C. O. Paeffgen

Dietmar Werle

Like the work of Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke, and Michael Buthe, C. O. Paeffgen's art is a primal art, an art of fantasy, memory, desire, and emotional, seasonal expression. But for their respective primal energies Beuys, Polke, and Buthe have all found outlets (in ideology, alchemy, and a fascination with non-European cultures respectively) that have expansively directed them out into the world. Paeffgen, on the other hand, has undertaken a modest, intimate voyage, a voyage “autour de sa chambre.” Recently, he has used photographic images from newspapers and periodicals in his work; through these images, his scornful irony and sincere tenderness have ventured into countless corners of the earth, touching equally a flower or a prince, an object of consumption or a star. Paeffgen emphasizes the outlines of figures with a thick mark, enlarging them on the canvas and embellishing them with paint. It is as if he were making an illustrated child's handbook on the vanitas of the world.

For this show, “Monde” (Moons), with even greater modesty, Paeffgen distributed nine crescent moons about the space. Eight styrofoam crescents covered in different-colored plaster hung from the walls; a small iron crescent lay on the floor. The moon is a recurring motif in Paeffgen's work, a constant element in his chimerical puppet theaters. Here, in the form of a quarter crescent moon, it was alone, extracted from any possible context, standing out against the white walls of the gallery, absolute—like a minimalist sculpture, but one with the consistency of a large biscuit and the tactile delicacy of an enormous bonbon. As elsewhere in Paeffgen's work, it was “the friendly moon for the insane” of Paul Valéry, the colored excrement of the poet, for the moon refers to poetry. Each moon had a secret name, for example Himmel (Sky) for the blue moon, Banane (Banana) for the yellow one, and Sozialismus (Socialism) for the red one; so these forms were bursting with color, matter, and poetic reference. They were a disrespectful invasion of the gallery, but one simple in form, since excellence doesn't exist in itself in the art game, but only generosity and exquisiteness.

Perhaps the qualitative level of art cookery has fallen in recent times, but when, in effect, have we ever eaten better? Only in our childhood. Thus Paeffgen's moons are in reality only Proustian madeleines, made so large that we wouldn't know what cup to dip them in pour rechercher le temps perdu. If we did manage to overcome this difficulty, their taste would be that of the plaster they are made of. Images, stories, puppet theater.

Pier Luigi Tazzi

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore.