Peter Roesch

This retrospective exhibition of Peter Roesch’s works was divided into a painting section and a drawing section. The paintings dominated the exhibition; they extended like a giant frieze over the four walls of the central gallery space. Then in the dark, windowless cellar one discovered a cabinet—almost, paradoxically, like an illuminated tomb—with the same number of drawings as there had been paintings. This division is not a qualitative one; rather it demonstrates an equivalency of both mediums for Roesch. The mediums correspond so fully that one can speak of a mutuality. Also, there are no hierarchies in Roesch’s work, and so the drawings are not simply studies for the paintings. The different types of images grow out of one another; the painted image is rooted in drawing, just as the drawings are rooted in painting. The installation of the drawing cabinet might even be considered a metaphoric formulation of an unconscious space in which the deeper layers of the paintings could possibly be shown.

Through this low-key but still precise staging of the exhibition, the inner relationships of Roesch’s oeuvre were emphasized in a subtle manner that provoked a comparative viewing. There is no esthetic evaluation in the traditional sense, but rather an accounting for the multiplicity of pictorial images that can be related to one another. Roesch is concerned with an interpretation of the images from a continuous reading of their predecessors and successors. In the ideal sense, art-historical precursors as well as memories of the immense imaginary museum of tradition belong to these pictures too. Tradition, for Roesch, is the act of painting itself, which is a lasting adventure experienced through the fiction of an image world; thus Roesch’s art has a conceptual aspect. Painting is also the place where the painter realizes himself, manifests himself in the layers of paint, seeing his image reflected in the layers underneath the surface. But that is only one level of his project, for these images become concrete representations of themes, for example, of Eros and death, or Diana and Actaeon. That would be the cultured reading of these images. Roesch’s pictures reveal an omnipresent humor, too, a tragicomic quality that tries to extract hope from the absurd. In the end this gesture is also ironic, for Roesch’s images illustrate no absolute knowledge but rather document experience.

Max Wechsler

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.