。

他隨後訂製了一個40 x 30 公分的混色板,並大量地測試油畫顏料在畫板表面的表現方式;與一般畫布不同的是,因為其材料特性的關係,作畫時並不需要塗底漆。Ruprecht von Kaufmann也注意到,通常空白的白色補片在畫布上總是看起來像「未完成品」,但油氈板的基材在需要時,可以簡單地將其「單獨放置」(Schmelzwasser (譯:融水)。因此,他讓自己被各種材料色彩引導著,以各自的色調活力作為參考點。因此,一個有趣的過程、一種對話隨之開啟,因為每一個圖像與每種色調都將產生新的想法:當紫羅蘭色遇上黃色、黃色碰上藍色、橙色遇見灰綠色、而洋紅色撞入黑色。更具實驗性的是這些畫作,壁紙或地板上被覆蓋滿五顏六色的圖像,人物則像是身在叢林中那般被框住,例如Monster (譯:怪物)、Auferstehung (譯:復甦)、Der Zeuge (譯:目擊者)、或You Never Know (譯:你從不知道)。潛在的色彩組合似乎無窮無盡。

這種新發現的材料符合Ruprecht von Kaufmann長期以來抱持著的渴望,希望更有力量地運用色彩作為單一元素;相較之下,他早期作品的特點是相當均勻柔和的調性。因此,這些圖像達到了明顯的存在感,但仍能保持足夠的隱晦性而不至於太過搶眼。

從畫布切換到油氈時,Ruprecht von Kaufmann還因此能實現另一個願望,即賦予畫作中的各個元素更多的圖像品質,從而將它們與畫作中的其他區域切割開來。如果我們看諸如Schmelzwasser (譯:融水)這一類的作品,畫中的主角看起來既精緻又含蓄,如同畫在紙上那般。藝術家尤其喜歡強調筆刷與漆料在油氈上極佳的流動性,非常適合書法手法。他幽默地表示,圖像背景可以「像一幅拙劣的油畫那般輕鬆地塗抹」,將顏色保留在最上方,覆蓋著下方的漆料。

他進一步解釋,最後,但同樣重要的是,與畫布相比,這種材料的特點是抗壓性比較高;當Ruprecht von Kaufmann偶爾需要以抹刀在個別部位塗上顏料時,這個特質對他來說相當重要。

更不用說,上述所提及的形式變化也會在對作品內容產生影響。圖像元素與背景中未上漆的各個區域有時都會使畫作產生一定程度的抽象性,從而與作品的其餘部份發展出令人興奮的對話交流。如果有人看過Ruprecht von Kaufmann在改成油氈板之前的最後一些畫布作品—馬戲團系列作品—將會發現這其中已經有更抽象化的趨勢了。與早期的畫作相比,這裡的背景已經不再那麼精細,但仔細觀察的話,更容易讓人聯想到素描般的幾何圖形。

最終,這樣的發展導向了油氈畫,使其中的各個圖層都顯得更加的鮮明,比以往更清晰—以圖像元素、以溶入挖空記號的區塊、還有以拼貼方式應用的箔片碎片呈現。所有的這些都有助於提升畫作上逐漸增加的雕塑品質—幾乎是想挑戰古典藝術在繪畫、雕塑、與素描流派間的歷史區別。

內容層面上,各個圖層亦同樣表現著不同的含義:舉例來說,Schmelzwasser (譯:融水)前景出現的四個人像是直接塗在「原始」的油氈板上,代表著四個世代的藝術家族。由左到右,坐著的是Ruprecht von Kaufmann的曾祖父,站在一旁的是他的祖父,接著是在畫作斜對角的父親,以及最後是藝術家本人以幾乎水平的方式呈現在作品中。身穿軍服的人物以順時針的方向排列,就像是在暗指時間因素且一切因此頃刻即逝。

有趣的是,代表Ruprecht von Kaufmann的人像是畫作中唯一僅以輪廓方式呈現的,因此避開了我們的感知;也就是說,他的祖先們享有較大的身體存在。這似乎暗示著他的生活仍然有被「充實」的空間。另外,在人物背後升起的是讓人印象深刻的山脈,其中間的部份,現在則是融掉的冰川,已經被從圖像表面鑿除並破壞掉了。

從他們的穿著來看,圖中的人物不只是家人,而且是四代的高山部隊。完成山地救援兵役的Ruprecht von Kaufmann強調那段時間培養了他對大自然的熱愛。他對大自然有永久的責任感,以及對所有與此相關或者其未來所有世代有責任,這尤其體現在他整個作品反覆出現的山地主題之中。這裡是嚮往與紀念相互結合之地—尤其是後者,當藝術家想表達冰川融化的威脅時,不只在上述提及的Schmelzwasser (譯:融水)作品,而且也出現在Jannu (第185頁)、Der Fjord (譯:峽灣)、Natur (譯:自然)、以及Landschaft (譯:風景)這些作品之中。特別是當前關於氣候行動的辯論與為氣候罷課運動正盛行的情況下,這些圖像比以往任何時候都更引人注目。

很明顯的,Ruprecht von Kaufmann的畫作永遠不應該單純地以主觀自傳為背景下去思考,然而,更甚於此的是,我們必須以全世界通用普遍有效的角度來思考這些作品。這些是極度個人化的畫作,我們只能從自己的情緒之中來理解。我們從中尋找、認識、質疑所呈現的內容並進一步將其發展。畫作主角的力量或無力都反映且感動著我們,主要是因為它們展現了人類多麼地易變,無論是消極還是積極的層面上。從肇事者轉化成受害者的步驟—或反之亦然—往往是一步之遙;而在這種獨特的糾纏之中,我們彼此相互影響著。在Ruprecht von Kaufmann的畫作之中,人的多樣性就如同黑白色調之間那般多變。身為觀眾,我們面臨著進入對話的挑戰,以便為了透過動態可變的方式實現夙願。

作者:Sylvia Dominique Volz

為德國著名藝術顧問、編輯和策展人,於海德堡大學取得藝術史博士學位。她為私人藏家及企業機構提供當代藝術收藏顧問諮詢,同時也多次擔任知名當代藝術私人收藏指南《BMW藝術指南》(The BMW Art Guide)主編。

IMAGE FORMATION AS A (DISTORTING) MIRROR OF REALITY

By Dr. Sylvia Dominique Volz

Human existence in all its complexities—the efforts to control others through mani- pulation, a primal instinctive behavior that does not differentiate between rational and irrational—is the central theme of Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s work. Here, man is seen as a threat to nature and his own species, characterized by the neediness, vulnerability, and finitude of his earthly existence.

Deep and mysterious, the paintings draw viewers in, leaving them spellbound. We are challenged by the diversity and complexity of their encrypted and contradictory nature. They unleash a variety of associations within us, thereby generating a mix of emotions that, as the artist notes, corresponds most closely to our own experiences in life: from unease, dismay, and feeling threatened, to joy, love, and hope—at times all within a single image. We attempt to engage in, decode, and make sense of things, finally to conclude that what takes place occurs less before our eyes than within ourselves. Are the protagonists ultimately a reflection of ourselves? Whose role are we taking on? Are we an active part of the scenery unfolding before and within us?

These are therefore images we resonate and interact with as viewers. In the age of social media, this seems almost natural to us. Ruprecht von Kaufmann himself observes with fascination how so-called users employ narratives to form their own personal identities. These are the manipulated, subjective truths that certain images are designed to outwardly convey. What sticks in the mind when looking is an enviably beautiful (beautified) portrait that touches the viewer emotionally insofar as it creates a sense of lacking and awakens deeply hidden needs. In a nutshell, Ruprecht von Kaufmann artistically captures this discrepancy between reality and fiction in his painting of a female figure from behind ridding herself of her amply proportioned skin. Seen emerging is an almost vanishingly thin, slight person who seemingly shares nothing in common with the one about to be left behind (Take off Your Skin).

