Anne Loch

Kunstverein; Monika Sprüth Galerie

For many years now, Anne Loch has been painting only landscapes, and almost never any human beings. At most, an animal may stray into one of her landscapes—as in the picture featuring a herd of buffalo (shown at the Kunstverein in Bonn) or the impressive depiction of an eagle perching on a mountain peak against a radiant blue background (at Monika Sprüth). The exhibition in Bonn consisted almost entirely of a series of mountain landscapes and a series of flower paintings, all painted in 1987. In each of the former, the mountain always looks the same while the color of the background is different; and the latter are compositions of almost kitschy motifs in a variety of bright colors. There were only three paintings in the Cologne show: a landscape with a blue lake, a flower painting, and the painting of the eagle. These works, which convey an air of decadence, bring up the problem of beauty once again. This, as the catalogue states, is Loch’s goal. Her means are simple—acrylic housepaint on linen—and her manner is a combination of meticulous and faux naive. The exaggerated motifs and colors seem less important to her than the underlying question that they pose: what is the relationship of art to humanity’s moral yearning for the category it calls “beauty.”

Today, the landscape can no longer be thought of in Romantic terms. It can no longer signify the search for the self in a fusion with the “natural.” According to Loch, the problem in art of representing landscape of all kinds lies in our archaic ideas of what landscape is or should be. She feels that one must try to transcend these ideas and attempt to paint landscapes today, despite the many obvious difficulties. Indeed, because of the very existence of these difficulties, she seeks the “core” of the problem, where disintegration and indifference can be eliminated. Her method is to formulate this search: on the one hand, mutely, in images and their arrangements; on the other hand, in her own and other people’s texts. In a bilingual English-German catalogue entitled Eigener (My own, 1988), published for the Bonn exhibition, Loch presented passages from her own writings and from those of Gorky, Hugo, Tolstoy, and others. For example, the passage she quotes from Tolstoy’s Cossacks compares the beauty of snowy mountains to feminine beauty, while from her own writings she has selected such sincere but defiantly simplistic statements as “ANARCHISM—to me it seems to be the political equivalent [of] landscape” and “Love is an esthetic norm.” On the other hand, she just as defiantly insists on painting landscapes in such a way as to nourish ideas of the greatest possible “artificiality” by challenging simple values anew. At one point in the catalogue, she writes that the human need for kitsch is caused by inexplicable pain. Loch’s paintings are almost always at the point where kitsch (as she defines it) and art merge, and where pain demands an explanation, which becomes a specific task in itself. The cool, penetrating force of her paintings and of her harsh colors, which provoke the viewer with their intentional artificiality, tear open a hole, to make space for a ray of meaning in the flood of ideas and images.

Jutta Koether

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.