Main Galleries: 3 September – 4 October 2009
The gallery is pleased to announce a solo show with German painter Tilo Baumgärtel. Painting in a formal figurative style, Baumgärtel depicts stylized scenes that seek no distinction between both painterly urban, and pastoral realism, and the encroaching fantastical elements. The subject suggests narrative and characterization, without the artist ever feeling it necessary to constrict the viewer’s attention to one story. With Baumgärtel, the viewer acts as the narrator, the painter merely offering a collection of visual motifs for the imagination to contextualize.
This exhibition presents a body of recent paintings and works on paper. Initially the artist works prolifically in sketchbooks, using ink and pencil then moving on to larger scale works on paper in charcoal. The importance of the journey between the mediums is demonstrated by the presence of a number of the works on paper in the exhibition. The sketches are augmented, frequently combining disparate scenes and figures, and transposed to the canvas. The laborious process stems from the artist gaining much of his subject matter directly from his visual imagination, only rarely turning to external source material to reacquaint himself with a particular form or colour. Though Baumgärtel’s style is formally figurative he transcends into a more dreamlike, surrealist direction with his use of light and shade. It is a style that Baumgärtel continues to progressively develop, and is one that has been sheltered from, and remains largely ambivalent to, the pervading conceptualism of the West in the 20th and 21st centuries. In doing so the artist is casting his net wider, making historical connections, echoing the timelessness of the subject matter.
It maybe tempting to read the subject scenes as being allegoric, especially when reminded of Germany’s literary history of fairytales. Yet this is not the artist’s intention. The anthropomorphized animals, a recurring motif, are used not in this vein, but rather as a tool to seek some kind of cultural universality to the scenes. A simple example explanation being that animals can be depicted unclothed (to leave humans unclothed would lead the viewer along an unwanted and specific lineage of the figurative nude). The eschewing of clothing avoids any localizing of culture or chronology, further demonstrating the artist’s attempts as pictorial universality. The reoccurring use of the marten for instance- a weasel-type animal found in Northern Europe- references itinerancy, without having to specifically address human homelessness and its necessary political and social baggage. Likewise, when humans are depicted they are done so simply, and without allusion to sentiment, they are subjugates to the paint’s own integral emotion.