Slipping into various roles or manipulated images of oneself, however, is not only a phenomenon of modern times, but runs more or less throughout the entire history of mankind and art; humans have forever been concerned with whom they would like to be and in what role they would like to be seen. Even in ancient times, the concept of the person or persona was commonly used, among other things, as a term for the actor’s mask and the role one plays in acting or in life. Throughout the centuries, portraits, whether in word or image, have frequently been choreographed down to the very last detail: just think of rulers who flaunted their social status, their education, and supposed noble character traits by means of elaborately deployed symbolism, thus constructing their image in the truest sense of the word.

 Ruprecht von Kaufmann is particularly interested in such figures who oscillate between worlds, between truth and fiction, and it is hardly surprising that the lyrics of US singer-songwriter Tom Waits serve as one of his sources of inspiration—a musician who is himself hard to pin down, who takes on the identities of various invented figures in his songs and creates the kind of contradictory and complex atmosphere that we encounter in Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s pictures. The painter’s protagonists appear in various guises, some powerfully manipulative or menacing, others needy and vulnerable. We encounter strange hybrid creatures, such as a centaur—half-human, half-horse—asleep in bed, a nude female figure trustingly cuddled up against it (Monster), or a being completely ensconced in a sack-like fabric moving somewhat awkwardly around the room (Die Gefährten [The Companions]. Their true identity remains literally hidden from us, not least because their heads are turned away, are distorted beyond recognition, or even omitted. This is particularly bewildering in view of the fact that we always seek to read and recognize facial features, to position ourselves in relation to others.

When observing the at times complex pictorial spaces, dominated predominantly by people and their actions, it would be remiss of us to assert that Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s work lacks narration. In fact, this is not the artist’s intention: in his view, narrative is a fundamental means for touching people emotionally. He is therefore reluctant to approach painting from a purely formal and intellectual level. This is indeed worth noting, since this pits his images against current negative attitudes in the art context towards narrative in painting. Moreover, this stance is interesting since Ruprecht von Kaufmann comes across as a highly intellectual individual whose images attest not least to an intensive examination of history, politics, art history, literature, ancient mythology, and music.

Nevertheless, what unfolds before the eye of the viewer is not to be regarded in any way as a fully developed story. Rather, they are fragments, or more precisely narrative strands that are only intimated but not resolved. At first, the artist evokes narrative using tangible means that correspond to our established modes of seeing and our subjective horizon of experience, thus offering a seemingly easy way into the imagery. This applies equally to images of circus scenes, mountain landscapes, or autobiographical themes such as childhood and the transition to adulthood—to name just a few.

Subsequently then, our presumed insights are themselves called into question. Ruprecht von Kaufmann thus confronts us with all sorts of incomprehensible details, such as a horse with two hindquarters (Pastorale [Pastoral], an illogically constructed spatial structure, or even gaps in the image, which, viewed in isolation, raise more questions than contribute to clarifying the scene. The viewer is specifically encouraged to give his fantasy free rein, to resolve what is at odds, and to convert the illogical into the logical. “The image,“ says Ruprecht von Kaufmann, “only actually comes into being within viewers themselves.” Narrative fragments thus serve as a bridge the artist constructs for us, while he himself lingers around its base and retreats after encouraging us to continue onward.

Another aspect that runs counter to the purely narrative nature of Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s work is the absence of a fully fleshed-out concept before setting to work. He begins with a vague idea that he allows to guide him. Only in the course of the painting process does it become clear what the painting is all about.

The artist himself likes to refer to the principle of “serendipity“, meaning observing something by chance you weren’t looking for, but which turns out to be a new and surprising discovery. This very principle is reflected in the creative artistic process of Ruprecht von Kaufmann, who freely proceeds from one idea to the next without an overarching concept in mind. A coincidental connection crops up here or there, or a change of direction is undertaken, at times making for unexpected discoveries. Bored-out holes or the application of collage-like elements can develop as a result, breaking up the surface and setting it in motion.

Titles for the paintings are also typically only worked out in the course of the creative process. If, as an exception to the rule, the title is decided upon beforehand, it will reference a sentence, a statement, or a song title that has inspired the artist—such as Babe I’m Gonna Leave You or You never know . But what takes shape then on the image ground is a distant cry from pure illustration.

In general, the titles are in a certain way often surprisingly ironic—when, for instance, there is almost nothing more left of the top of the head of the person portrayed in My Thoughts Grow so Large on Me (2016) than spatula-applied paint remnants, which are more reminiscent of refuse than higher-minded activity. Or Der Entertainer, whose head consists solely of a plume of smoke. Or when the sleeping couple in Rude Awakening slides upside down off the downward sloping bed, as if being literally disposed of. It goes without saying that a humorous title can relativize the gloom and heaviness of the image theme when a hound-from-hell-like creature tears away at another beast and is simply titled Sorglos [Carefree]. A riveting contrast emerges, reminiscent of films by Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino, where a scene marked by brutality is often accompanied by cheery music.

Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s manner of playing with our typical modes of perception in his paintings keeps the eye of beholder constantly in motion. It seeks out a pivot point, finds it, is distracted again, then potentially returns to the earlier point and drifts off from there in another direction. Physically the moving up and down in the space in front of the painting also does not seem to provide sufficient clarification. Potentially paradigmatic of this is the work In the House , in which the viewer moves—reminiscent of a film sequence—from left to right through a house. A total of six locations are traversed; beginning with the stairwell, the viewer is led deeper and deeper into the interior until suddenly finding himself outside the house.

Significant for Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s work is the variation in perspective that is particularly easy to comprehend here, given the artist’s alternating between a bird’s-eye view and an only slightly elevated observer’s point of view, once diagonally from the left, and then, in the next instant, diagonally from the right. The darting of the eye creates in viewers a sense of insecurity, even an oppressive feeling—specifically when the artist shows us an acrobat from behind standing on a swing at a dizzying height looking down at the floor of the circus ring, in a moment of maximum concentration and tension. It almost feels as if the floor is being pulled out from under our feet—as if it were up to us to swing the swing and whirl through the air like an aerial acrobat (Der Trapezakt [Trapeze Act] . The visual angle of the painting but also the very shape of the painted panels raise questions when a multi-element work like State of the Art (p.58), reminiscent of a foldable altarpiece, has an asymmetrical outer shape that would never allow it to function as such.

While Ruprecht von Kaufmann has been creating his works in oil on canvas for many years, 2014 marked a turning point when he decided to use linoleum as painting surface and has since then been doing so consistently. The multi-part portrait series Die Zuschauer [The Spectators] (2014) serves as an example of this switch: peering out at us from fifty-five DIN A4-sized panels are various characters or “personalities”; a variety of portraiture forms are employed here, from the head shot to the bust and the head-and- shoulder portrait, to the half- length figure. As you move in, you notice that the portraits almost seemingly dissolve at times. Eyes are drilled out, facial features are only indicated vaguely or in outline or even painted over using a spatula, while scraping threatens to destroy others. Also conspicuous is the assortment of colors we encounter here; the palette ranges from more reserved gray and blue tones to shrill orange, yellow, or bright magenta. Such color experimentation, however, is not only related to the portraits themselves, but also seems to take its cues from the background hues. At times, strange color sprinkles from the linoleum remain evident.

Here we find ourselves at the core source of the color: it is actually the linoleum itself that literally sets the tone for the painting. Ruprecht von Kaufmann came across the material—a mixture of linseed oil and cork—by chance. While doing construction work on his own home he discovered variously colored linoleum panels that soon aroused his artistic curiosity. The material, produced in a variety of shades, promised to become an experimental field of almost unlimited possibilities.

He subsequently ordered a colorful potpourri of 40 x 30 cm panels and experimented extensively with the way the oil paint behaves on the surface of the ground, which, unlike canvas, does not need to be primed due to its material properties. Ruprecht von Kaufmann noticed that while a blank white patch on canvas always looks “unfinished,” the substrate of a linoleum panel can simply be “left alone” when needed [Schmelzwasser [Meltwater] , Revision . Accordingly, he allowed himself to be guided by the material’s various colors, working with the vibrancy of the respective hue as a reference point. A playful process, a dialogue was set in motion, because each image, each color, gave birth to a new idea: violet meets yellow, yellow encounters blue, orange comes across gray-green, magenta runs up against black. Even more experimental are the paintings, in which wallpaper or floors are covered with colorful patterns and the figures framed as if in a jungle, such as in Monster , Auferstehung [Resurrection] , Der Zeuge [The Witness] , or You Never Know. The potential color combinations seem virtually inexhaustible.

