Thomas Wachweger

Galerie Springer

Contemporary West German painting is currently going through a difficult phase. Following the well-publicized boom of Neo-Expressionism, doubts have begun to arise. Art has become a social spectacle to such an extraordinary degree that it has begun to suffer from its own popularity. Of course, there are still plenty of artists who offer the public just what it demands, but Neo-Expressionism’s exhaustion, its dull repetition, is clearly evident. By way of counterreaction, artists who chose to remain outside the mainstream are now becoming more visible.

The Berlin painter Thomas Wachweger is among these “new” artists receiving considerable attention today The 13 works exhibited here exemplify a new type of “difficult” painting. Although Wachweger begins with figurative elements he does not try—as the Neo-Expressionist cliché demands—to tell a story. His paintings are the result of a complex thought and work process that constantly moves between a certain kind of automatism and rational control. Color fields and lines are placed on the canvas and then, working by way of figurative association, interpreted. Yet explicit mirroring of reality and narrative action are strictly avoided. The works thereby assume an intermediate status between painterly self-reflection and thematic concentration. In the painting Körperschaft (Corporate body, 1986), for instance, the swelling forms can be seen either as breasts or as a definition of fullness or extravagance. The title’s reference to a defined “body” thereby takes on a dual meaning: as socioerotic allusion and as more or less abstract symbolism.

This opening up of painting to vague, unspoken realities functions as a timely critique of the overexplicitness of the content painting that has been dominating the art of the last several years. The exhaustion of narrative content—as seen in the (international) proliferation of skull motifs in contemporary painting—is countered by painting that deliberately positions itself on a boundary where conscious and preconscious knowledge are allowed to mingle. By this strategy, the new painting aims to avoid the endless prattle of contemporary narrative art as well as the vacuity of painting for the sake of painting.

Wolfgang Max Faust

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.