Udo Koch

Udo Koch uses outlines of his own hand, the silhouettes of certain plants, or old teapots, as a starting point for his paintings and sculptures, transforming them through layering, mirroring, and inversion. What in words may sound so complex as to be incomprehensible comes off, in its visual form, as disarmingly simple and rich. In Koch’s work a seamless conjunction of simplicity and complexity results in startling forms that could only be the result of careful planning. New forms are achieved through the mutation of familiar structures, resulting in hybrids that contain both fragments of their original form and traces of repeated manipulation. Through recognizably traced outlines and the negative spaces between them Koch takes the viewer into an uncharted region between nature and artifice, organic form and construction, in drawings, reliefs, and sculptures that meditate on the nature of our perception of the object.

In this show, Koch’s most significant objects were presented—along with sketches for larger pictures and maquettes for possible works which served to emphasize the vigor and freshness of his vision, as well as the open-endedness that is essential to his project. On view was an outstretched hand, drawn in silhouette on a sheet of paper; it had been rotated several times and traced in each new position so that, through multiple layerings a symmetrical, multilayered, almost organic form emerged. Koch doesn’t, however, intend to use the hand as a classical motif, but rather as a means of examining the relationship between the work of art and the body. For him the body is already fragmented and abstracted—his hand is at once drawn object and drawing tool. It is not surprising, then, that in certain of these pieces the area around the body seems to merge with the body itself. As Merleau-Ponty pointed out it is at and through the body’s boundaries that we begin to perceive the object.

At the beginning of his investigations, Koch made the simple observation that one surface always runs into another. The project his work pursues thus opens up a perspective onto a certain kind of wholeness, one that paradoxically derives from the diffusion he took as his point of departure.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from the German by David Jacobson.