The newly discovered material matched Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s long- cherished desire to use color more powerfully as an individual element, in contrast to earlier works, which are characterized by a rather homogenous, muted tonality. The images thus achieve an obvious presence, but still remain subtle enough that they avoid becoming too conspicuous.

In switching from canvas to linoleum, Ruprecht von Kaufmann was also able to fulfill another wish to give individual elements in the image a more graphical quality, thus setting them apart from other areas of the image. If we look at works such as Schmelzwasser [Meltwater], the figures actually seem refined and reserved, as if drawn on paper. The artist likes to emphasize that brushes and paint flow particularly well on linoleum and that it is well suited for the calligraphy of motion. The image background, he humorously remarks, can be “painted over as easily as a botched oil painting,” where the color also remains on the top surface, over underlying layers of paint.

Last but not least, the material, he explains further, is characterized by a certain resistance to pressure compared to canvas. This is of particular significance when Ruprecht von Kaufmann occasionally applies paint to individual parts of the canvas with a spatula.

It goes without saying that the formal changes mentioned also have an effect on content. Both graphical elements and individual areas left unpainted in the background at times lend the pictures a degree of abstraction that enters into an exciting dialogue with the rest of the painting. If one looks at the last works Ruprecht von Kaufmann created on canvas prior to switching to linoleum—the series with circus scenes—a tendency towards greater abstraction can already be seen in them. In contrast to earlier paintings, the background here is no longer as detailed, but is on closer inspection more reminiscent of sketched-out, geometric forms.

Ultimately this development leads to the linoleum works, in which individual image layers are distinguished from one another even more clearly than before—by graphical elements, by sections that dissolve into carved-out marks, and by fragments of foil applied in a collage-like manner. All of these contribute to the increasingly sculptural quality of the images—almost as if wanting to question the classical art historical distinction between genres of painting, sculpture, and drawing.

Content-wise, the individual layers represent different levels of meaning: for example, the four figures in Schmelzwasser [Meltwater] seen in the foreground of the image and painted directly onto the “raw” linoleum, represent four generations of the artist’s family. From left to right, seated, is Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s great-grandfather, standing next to him his grandfather, followed by his father placed diagonally in the image, and finally ending with the artist himself in a nearly horizontal position. The figures, dressed in military uniforms, are arranged clockwise, as if alluding to the factor of time and thus to transience.

It is interesting to note that Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s figure is only rendered graphically in outline, therefore escaping our perception, so to speak, while his forebears enjoy a greater physical presence. It seems as if the artist is alluding to the fact that his life can still be “filled out.” Rising up in the background behind the figures is an impressive mountain range, whose mid-section, now a melting glacier, has been removed and broken up by marks gouged out of the image ground.

Based on the clothes they are wearing, the figures shown are not only family members but also four generations of alpine troops. Ruprecht von Kaufmann, who completed his military service in mountain rescue, emphasizes how much this time fostered his love of nature. His abiding sense of responsibility towards it and, related to this, towards all future generations, is echoed in particular in the mountain theme that recurs throughout his body of work. This is where the location of yearning and the memorial are united—the latter in particular when the artist expresses the threat of melting glaciers and icebergs, not only in the work Schmelzwasser [Meltwater] mentioned above, but also in Jannu , Der Fjord [The Fjord], Natur [Nature] and Landschaft [Landscape]. Especially in the context of the current debate on climate action and the global Fridays For Future movement, these images are more compelling than ever.

It is clear that Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s paintings should never be thought of solely in a subjective-autobiographical context, but that, above and beyond this, they must also be considered from a global, universally valid perspective. These are deeply personal images that we are only able to access via our own emotionality. In them we search for, recog- nize, question what is presented and develop it further. The power and powerlessness of the protagonists reflect and move us, above all because they show us how mutable man is, in both a negative as well as positive sense. The step from perpetrator to victim—and vice versa—is often less than a stone’s throw away from each other, and in this peculiar entangling we have a mutual effect on one another. In Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s painting, man’s facets are as varied and diverse as the range of tonalities between black and white. As viewers, we are challenged to enter into a dialogue in order to come to this realization in a dynamically variable manner.

Ruprecht von Kaufmann interview:Painting as if Directing a Movie

Painting as if Directing a Movie

1974born in 1974 in MunichRuprecht von Kaufmannis a contemporary painter living and working in Berlin, Germany.Von Kaufmannachieved international recognition with his figurative body of works, mainly consisting of oil paintings on linoleum and charcoal drawings on paper. The German artist distinguishes himself from the bulk of contemporary figurative painters with his dynamic touch and unique colour palette. Strongly marked by an edge of surrealism and the absurd,von Kaufmannvon Kaufmann populates interiors and landscapes with figures. Drawing inspiration from daily life as a comment on reality, evoking intriguing narratives and captivating images.

Julien Delagrange (JD): First and foremost,Contemporary Art IssueThank you for taking the time for this interview.

Ruprecht von Kaufmann (RVK): My pleasure!

JD: JD: The only way I can start this conversation is by congratulating you on your most recent monographic publication,Ruprecht von Kaufmann: 2013 – 2020Almost a retrospective in print, a true landmark for any artist. Could you talk us through the catalogue?

RVK: In 2013 I had discovered linoleum for myself as a painting ground. Just before that I had pushed my painting into a new direction, of simplifying the backgrounds and leaving some of the underlying drawing visible in the finished painting. The paintings became rougher and more sketch-like, but at the same time – I felt – more to the point and more impactful. The strange thing about these kind of changes was, that I had been striving to push my work into that kind of direction for a while, and then all of a sudden this door opened and all I needed to do was walk through it.

In 2018 when I first started thinking about a new book, it seemed very important to document these crucial shifts, to give those, for me very pivotal works, a platform. So thatʼs why it has some retrospective qualities. In discussion with my wife – who is incredibly supportive of what I do and who has designed the book – we came up with the idea of not showing the works in chronological order, but to restructure them into overlying themes that tie very different pieces from different years together. Even though the publisher was sceptical at first, I am very happy we went that way. It makes the book more lively and interesting to read. Sylvia Volz did an incredible job with the very difficult task to tie it all together in her text. I think it is a very important invitation into the world the paintings encompass.

The pandemic nearly chocked the project. My gallery – Gallery Thomas Fuchs in Stuttgart – who has co-financed the book was really uncertain if we should go through with it in an unpredictable year like 2020. Fortunately two museums, the city owned Gallery at Gutshaus Steglitz in Berlin and the Buchheim Museum near Munich, offered me solo shows at around the same time, and with that came some financial support from their end. That finally got the project off the ground. A book like this is a collaborative effort, that I couldn’t have realised without the support of a holehost of people. Too many to name them all here!page2image58010496

JD: As often, monographs or retrospective shows are key moments for an artist to reflect on their work. Does the monograph have an effect on your artistic practice or direction?

RVK: Not really, to be honest. I have never been much of a looking back kind of guy. It’s like mountain climbing. The last climb isn’t of any importance. Only the next one counts. For me it’s the same with paintings.

And at the same time, yes, a book like this is great, because it reminds you of what you have done with your life for the past couple of years. But for me, changes and the continuous evolving of my work has always been essential. If I would just repeat what I have been doing before, I might as well be working in any other job. What is so fantastic about being an artist, is that every painting wants something different, something new from you.

Today I am forcing myself to make shifts and changes more gradually, because I learned over the years, that collectors and galleries and art critics don’t follow along as quickly. You need to give them time to catch on, lead them along with your thinking. Several times, I have lost almost all of my collectors and had to built up a new collector base, because many just didn’t like the direction I was taking with my work. That’s just part of the job.

JD: The book compiles your works20132020from 2013 up to 2020. Would you say there is a visible development?

Absolutely, I would say so. As I have mentioned before, 2013 brought huge shifts in my work and the first paintings in the book are still painted on canvas. And then you can see the process of how I explored different routes and avenues, that the changes in material and in thinking offered. One of my heroes is Beck (the musician). I love how, with his albums, you never know what you will get in the next one. The only thing you can rely on is that it will be different. So in the book you probably won’t read through it and like every painting. But maybe, and hopefully, you will grow to understand and love some of the ones that you didn’t connect with at first.

Unfortunately the book doesn’t include the smaller works, they often are my experimentation ground and could have filled in some of the steps in between larger works. But it would have gotten too extensive. So maybe there will be another book with just the smaller format works in the future.

JD: As you have mentioned,sadly, there still is the issue of Covid.COVID-19How did you experience the pandemic and in what manner did it have effect on you or your works?

RVK: The pandemic has been a mixed experience. Partly, I enjoy the slow pace, because it allowed me to spend more time painting and less time organizing exhibitions. It also has led me to think about other avenues more, like maybe getting back into teaching as well. I love teaching, but it’s also such a time drain. But Covid has got me thinking about that again.

Then there are all the concealed shows and the cancelled fairs. I have an exhibition in the City Gallery Gutshaus Steglitz in Berlin right now. But no one can see it. That’s a really sad experience. And even though I am used to less social contact than most people, I am starting to feel the strain of social isolation. But I try not to worry too much and focus on what’s ahead and how to keep going. So far my galleries have been doing great work to power through the pandemic. But really I am most worried for my kids right now. They have more or less lost an entire year of schooling and of companionship. For them it’s been really rough.

All of that might creep into my paintings eventually. It usually takes a little while for current experiences to filter though memory and be reassembled into ideas for paintings.

JD: A recurring characteristic throughout this body of works of seven years of painting is the implicit absence of faces.

Blurred, evaded, hidden, destroyed with a strong impasto or sometimes simply not painted. How did this strategy come about and why?

RVK: I want the people in my paintings not to be a specific person, but a specific type of person. So I am consciously avoiding ‘portraits’ in my paintings. For me a painting becomes alive through the viewer who encounters the image later on. And for the viewer it becomes possible to make the painting their own if they recognize figures out of their own life experience. So I try to leave the figures as open as possible while being as specific as necessary.

JD: JD: The implementation of this image formula has been increasingly visible over the past two decades. What’s your viewing point upon this matter? Why do we feel so strongly not to paint faces and/or view pictures without faces?

RVK: We make connections with another person through the face. We think we can ‘read’ othersthrough their eyes. We also think that emotions are transported through the expressions on a face. But if those clues are missing, we are being thrown back onto ourselves. We intuitively empathise with emotions that are communicated through posture and body language. This reaction is much more subtle. It’s like a riptide that pulls us under and into the painting, when the surface looked harmless and quiet. But then your own emotions that are being triggered. I want the viewer to have a strong emotional response to my paintings.

JD: Does painting itself sometimes demand to blur of hide the faces?

RVK: Blurring or erasing is a regular part of my painting practise. I want the paintings to have a certain rawness and fluidity that would get lost if I laboured too much over a certain section. So I often take a scraper and scratch out hole areas when I feel they have gotten too tight and too precise and then work back into the remnants of what was there before. That process of destroying and rebuilding can go on for quite a while. I want the failures still to be visible. To me the figures look more believable that way, because they are themselves flawed, like actual human beings. But leaving mistakes visible also allows a presence of vulnerability on my end. A true connection is only possible when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. And I want the paintings to connect with their audience.

JD: As painter, one could argue you are a painter who paints from the heart. What role does intuition have in your creative process?

RVK: Intuition is always a very essential part of the painting process. That’s what differentiates painting from Conceptual Art. The painting process is a continuous series of sometimes incremental decisions. Of course some of these decisions, usually the drastic and more dramatic ones, are well planned and thought out. But to brush over the many, many minor decisions you take without a conscious thought process, would be greatly undervaluing their importance. Like driving a car down a road. Yes you think about it when you need to take a turn. But a large part of the driving process happens subconsciously.

But most importantly, don’t underestimate failures and happy mistakes. They can’t be calculated and anticipated. But when they happen they sometimes dictate a new direction that you hadn’t thought of starting out. Sometimes they crystallize an idea and help you in being more precise. That’s what people used to call ‘a muse’ in the old days, I presume. It can happen that a painting takes control, tells you exactly what it needs. And then it’s my role to step back and follow that lead. I find that this usually results in a better painting then I could have hoped for. So it’s a process that is just as much intuition as it is planing and conceptual thinking. And experience makes the borders between the two more and more blurry and permeable.

JD: Personally, when I am browsing through your work, what staggers me the most is the immense variety of compositions and figures. Some images seem to go beyond the absurd, depicting scenes that could not even be induced by a feverish dream. Could you tell us a bit more how these compositions and images are built?

RVK: Composition is probably the key. I am obsessed with compositions, they are the backbone of every painting and offer so many possibilities to influence the emotional expression of a painting. It’s possible to counter very extreme imagery with a very orderly composition or vice versa. I am always envious of film directors, because they have a timeline, music and sound available to them. So to me it’s important to introduce a sense of a before or after into the painting. A strong sense that something must have led up to the depicted moment and that something will happen afterwards. Thinking about my paintings that way opens up so many possibilities of expression to me.

JD: About2015

(

)I can not help but smile when seeing this particular painting, Die Gefährten – The fellows in English – from 2015. It looks like a small dinosaur is captured in a morph suit? A fascinating intersection of pure science fiction and a hallucination of some sort. Could you talk us through the process, how the image originated and how one should/could approach this painting?/

RVK: There is no right way to approach a painting. It’s allowing yourself to buy into the internal logic of the painted world, to dive int o the mood. I try with my paintings to generate a ‘parallel’ reality, that somewhat mirrors our own, but is strange enough to feel unsettling, like how our own behavior might look to someone looking in from the outside. So by allowing yourself to slip into the painting, I hope you come out of it with a slightly altered perspective on your own life. Ideally.

In this painting the main character is the ‘monster’ lumbering about. I like your description about a dinosaur captured in a morph suit. I was trying to get this creature, that looks sort of cozy and soft and unthreatening, but at the same time feels unnerving, because the shape of the thing is unreadable and obscured. It is at the same time familiar and strangely alien.

Then there are the Companions that the painting is named after.夥伴們The men that are placed in the lockers turning their back to the monster. The inspiration is taken from the Odyssey. There – as in many other hero stories – are Odyssey’s men, who are his faithful companions throughout his adventures. But we never learn their names or anything more about them. They are exchangeable stand-ins, foot soldiers. The ‘sideshow-bob’ of mythology. Disposables, that you can pull out of the closet, whenever you need someone whom you can turn into a swine.

Even though the painting is kind of dark and moody, it’s one that isn’t meant to be all serious. Usually there is a lot of humour in my work. So I am glad that it makes you smile.

JD: Another characteristic aspect of your oeuvre, offering visual continuity throughout the variety of scenes and compositions, is your colour palette. I note there are many blues, purples, pinks and greens dominating the overall view of your works. They seem to affirm what we’re seeing is not reality.

RVK: When I started out in painting, I was very influenced by the old masters. I was using the ‘old master style’ and therefore my paintings had that coloration and light as well. But I always felt it wasn’t quite right. The light didn’t look like light looks nowadays, with neon-lamps and all kinds of colourful light sources. I wanted to have a coloration that feels more as if being under water, or in a badly lit night club or something. Where skin tones don’t look healthy and pink, but are dominated by greens and blue. The effect would be exactly that we do not see something real, but what we are seeing is a reflection of reality, that we are moving through some kind of daydream. Like in dreams, things look familiar, and also not at all like in waking life.

JD: One can ascertain a generation of contemporary figurative painters marked by surrealism and a darker atmosphere rooted in existentialism. In my humble opinion you have been one the leading figures for this generation. What’s your view on this tendency in contemporary painting?

RVK: Honestly, I am not very firm about ‘current tendencies’ in contemporary painting. I was always just simply interested in trying to push my work more and more to where I felt it needed to go, to paint the things that go through my head. That has come at the expense of looking too much at what others are doing. That might be arrogant, but for me it’s a matter of how to spend my time. I am addicted to painting and I am always thinking about how to get the next creative hit. So there you are. Of course there is no greater compliment for an artist, then to be able to inspire other artists, no greater honour then to be seen as an artist’s artist. But that’s one of the many things that aren’t for me to determine. All I can do is make my work, that’s it.

