Peter Bömmels

Galerie Paul Maenz

Furniere der Schatz” (Veneer the treasure): like all Peter Bömmels’ exhibitions, this one focused on the content of the works. On display were 40 small works (all 1989) painted on fine, frail veneer leaves, that were divided into ten sections, each with a mock-serious title. Here, Bömmels uses real, not mythical subjects, that refer to functions, differences, and problems of gender, belief, art, and politics. Humor runs as a current through many of the works, as, for example, in Künstler transzendiert Zebrastreifen (Artist transcends zebra crossing). Bömmels is an artistic autodidact with a peculiarly stylized pictorial language and his method is to translate his stages of thought directly into visual images that are comprehensible by a wide public.

In most of these works, Bömmels carefully and sparingly outlines figures on the veneers, filling them with yellow oil paint. These tiny figures, often maimed or disjointed, gape at us incomprehensibly. They are more like caricatures than cartoon figures, in that their pain seems distinctly human and real. Some of the figures are very familiar and sympathetic; others are ugly and repulsive, reminding us of things we would rather forget. Presented like a miniature and devoid of all theatricality, the images use the visual as a vehicle: while respecting the pictorial, they move beyond the picture for its own sake. Bömmels pictorial forms correspond , to a strange, crazy sort of aphorism that operates almost systematically; the goal is to make art that is more accessible, without being simple minded . Bodies, herts, tubes, genitals, turntables—all these images exist in order to haunt us, to stimulate our nerve endings, to persuade us with a single leap of faith. Reality is infinitely more complicated than theory, and Bömmels continues to search for a grip on reality itself as an overall existential condition, by employing simple and direct methods in order to create layers of meaning. He uses storytelling as a basis for philosophical inquiry.

Bömmels’ art is hard to pin down; it remains in almost constant motion, attaining a kind of comic ineffability. Yet, its seriousness of purpose recalls such disparate artists as Joseph Beuys and Tim Rollins + K.O.S. All manifest a concern for the social dimension of art, the use of didactic forms to transport knowledge, and the complexity of the human condition, with its ever-expanding and contracting systems of organization.

Jutta Koether

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.