Helmut Dirnaichner

Galerie D + C Mueller-Roth

The material used by Helmut Dirnaichner is not only a surface that carries the image: it also constitutes the theme, color, and subject matter of his works. Soil, ashes, or finely powdered stone have been combined with cellulose and processed into heavy yet fragile sheets of paper. The color of the paper in each case results from the specific component substance.

In the works in this exhibition, Dirnaichner has molded his paper into two basic forms: an elongated leaf and a wider oval. The elongated forms strongly resemble dried leaves or archaic signs. Some have been drawn out and narrowed so that they come to a point, transforming the peaceful, natural shape into an aggressive object, like a lance. The ovals range from large single sheets that cover an entire wall to groups of smaller vertical forms in various colors and shapes placed next to one another on part of a wall. The smaller ovals, hanging side-by-side at eye level, can be read as different faces of a landscape. Their varying consistency, structure, and coloring reproduce various aspects of the materials’ origin, and one might say that Dirnaichner traces geological events or natural changes.

Like most representatives of his generation, Dirnaichner, who was born in 1942, stands out because of an individualistic, subjective attitude. However, his work is marked less by contemporary stylistic trends than by two specific landscapes. One is his native Upper Bavaria, an area that is characterized by its bogs. What comes through in the works influenced by this landscape are the sense of sinking into the soft ground, which offers no resistance; the cutting of peat, formed from strata of organic matter; and, less directly, its use as a fuel and its role in preserving earth’s primeval history. The other landscape evoked in his work is that of Apulia, Italy. Its southernmost part, Salento, has been described as a “peninsula floating on a carpet of water.” The relationship of water to both of these regions is also present in the work. Salento, deforested in ancient times, has gradually become karstic and dried out. Water runs unhindered through the cracks in the karst. Peat, on the other hand, develops when water accumulates in fields with inefficient drainage, forming bogs; and the peat is harvested by cutting or dredging the bog, which then is drained of water. Ultimately, papermaking is based on the same principle, for paper is the dried-out remnant of the celluloid “mud” and its additives. Thus, Dirnaichner’s work, in its allusions and in its very substance, can be seen as a meditation on nature.

Anne Krauter

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.