JD: I think that makes it even more interesting. It seems to be a very unintentional phenomenon when speaking with the artists associated with this tendency. They all seem to be following their own interests and urges, as do you. Are there certain artists, colleagues, with whom you can identity your work with? Has there been a reciprocal influence?

RVK: Of course, I am stealing stuff like crazy. But it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few names. And usually I try not to look at the instagram feed of people whose work I admire too much out of fear to be influenced too much. I adore the work of Lars Elling (b. 1966), Justin Mortimer (b. 1970) and Nicola Samorì (b. 1977) to name just a few.

But even more, inspiration I draw from song lyrics and from books. I love literature and I am addicted to audio books (and coffee to complete the trilogy of my addictions). A good book can trigger a million images in my head, that I can just run with. That’s why a lot of my titles are quotes from Song Lyiks or prose. And then of course movies: they have been a huge influence on me. In my head I am directing a film as I paint. There are so many questions that need to be answered in the course of a painting; from composition, to lighting, to time of day, to clothes, colours, backgrounds and how the image will be cropped. All of which influence the final outcome. It is like directing a small movie.

JD: I’ll be looking forward for the ‘movies’ – paintings – you’re set to direct in the years to come. Thank you for your time and even more for your genuine and intriguing view on art, painting and life. It has been a true pleasure, Ruprecht von Kaufmann.

Painting as if Directing a Movie

Ruprecht von Kaufmann, born in 1974 in Munich, is a contemporary painter living and working in Berlin, Germany. Von Kaufmann achieved international recognition with his figurative body of works, mainly consisting of oil paintings on linoleum and charcoal drawings on paper. The German artist distinguishes himself from the bulk of contemporary figurative painters with his dynamic touch and unique colour palette. Strongly marked by an edge of surrealism and the absurd, von Kaufmann populates interiors and landscapes with figures. Drawing inspiration from daily life as a comment on reality, evoking intriguing narratives and captivating images.

Julien Delagrange (JD): First and foremost, welcome on Contemporary Art Issue. Thank you for taking the time for this interview.

Ruprecht von Kaufmann (RVK): My pleasure!

JD: The only way I can start this conversation is by congratulating you on your most recent monographic publication, Ruprecht von Kaufmann : 2013 – 2020. Almost a retrospective in print, a true landmark for any artist. Could you talk us through the catalogue?

RVK: In 2013 I had discovered linoleum for myself as a painting ground. Just before that I had pushed my painting into a new direction, of simplifying the backgrounds and leaving some of the underlying drawing visible in the finished painting. The paintings became rougher and more sketch-like, but at the same time – I felt – more to the point and more impactful. The strange thing about these kind of changes was, that I had been striving to push my work into that kind of direction for a while, and then all of a sudden this door opened and all I needed to do was walk through it.

In 2018 when I first started thinking about a new book, it seemed very important to document these crucial shifts, to give those, for me very pivotal works, a platform. So that’s why it has some retrospective qualities. In discussion with my wife – who is incredibly supportive of what I do and who has designed the book – we came up with the idea of not showing the works in chronological order, but to restructure them into overlying themes that tie very different pieces from different years together. Even though the publisher was sceptical at first, I am very happy we went that way. It makes the book more lively and interesting to read. Sylvia Volz did an incredible job with the very difficult task to tie it all together in her text. I think it is a very important invitation into the world the paintings encompass.

The pandemic nearly chocked the project. My gallery – Gallery Thomas Fuchs in Stuttgart – who has co-financed the book was really uncertain if we should go through with it in an unpredictable year like 2020. Fortunately two museums, the city owned Gallery at Gutshaus Steglitz in Berlin and the Buchheim Museum near Munich, offered me solo shows at around the same time, and with that came some financial support from their end. That finally got the project off the ground. A book like this is a collaborative effort, that I couldn’t have realised without the support of a holehost of people. Too many to name them all here!

JD: As often, monographs or retrospective shows are key moments for an artist to reflect on their work. Does the monograph have an effect on your artistic practice or direction?

RVK: Not really, to be honest. I have never been much of a looking back kind of guy. It’s like mountain climbing. The last climb isn’t of any importance. Only the next one counts. For me it’s the same with paintings.

And at the same time, yes, a book like this is great, because it reminds you of what you have done with your life for the past couple of years. But for me, changes and the continuous evolving of my work has always been essential. If I would just repeat what I have been doing before, I might as well be working in any other job. What is so fantastic about being an artist, is that every painting wants something different, something new from you.

Today I am forcing myself to make shifts and changes more gradually, because I learned over the years, that collectors and galleries and art critics don’t follow along as quickly. You need to give them time to catch on, lead them along with your thinking. Several times, I have lost almost all of my collectors and had to built up a new collector base, because many just didn’t like the direction I was taking with my work. That’s just part of the job.

JD: The book compiles your work from 2013 up to 2020. Would you say there is a visible development?

Absolutely, I would say so. As I have mentioned before, 2013 brought huge shifts in my work and the first paintings in the book are still painted on canvas. And then you can see the process of how I explored different routes and avenues, that the changes in material and in thinking offered. One of my heroes is Beck (the musician). I love how, with his albums, you never know what you will get in the next one. The only thing you can rely on is that it will be different. So in the book you probably won’t read through it and like every painting. But maybe, and hopefully, you will grow to understand and love some of the ones that you didn’t connect with at first.

Unfortunately the book doesn’t include the smaller works, they often are my experimentation ground and could have filled in some of the steps in between larger works. But it would have gotten too extensive. So maybe there will be another book with just the smaller format works in the future.

JD: As you have mentioned, sadly, there still is the issue of Covid. How did you experience the pandemic and in what manner did it have effect on you or your works?

RVK: The pandemic has been a mixed experience. Partly, I enjoy the slow pace, because it allowed me to spend more time painting and less time organizing exhibitions. It also has led me to think about other avenues more, like maybe getting back into teaching as well. I love teaching, but it’s also such a time drain. But Covid has got me thinking about that again.

Then there are all the concealed shows and the cancelled fairs. I have an exhibition in the City Gallery Gutshaus Steglitz in Berlin right now. But no one can see it. That’s a really sad experience. And even though I am used to less social contact than most people, I am starting to feel the strain of social isolation. But I try not to worry too much and focus on what’s ahead and how to keep going. So far my galleries have been doing great work to power through the pandemic. But really I am most worried for my kids right now. They have more or less lost an entire year of schooling and of companionship. For them it’s been really rough.

All of that might creep into my paintings eventually. It usually takes a little while for current experiences to filter though memory and be reassembled into ideas for paintings.

JD: A recurring characteristic throughout this body of works of seven years of painting is the implicit absence of faces. Blurred, evaded, hidden, destroyed with a strong impasto or sometimes simply not painted. How did this strategy come about and why?

RVK: I want the people in my paintings not to be a specific person, but a specific type of person. So I am consciously avoiding ‘portraits’ in my paintings. For me a painting becomes alive through the viewer who encounters the image later on. And for the viewer it becomes possible to make the painting their own if they recognize figures out of their own life experience. So I try to leave the figures as open as possible while being as specific as necessary.

JD: The implementation of this image formula has been increasingly visible over the past two decades. What’s your viewing point upon this matter? Why do we feel so strongly not to paint faces and/or view pictures without faces?

RVK: We make connections with another person through the face. We think we can ‘read’ othersthrough their eyes. We also think that emotions are transported through the expressions on a face. But if those clues are missing, we are being thrown back onto ourselves. We intuitively empathise with emotions that are communicated through posture and body language. This reaction is much more subtle. It’s like a riptide that pulls us under and into the painting, when the surface looked harmless and quiet. But then your own emotions that are being triggered. I want the viewer to have a strong emotional response to my paintings.

JD: Does painting itself sometimes demand to blur of hide the faces?

RVK: Blurring or erasing is a regular part of my painting practise. I want the paintings to have a certain rawness and fluidity that would get lost if I laboured too much over a certain section. So I often take a scraper and scratch out hole areas when I feel they have gotten too tight and too precise and then work back into the remnants of what was there before. That process of destroying and rebuilding can go on for quite a while. I want the failures still to be visible. To me the figures look more believable that way, because they are themselves flawed, like actual human beings. But leaving mistakes visible also allows a presence of vulnerability on my end. A true connection is only possible when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. And I want the paintings to connect with their audience.

