Would You Take the Ball from a Little Baby
A number of Thilo Heinzmann’s works – here on display in his second solo show at Bortolami Gallery – situate pigment clearly and resolutely in the field of perception. They do not do so, however, in order to render the artist’s ‘material’ visible, or to expose painting’s internal working principles. Rather, the way in which Heinzmann employs pigment generates a genuinely painterly impression. Observe the transitions between the delicate and the dense areas of colored dusting, which amount to transitions between lighter and darker blues, between lower and higher intensities of color. In the Western tradition of art this interest in color’s capacity for perceptual and sensory impression is inherently tied to painterly techniques. Heinzmann’s works pick up this historical thread, but nowhere do his transitions of colored dust thicken into even the cloudiest figure of representation. Yet, color does not enter the space of perception as a purely optical value either – the pigment as material dust is far too prominent for such a visual dissolve. Instead, color receives a slight tactile roughening.
And further: consider the shades of blue which in some areas thicken into material grain, and in others spread into a hue or fog, and compare them to the ground-plane where the textural qualities of canvas have vanished and been replaced by a regular unevenness of almost architectural quality. This is the classical interplay between different types of painterly facture, but in a new form. Heinzmann generates the unfolding of color partly through movements of distribution performed by hand and various instruments, but also through the contingent use of subtle streams of air. This treatment of color constitutes his proposal for what could become of the painterly concept that used to be known as ‘gesture’. Here it is articulated under the double terms of restriction and expanse: Heinzmann has limited the application of pigment to one single movement per canvas, whose scale he has in turn enlarged considerably. The result is an exercise in an economy of form where the vastness of the picture plane becomes the arena for the impact of an isolated color spray.
With his cotton-wool pictures Heinzmann pushes his undertaking a step further. For, also the impression evoked by these works is undeniably located within the realm of an artistic exploration of color: they clearly are monochromes – white on white. At the far end of the spectrum where tones blend into light, Heinzmann thus still explores visual nuance and coloration. It is therefore quite astonishing to note that none of the materials with which he generates this effect belongs to the classical repertoire of the painter. The support of these artworks is lacquered wood; where would have been brush-strokes of oil or acrylic paint one now sees cotton-clouds and elaborately pulled traces of fluff; both, wood and cotton, are joined together through minutely applied traces of glue. Yet, none of these elements add up to an impression of ‘objecthood’. That is, these works and their components do not insist on their physical presence in the space of the gallery. Instead, their materiality is pulled into the visual realm staked out by painting where the fine flosses of cotton now enact the function of facture, where the movement of the artist’s hand is transposed into the subtle lineament of adhesives, and where the hardedge wooden surface plays the role of the work’s support, which would have otherwise been canvas. – In his pigment pictures, Heinzmann uses an element that in its loose form lies prior to painterly procedures. Here, he employs materials which one would classically sort into the category of sculpture, or bricolage. Both, pigment and cotton works, converge in a realm where the work engenders a process whose result in the end is painting in an emphatic sense.