Bern

Christian Lindow

Kunsthalle Bern

Aside from one sculpture, this exhibition focused on 11 pieces from the cycle of “Zwetschgen-Bilder” (Plum paintings, 1987–88). The small sculpture, L’etoile des eaux-vives (Star of living waters, 1986), belongs to an earlier phase. It was not meant as a retrospective element or a reference to the sculptural component that has always been present in Lindow’s oeuvre; rather, this bronze casting of a modeled female torso acted as a deliberate embodiment of contradiction, a kind of stumbling block. Its goal was to draw attention to Lindow’s characteristic way of dealing with the pictorial object of his sculptural struggles. In its almost abstract dissolution or concentration of form, this sculpture tacitly undermines the inherent demand of the sculptural medium to achieve a realistic portrayal of the phenomena of this world. The sculpture forms a counterpoint to the—at first sight—intense phenomenal reality of his paintings. It thereby points out that the goal of these tremendous painted “plums” is not primarily a representation of pieces of fruit; instead, the painter wants to remind us that the fruit is an occasion for, and object of, painting.

Lindow’s paintings are based on a conceptual approach that focuses not so much on the subject of the painting as on the transformation of the object into a painting. These works act as the setting for a confrontation with the very act of painting. The realistic form makes the pictorial subject look like a conventional motif. But its cultivated, painterly treatment soon points to the true subject: painting itself. Placed in various formats, the plums pose a compositional challenge. They form a resistance to the all-encompassing freedom of the presentation of the painting. The subject becomes a kind of calculation that limits the painter’s freedom of movement, disciplining him, as it were; it becomes an instrument with which the painter can increase the demands he makes on painting. The blue bodies of the plums articulate painterly structures, which are essentially determined by the motif, the format, and the medium (here, oil on an acrylic ground). These repetitions objectify the process of painting and, for all their spontaneity, liquidate any randomness. Lindow heightens the contradiction between, on the one hand, an art of painting that strives for purity and autonomy and, on the other, the tricky nature of the representational function in painting. Indeed, he tackles this old problem in an extremely bold and daring way, by driving it to an extreme, so that, paradoxically, not only is the dilemma formulated clearly, but it is simultaneously overcome in its obviousness. The problem is not eliminated; instead, in Lindow’s formulation, it is transformed into a productive field of tension, in which the painter finds an ideal setting for his confrontation with the painting.

Max Wechsler

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.