JD: As painter, one could argue you are a painter who paints from the heart. What role does intuition have in your creative process?

RVK: Intuition is always a very essential part of the painting process. That’s what differentiates painting from Conceptual Art. The painting process is a continuous series of sometimes incremental decisions. Of course some of these decisions, usually the drastic and more dramatic ones, are well planned and thought out. But to brush over the many, many minor decisions you take without a conscious thought process, would be greatly undervaluing their importance. Like driving a car down a road. Yes you think about it when you need to take a turn. But a large part of the driving process happens subconsciously.

But most importantly, don’t underestimate failures and happy mistakes. They can’t be calculated and anticipated. But when they happen they sometimes dictate a new direction that you hadn’t thought of starting out. Sometimes they crystallize an idea and help you in being more precise. That’s what people used to call ‘a muse’ in the old days, I presume. It can happen that a painting takes control, tells you exactly what it needs. And then it’s my role to step back and follow that lead. I find that this usually results in a better painting then I could have hoped for. So it’s a process that is just as much intuition as it is planing and conceptual thinking. And experience makes the borders between the two more and more blurry and permeable.

JD: Personally, when I am browsing through your work, what staggers me the most is the immense variety of compositions and figures. Some images seem to go beyond the absurd, depicting scenes that could not even be induced by a feverish dream. Could you tell us a bit more how these compositions and images are built?

RVK: Composition is probably the key. I am obsessed with compositions, they are the backbone of every painting and offer so many possibilities to influence the emotional expression of a painting. It’s possible to counter very extreme imagery with a very orderly composition or vice versa. I am always envious of film directors, because they have a timeline, music and sound available to them. So to me it’s important to introduce a sense of a before or after into the painting. A strong sense that something must have led up to the depicted moment and that something will happen afterwards. Thinking about my paintings that way opens up so many possibilities of expression to me.

JD: I can not help but smile when seeing this particular painting, Die Gefährten – The fellows in English – from 2015. It looks like a small dinosaur is captured in a morph suit? A fascinating intersection of pure science fiction and a hallucination of some sort. Could you talk us through the process, how the image originated and how one should/could approach this painting?

RVK: There is no right way to approach a painting. It’s allowing yourself to buy into the internal logic of the painted world, to dive int o the mood. I try with my paintings to generate a ‘parallel’ reality, that somewhat mirrors our own, but is strange enough to feel unsettling, like how our own behavior might look to someone looking in from the outside. So by allowing yourself to slip into the painting, I hope you come out of it with a slightly altered perspective on your own life. Ideally.

In this painting the main character is the ‘monster’ lumbering about. I like your description about a dinosaur captured in a morph suit. I was trying to get this creature, that looks sort of cozy and soft and unthreatening, but at the same time feels unnerving, because the shape of the thing is unreadable and obscured. It is at the same time familiar and strangely alien.

Then there are the Companions that the painting is named after. The men that are placed in the lockers turning their back to the monster. The inspiration is taken from the Odyssey. There – as in many other hero stories – are Odyssey’s men, who are his faithful companions throughout his adventures. But we never learn their names or anything more about them. They are exchangeable stand-ins, foot soldiers. The ‘sideshow-bob’ of mythology. Disposables, that you can pull out of the closet, whenever you need someone whom you can turn into a swine.

Even though the painting is kind of dark and moody, it’s one that isn’t meant to be all serious. Usually there is a lot of humour in my work. So I am glad that it makes you smile.

JD: Another characteristic aspect of your oeuvre, offering visual continuity throughout the variety of scenes and compositions, is your colour palette. I note there are many blues, purples, pinks and greens dominating the overall view of your works. They seem to affirm what we’re seeing is not reality.

RVK: When I started out in painting, I was very influenced by the old masters. I was using the ‘old master style’ and therefore my paintings had that coloration and light as well. But I always felt it wasn’t quite right. The light didn’t look like light looks nowadays, with neon-lamps and all kinds of colourful light sources. I wanted to have a coloration that feels more as if being under water, or in a badly lit night club or something. Where skin tones don’t look healthy and pink, but are dominated by greens and blue. The effect would be exactly that we do not see something real, but what we are seeing is a reflection of reality, that we are moving through some kind of daydream. Like in dreams, things look familiar, and also not at all like in waking life.

JD: One can ascertain a generation of contemporary figurative painters marked by surrealism and a darker atmosphere rooted in existentialism. In my humble opinion you have been one the leading figures for this generation. What’s your view on this tendency in contemporary painting?

RVK: Honestly, I am not very firm about ‘current tendencies’ in contemporary painting. I was always just simply interested in trying to push my work more and more to where I felt it needed to go, to paint the things that go through my head. That has come at the expense of looking too much at what others are doing. That might be arrogant, but for me it’s a matter of how to spend my time. I am addicted to painting and I am always thinking about how to get the next creative hit. So there you are. Of course there is no greater compliment for an artist, then to be able to inspire other artists, no greater honour then to be seen as an artist’s artist. But that’s one of the many things that aren’t for me to determine. All I can do is make my work, that’s it.

JD: I think that makes it even more interesting. It seems to be a very unintentional phenomenon when speaking with the artists associated with this tendency. They all seem to be following their own interests and urges, as do you. Are there certain artists, colleagues, with whom you can identity your work with? Has there been a reciprocal influence?

RVK: Of course, I am stealing stuff like crazy. But it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few names. And usually I try not to look at the instagram feed of people whose work I admire too much out of fear to be influenced too much. I adore the work of Lars Elling (b. 1966), Justin Mortimer (b. 1970) and Nicola Samorì (b. 1977) to name just a few.

But even more, inspiration I draw from song lyrics and from books. I love literature and I am addicted to audio books (and coffee to complete the trilogy of my addictions). A good book can trigger a million images in my head, that I can just run with. That’s why a lot of my titles are quotes from Song Lyiks or prose. And then of course movies: they have been a huge influence on me. In my head I am directing a film as I paint. There are so many questions that need to be answered in the course of a painting; from composition, to lighting, to time of day, to clothes, colours, backgrounds and how the image will be cropped. All of which influence the final outcome. It is like directing a small movie.

JD: I’ll be looking forward for the ‘movies’ – paintings – you’re set to direct in the years to come. Thank you for your time and even more for your genuine and intriguing view on art, painting and life. It has been a true pleasure, Ruprecht von Kaufmann.

THE ART OF THE VOID

by Daniel J. Schreiber

It is a meeting of titans when Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Große Berglandschaft and Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s Der Fjord appear together for the first time in an exhibition at the Buchheim Museum in 2021. Both mountainous landscapes measure two-by-six meters each. Apart from their size, their extreme horizontal format, and their theme, the two monumental paintings seemingly have little in common. In Kirchner’s painting, the viewer has the impression of standing in the middle of a summertime, alpine valley of meadows, trees, and boulders.

Von Kaufmann’s counterpart takes a coolly distant position. We observe from a distance a snow-covered alpine mountain range by a fjord. Von Kaufmann had numerous opportunities to study Kirchner’s monumental painting up close. He grew up on Lake Starnberg in Tutzing, only seven kilometers away from Bernried, where the Buchheim Museum is located. Kirchner’s major work there forms part of the Expressionist collection of museum founder Lothar-Günther Buchheim. By the time the museum was founded in 2001, Kaufmann had long since left and made his way into the world. Soon after finishing high school he moved to Los Angeles to study art at the Pasadena College of Art. Thereafter, he lived in Los Angeles, New York, and moved to Berlin in 2003. But whenever the desire to see his parents and the local landscape of his youth drew him back to Tutzing, he would also go see Kirchner’s Große Berglandschaft.

