Julia Frese: The missing movement of the symphony

Next to the entrance to Ute Pleuger’s art room is an organ, with Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata et Fuga” on the music stand. But the instrument is almost lost in the color frenzy that opens up to the visitor on the right: in the light-flooded room at Geschwister-Scholl-Strasse 40 in Caputh, colorful stripes bounce from canvas to canvas, sometimes abruptly changing hue. Like in a concert, the viewer must first settle in a little before he finds a rhythm.

Ute Pleuger likes to unite in her works the two arts between which she has long felt drawn: music and painting. Raised in post-war Essen, she moved to Berlin in the mid-1970s and initially began studying both there. At the university, she became a master student of the renowned German-Syrian painter Marwan Kassab-Bachi, and at the same time she studied the organ. “How I managed that, I don’t know today either,” Pleuger says. “My first music lesson started at seven in the morning, I studied painting during the day, and in the evening I sat down at the organ again until 10 p.m.”

It soon became apparent, however, that painting was where she received the most recognition. While still a student, Pleuger received her first work scholarship; after graduation, the Franco-German Youth Office and the German Academic Exchange Service sponsored two years of postgraduate studies in a Paris studio. Back in Berlin, she received further scholarships from the Senate for Cultural Affairs. “As an artist, you quickly end up on welfare or have to shimmy from part-time job to part-time job,” says the 62-year-old. “Fortunately, I was spared that – I was able to make a living from my painting right from the start.” […]

After years as a freelance artist, Ute Pleuger received a teaching position at the Hochschule der Künste and, from 1999, a professorship at the Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle (Saale). She took over the direction of the painting department, sat on expert committees and juries. The applications for study places at her chair exceeded the offer many times over. The professor is still in contact with some of her former students today, and a few of them will also be present at the opening of her first exhibition at “kunstraum ute pleuger” on Sunday.

She bought the house in Caputh back in 2005. Initially, the place was only intended as a personal refuge, says the artist. She set up her studio behind the house, sometimes working there, sometimes in Berlin, sometimes in Halle. But after almost 20 years as a professor, Pleuger made the decision two years ago to move her workplace to Caputh altogether. She resigned from her professorship in Halle to devote herself to her hitherto unrealized ideas. “I couldn’t have done this painting while teaching,” Pleuger says, pointing to the play of colors on the walls of her art room.

It took her a total of nine months from conception to completion of the “Toccata,” she says. The painting, named after the piece of music, completes a five-part group of works on the theme of music that the artist began back in 2000 and which comprises a total of about 100 individual works. The “Toccata” follows the first part “Imago” and comes before the third part, the “Fugues”. “Bach often placed an improvisation piece, such as a toccata, before his fugues,” Pleuger explains. Thus, the work with which she […] opens the first exhibition in her Caputh art space was the “missing link” or also the missing movement of the until then unfinished symphony. […] Whether she would play something on the organ next to the entrance for the opening? Ute Pleuger denies: “I play the organ only for myself – only my painting I exhibit publicly.

From: Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten, of May 5, 2018.

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