Jochen Flinzer

Galerie Andreas Schlüter

Display books are like slipcases with inscriptions: hollow inside, title printed on the outside. Unassuming phrases shine forth from their spines—they might be designated Art, or The Golden City, or Good Form, depending on the purpose of the display. In furniture stores these ornaments of cultivation decorate bookshelves and cabinets; in store windows and other places they turn up as “decorative suggestions” among all conceivable types of displayed goods.

To Jochen Flinzer such displays provide a welcome canvas for seven of the twenty-four works in his exhibition “Mein Feld ist die Welt” (My field is the world). On them he embroiders images and texts—through the cover into the empty center and out the back cover again. With a single long thread Flinzer draws (he thinks of his embroidery as drawing) legible words and recognizable images on one side, leaving only the intimation of a script on the other. The color of the ink with which the manufacturer has printed the display book’s title determines the color of the yarn that Flinzer uses—the green, red, or black threads stretching through this hollow literature and holding together the hole at its center.

The connection between the color of the yarn and that of the title is the only link between the drawing on one of Flinzer’s display books and its support. Other readings inform the drawing itself. On Kanwa jiten, 1999, the pictogram of a tortoise together with its corresponding Japanese character derive from a book on the development of writing. Images and annotations from a dictionary of plants are drawn on another display book, Knabenkraut, 1999. A third (Karl May Filmbuch, 1999) is adorned with borrowings from a book by the German adventure writer Karl May.

The sophistication of Flinzer’s drawing lies in its double nature. The design on the front, the surface offered for presentation (whether that of a hollow book, or simply a piece of fabric or paper), is matched by a verso drawn with equal attention. The recto, with its relatively temperate, ordered, and familiar program of images, is answered on the verso by a kind of hermetic work-in-progress, an image-diagram whose contours and rhythms are decisively influenced by the experiential time of the work process. Thus Flinzer’s technique presupposes two ways of reading drawing, formally differentiated by the opposition abstract/figurative, and in terms of content, revealed by the magnification of emotional traces. The coordinates, front and back, dissolve into a play of different times: the given and the personal, the external and the internal.

Another recent series on view is “The language of flowers,” 1999, the only works here made without thread. These nine watercolor diptychs do, however, take off from embroidery patterns for flowers. Here, in place of the symbols normally used in such patterns to indicate colors, Flinzer has substituted letters. In the images themselves, these letters appear chosen at random, but when read in sequence with the help of the accompanying legends, they spell out words and phrases taken from personal ads, such as “blow job” or “threesome.” Together with their color-translation they construct a kind of encryption program reminiscent of the countless secret images and signs through which minorities of all kinds communicate in public without being recognized. The violet, the dandelion, or the rose: familiar but simultaneously secret images that speak only to those who recognize them.

Wolf Jahn

Translated from German by Diana Reese.