In 1931 Kirchner applied the composition of barely mixed colors with bold dashes of his brush onto the coarse burlap of his painting surface. Warm-hued, orange- brown tree trunks and boulders stand out against the crisp green of the forest and meadows. The dark-blue linear contours of the trees and boulders underscore the interplay of contrasts. A light blue sky, inserted wedge-like between the ridges, draws the viewer’s attention to the center of the painting. This magnificent work, which Kirchner created in 1931 for a mixed-choir theatrical performance at the Gasthof ”Zum Sand“, an inn located in Davos Frauenkirch, apparently does not reference a specific location. As a backdrop for the performance of the play “Die Tochter vom Arvenhof oder Wie auch wir vergeben” (“The Daughter from the Arvenhof, or As We Forgive”) by Paul Appenzeller, the painting exudes an overall folksy appeal. It is, as Lothar-Günther Buchheim put it, an “archetype of the Alpine landscape.”

Although it was made eighteen years after die Brücke had dissolved, the large- scale painting is a fine example of the art created by the artist group Kirchner co- founded in Dresden in 1905. According to Buchheim, Kirchner and his friends placed just as much importance on the function of the image to reproduce reality as on the striving for free forms of expression. Conveying these two opposing tendencies has remained an ongoing task of art to this day. In other words: art is only comprehensible if it starts with our horizon of experience, and only powerful if it transcends this. That was as true then as it is today.

At first, von Kaufmann’s fjord landscape seemingly has little to do with this definition. The realistic precision of detailed brushwork plays too great a role. There is little doubt that we are dealing here with the depiction of an actual mountain range. The first question we ask of the painting is where this snow- capped mountain is located, not whether it even exists. Even its astonishing iridescence does not undermine its photorealistic appearance. From William Turner and the art of watercolor that followed, we are aware that artists make use of special lighting conditions in nature, such as the sunset, to bring colorful, atmospheric compositions to canvas. We assume here that we are observing a panorama on a winter afternoon. The color spectrum ranges from the orange of the afternoon sun on the right edge of the picture to the cooler purple and blue tones of the twilight hour on its left edge.

Contrary to first impressions, von Kaufmann’s fjord painting goes far beyond our perceptual reality. In actuality, it is much more an “embodiment” of all mountainous landscapes on earth than Kirchner’s painting was in his time, since Kirchner’s imaginary image was based exclusively on his impressions of the valley slopes of the Landwassertal. Von Kaufmann, on the other hand, a citizen of the world and former mountain hunter, skier and climber, has summited many a peak on various continents. Where is the depicted mountain range to be found? It rises up into the sky everywhere and nowhere. The painting is a substrate of the artist’s painterly and mountaineering experiences in New England, California, Alaska, Norway, around his local Karwendel range, and elsewhere.

The color scheme has nothing to do with an actual lighting situation. A romantic sunset atmosphere is hinted at, but the surrounding white of the painting surface largely neutralizes this. In comparison to Kirchner’s painting, it is obvious that a compositional concept was critical here. The expressionist color palette is reinterpreted. Over the entire breadth of six meters, von Kaufmann executes a barely detectable transition from orange to blue—the two colors Kirchner highlighted in creating a decisively placed, complementary contrast in his mountainous landscape. The two colors stand for summer and winter, for day and night, for cold and warm. They are the quintessence of contrast. Von Kaufmann’s measured gradation makes clear that everything in the world belongs together, even the greatest contrasts.

With von Kaufmann, however, the most important artistic elements are not the colors, not the forms, but the voids! The fact that we initially pay the slightest attention to them is due to a peculiarity of our visual perception. In seeking to take in our surroundings, our eyes move constantly back and forth. While doing so, only small areas appear before the lens. Another limitation is that sharp vision is only possible on a small part of the retina. Blurred images are excluded by our brain without our noticing. The impulses arriving in our visual cortex comprise only a fraction of the visual impressions, and are even a far smaller part of an image of our surroundings scanned by our searching eyes. Nevertheless, we get a visual sense of the overall picture. This is based on the enormous capacities of our brain to supplement missing information based on previous experience and biological parameters. Only about 10 percent of the nerve fibers in our visual cortex originate in the eye. The brain adds the remainder of the visual information. So we are used to arriving at our view of things with very little data.

Ruprecht von Kaufmann ingeniously shows us how susceptible this system is to failure. Only after several careful inspections do we notice that we are seeing nothing more than the diffuse, muted white of the painting ground on over 60 percent of the painting surface. Our perception has turned these voids into a hazy winter sky, snow- covered rocks and meadows as well as a glacier tongue sliding over the valley floor. But not every void is the same. The sky reveals the bare, unworked painting ground. The snow-capped rocks in the foreground are enticed out of our imagination with the help of a few sketchy brushstrokes. Otherwise, the pure painting ground shines through here too. Its soft, diffuse, slightly tonal white is the result of von Kaufmann’s very special choice of materials: what we are looking at here is neither canvas, nor cardboard or wood, but linoleum.

As we all know from art class, this material is easy to cut and carve. The artist also makes use of this unique characteristic. The section occupied by the glacier tongue was originally covered in impasto paint that Kaufmann had applied with a broad brush. Part of this paint application remains on the lower right edge of the picture, where the fjord appears. The horizontal brushwork evokes the idea of a calm surface of water illuminated by the evening sun. The painting’s entire palette of hues is seen here in thick smears, some of which extend beyond the painting’s edge. However, the artist carved out the painted surface with linoleum knives following the form of the glacier tongue, which flows from its area of origin through a valley into the water. Remnants of paint are only preserved on some of the ridges remaining between the tool marks. They enliven the monochrome surface and give it the appearance of a porous, broken edge of an ice mass.

The greatest marvel we experience with von Kaufmann’s fjord painting, however, is the three-dimensional effect that occurs when looking at the glacier. How can it be that we think we see the ice masses physically in front of us, when they have in fact been cut into the white linoleum as hollow forms? Here, too, the artist plays a trick on us by exploiting a weakness in our perceptual apparatus. Strictly speaking, our eyes cannot perceive spatiality. The retinal image is always two- dimensional. A spatial image is only created by our brain’s interpretation of the visual impression. Information about spatial relationships is gained from shadows and proportions, for example. The artist makes use of both. On the one hand, the cross-sections of the carved-out hollows become narrower as they recede. On the other, the ridges between depressions cast shadows. Our eyes cannot make out whether it is a hollow or a positive form. So the brain has to decide what is in front of it, and it does so based on evidence. Nobody has ever seen a glacier as a negative form. That’s why this can’t be the case here either, it thinks. And it transforms the two- dimensional image with shadows into a sculptural, positive form.

But if we inspect the image more closely, especially when looking at the surface from the side, we can see that we have fallen for an optical illusion. We realize that our imagination has turned a void into a sculptural body. Here the painting encourages us to go beyond our horizon of experiences and think further. Can’t we fill in other voids with ideas as well? Shouldn’t it be possible to peer into the void of the future in a way that is oriented toward insight and action? Shouldn’t we only have to evaluate past and present information and add in anticipated changes for the future? The subject of glaciers in particular seems to demand such imagination. An historic 1895 photo of an Alaskan glacier inspired Kaufmann’s painting of the glacier. Since that time most of the glacier has melted due to global warming. Only deformations in the landscape created as it slid down into the valley still remain. Perhaps the losses brought about by civilization should be seen as a challenge to the imagination. One that envisions a new, richer future in their place.

作者:Daniel J. Schreiber (b. 1965)

Daniel J. Schreiber (born August 11, 1965 in Hilden ) is a German art historian and director of the Museum of Fantasy (Buchheim Museum) in Bernried am Starnberger See . Schreiber studied philosophy , ethnology and German and comparative folklore at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich . He then completed his master's degree at the University of Hamburg in the two main subjects philosophy and art history as well as in the minor subject ethnology.

THE ART OF THE VOID

by Daniel J. Schreiber

It is a meeting of titans when Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Große Berglandschaft and Ruprecht von Kaufmann’s Der Fjord appear together for the first time in an exhibition at the Buchheim Museum in 2021. Both mountainous landscapes measure two-by-six meters each. Apart from their size, their extreme horizontal format, and their theme, the two monumental paintings seemingly have little in common. In Kirchner’s painting, the viewer has the impression of standing in the middle of a summertime, alpine valley of meadows, trees, and boulders. Von Kaufmann’s counterpart takes a coolly distant position. We observe from a distance a snow-covered alpine mountain range by a fjord.

