Claudia Tittel: Plein-Jeu

The Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer assumed that there were universal laws of the organization of perception and that these laws were innate. Ute Pleuger’s interest in painting and drawing results from this idea of a structured and at the same time natural organization of seeing and perception, whereby the origin of her formal language can be found in music. For parallel to her training at the Berlin University of the Arts, she studied the organ. It is therefore not surprising that Pleuger’s paintings have a musical structure that refers to works by, for example, Johann Sebastian Bach, Olivier Messiaen or György Ligeti. Pleuger’s proximity to polyphonic approaches can already be seen in her series Serial Spaces, created between 1984 and 2000. Even then, a tendency towards “expansive form” is apparent, but also the “recurring linear-parallel pictorial structures (…) make one think of fugal polyphony” (x). Since 2000, Ute Pleuger has then been working on a cycle that explicitly deals with the structural relationship between music and visual art: In Fugues, she transfers the characteristics of the musical form of the fugue into a visual concept. Just as in a fugue two different themes interlock contrapuntally, meet, overlap, separate again, so too do the visual forms in her paintings. At that time, she used graphic elements that move on the picture surface in cooperation and opposition like Dux (the leading voice) and Comes (the accompanying voice), breaking the picture frame. The structures could also be extended beyond the picture space and continued into infinity. The lines complement each other to form a composition in which one line or voice conditions the other.

In Plein-Jeu, Pleuger takes a different path: Using the means of painting, she attempts to transfer the experience of sound, that is, the sonority of “full playing,” for example, of organ music, to the visual experience. Plein-Jeu, which not only literally means “full play”, but is also the internationally used registration instruction for the tutti on the organ (in organo pleno) receives a further definition in Pleuger’s works. While music moves along a temporal axis, in Pleuger’s work this “full play” of colors and forms as a whole, in its fullness and simultaneous complexity, can be directly and immediately experienced visually. In doing so, Pleuger explores the relationship of seeing successively and at the same time perceiving the whole by initiating a temporary process of seeing in the viewer and at the same time unfolding a resonant space in which the conflicting centrifugal and centripetal forces that expand the picture plane in all directions are simultaneously at work. The circles, each composed of three colors, not only fill the entire canvas, but seem to literally roll across the picture field and beyond. In Plein-Jeu, the precisely placed shapes and colors vibrate and offer no support to the eye. Each color is thereby a voice that changes its “timbre” through its proximity to other colors. Only in the interaction with the surrounding neighboring colors can its power unfold. The diverse neighborhoods simultaneously create contrasts and harmonies, dissonances and consonances.

from: Polyphone – Mehrstimmigkeit in Bild und Ton, Kunstsammlung Gera, Musée d’art et d’histoire Paul Éluard Saint-Denis, 2021, ISBN 978-3-96999-055-7

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Plein-Jeu V, Art Collection Gera, 2021

(x) Reiner Niehoff, Fassaden, Ausstellungkatalog Künstlerhaus Bethanien Berlin 1990