Von Kaufmann had numerous opportunities to study Kirchner’s monumental painting up close. He grew up on Lake Starnberg in Tutzing, only seven kilometers away from Bernried, where the Buchheim Museum is located. Kirchner’s major work there forms part of the Expressionist collection of museum founder Lothar-Günther Buchheim. By the time the museum was founded in 2001, Kaufmann had long since left and made his way into the world. Soon after finishing high school he moved to Los Angeles to study art at the Pasadena College of Art. Thereafter, he lived in Los Angeles, New York, and moved to Berlin in 2003. But whenever the desire to see his parents and the local landscape of his youth drew him back to Tutzing, he would also go see Kirchner’s Große Berglandschaft.

In 1931 Kirchner applied the composition of barely mixed colors with bold dashes of his brush onto the coarse burlap of his painting surface. Warm-hued, orange- brown tree trunks and boulders stand out against the crisp green of the forest and meadows. The dark-blue linear contours of the trees and boulders underscore the interplay of contrasts. A light blue sky, inserted wedge-like between the ridges, draws the viewer’s attention to the center of the painting. This magnificent work, which Kirchner created in 1931 for a mixed-choir theatrical performance at the Gasthof ”Zum Sand“, an inn located in Davos Frauenkirch, apparently does not reference a specific location. As a backdrop for the performance of the play “Die Tochter vom Arvenhof oder Wie auch wir vergeben” (“The Daughter from the Arvenhof, or As We Forgive”) by Paul Appenzeller, the painting exudes an overall folksy appeal. It is, as Lothar-Günther Buchheim put it, an “archetype of the Alpine landscape.”

Although it was made eighteen years after die Brücke had dissolved, the large- scale painting is a fine example of the art created by the artist group Kirchner co- founded in Dresden in 1905. According to Buchheim, Kirchner and his friends placed just as much importance on the function of the image to reproduce reality as on the striving for free forms of expression. Conveying these two opposing tendencies has remained an ongoing task of art to this day. In other words: art is only comprehensible if it starts with our horizon of experience, and only powerful if it transcends this. That was as true then as it is today.

At first, von Kaufmann’s fjord landscape seemingly has little to do with this definition. The realistic precision of detailed brushwork plays too great a role. There is little doubt that we are dealing here with the depiction of an actual mountain range. The first question we ask of the painting is where this snow- capped mountain is located, not whether it even exists. Even its astonishing iridescence does not undermine its photorealistic appearance. From William Turner and the art of watercolor that followed, we are aware that artists make use of special lighting conditions in nature, such as the sunset, to bring colorful, atmospheric compositions to canvas. We assume here that we are observing a panorama on a winter afternoon. The color spectrum ranges from the orange of the afternoon sun on the right edge of the picture to the cooler purple and blue tones of the twilight hour on its left edge.

Contrary to first impressions, von Kaufmann’s fjord painting goes far beyond our perceptual reality. In actuality, it is much more an “embodiment” of all mountainous landscapes on earth than Kirchner’s painting was in his time, since Kirchner’s imaginary image was based exclusively on his impressions of the valley slopes of the Landwassertal. Von Kaufmann, on the other hand, a citizen of the world and former mountain hunter, skier and climber, has summited many a peak on various continents. Where is the depicted mountain range to be found? It rises up into the sky everywhere and nowhere. The painting is a substrate of the artist’s painterly and mountaineering experiences in New England, California, Alaska, Norway, around his local Karwendel range, and elsewhere.

The color scheme has nothing to do with an actual lighting situation. A romantic sunset atmosphere is hinted at, but the surrounding white of the painting surface largely neutralizes this. In comparison to Kirchner’s painting, it is obvious that a compositional concept was critical here. The expressionist color palette is reinterpreted. Over the entire breadth of six meters, von Kaufmann executes a barely detectable transition from orange to blue—the two colors Kirchner highlighted in creating a decisively placed, complementary contrast in his mountainous landscape. The two colors stand for summer and winter, for day and night, for cold and warm. They are the quintessence of contrast. Von Kaufmann’s measured gradation makes clear that everything in the world belongs together, even the greatest contrasts.

With von Kaufmann, however, the most important artistic elements are not the colors, not the forms, but the voids! The fact that we initially pay the slightest attention to them is due to a peculiarity of our visual perception. In seeking to take in our surroundings, our eyes move constantly back and forth. While doing so, only small areas appear before the lens. Another limitation is that sharp vision is only possible on a small part of the retina. Blurred images are excluded by our brain without our noticing. The impulses arriving in our visual cortex comprise only a fraction of the visual impressions, and are even a far smaller part of an image of our surroundings scanned by our searching eyes. Nevertheless, we get a visual sense of the overall picture. This is based on the enormous capacities of our brain to supplement missing information based on previous experience and biological parameters. Only about 10 percent of the nerve fibers in our visual cortex originate in the eye. The brain adds the remainder of the visual information. So we are used to arriving at our view of things with very little data.

Ruprecht von Kaufmann ingeniously shows us how susceptible this system is to failure. Only after several careful inspections do we notice that we are seeing nothing more than the diffuse, muted white of the painting ground on over 60 percent of the painting surface. Our perception has turned these voids into a hazy winter sky, snow- covered rocks and meadows as well as a glacier tongue sliding over the valley floor. But not every void is the same. The sky reveals the bare, unworked painting ground. The snow-capped rocks in the foreground are enticed out of our imagination with the help of a few sketchy brushstrokes. Otherwise, the pure painting ground shines through here too. Its soft, diffuse, slightly tonal white is the result of von Kaufmann’s very special choice of materials: what we are looking at here is neither canvas, nor cardboard or wood, but linoleum.

As we all know from art class, this material is easy to cut and carve. The artist also makes use of this unique characteristic. The section occupied by the glacier tongue was originally covered in impasto paint that Kaufmann had applied with a broad brush. Part of this paint application remains on the lower right edge of the picture, where the fjord appears. The horizontal brushwork evokes the idea of a calm surface of water illuminated by the evening sun. The painting’s entire palette of hues is seen here in thick smears, some of which extend beyond the painting’s edge. However, the artist carved out the painted surface with linoleum knives following the form of the glacier tongue, which flows from its area of origin through a valley into the water. Remnants of paint are only preserved on some of the ridges remaining between the tool marks. They enliven the monochrome surface and give it the appearance of a porous, broken edge of an ice mass.

The greatest marvel we experience with von Kaufmann’s fjord painting, however, is the three-dimensional effect that occurs when looking at the glacier. How can it be that we think we see the ice masses physically in front of us, when they have in fact been cut into the white linoleum as hollow forms? Here, too, the artist plays a trick on us by exploiting a weakness in our perceptual apparatus. Strictly speaking, our eyes cannot perceive spatiality. The retinal image is always two- dimensional. A spatial image is only created by our brain’s interpretation of the visual impression. Information about spatial relationships is gained from shadows and proportions, for example. The artist makes use of both. On the one hand, the cross-sections of the carved-out hollows become narrower as they recede. On the other, the ridges between depressions cast shadows. Our eyes cannot make out whether it is a hollow or a positive form. So the brain has to decide what is in front of it, and it does so based on evidence. Nobody has ever seen a glacier as a negative form. That’s why this can’t be the case here either, it thinks. And it transforms the two- dimensional image with shadows into a sculptural, positive form.

But if we inspect the image more closely, especially when looking at the surface from the side, we can see that we have fallen for an optical illusion. We realize that our imagination has turned a void into a sculptural body. Here the painting encourages us to go beyond our horizon of experiences and think further. Can’t we fill in other voids with ideas as well? Shouldn’t it be possible to peer into the void of the future in a way that is oriented toward insight and action? Shouldn’t we only have to evaluate past and present information and add in anticipated changes for the future? The subject of glaciers in particular seems to demand such imagination. An historic 1895 photo of an Alaskan glacier inspired Kaufmann’s painting of the glacier. Since that time most of the glacier has melted due to global warming. Only deformations in the landscape created as it slid down into the valley still remain. Perhaps the losses brought about by civilization should be seen as a challenge to the imagination. One that envisions a new, richer future in their place.

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