Uwe Haupenthal: From Serial Spaces to the Atlas of New Nature

The observer is not seldom irritated by Ute Pleuger’s large-scale paintings – an “optical disarrangement” that does not even appear to be lessened by intensive, lingering observation. House fronts structured by windows, e. g., partially or totally neutralize from limitations and established conceptuality.
Experience of reality no longer appears to be an immediate semiotic transmission of something really seen, even though the idea of reproducibility as a thematic limiting-binding adversary is not completely abandoned.
This is a conception that necessitates a congruence of the thematic topics and the impact of each staged, only slightly thematically binding composition that must be continually discovered anew. Both the auctorial position of the artist and that of the observer seem strangely diffuse in this constellation. The picture dominates the viewing habits of the observer and in the end suspends them. Systematically the various artistic possibilities are tried and presented equally side by side.

True to her architecturally determined starting point, Ute Pleuger concentrates first of all on a constructively designed pictorial genesis. The graphic series Atlas of New Nature, done in a mixed technique in the years 2000 and 2001, reverses for the first time the principle of using given standardized geometrical forms. Thus a world of forms emerges which is sometimes reminiscent of schemata of plants, but more often of enlargements of genes. The painted structures in her paintings, applied with the finger, are painted over and reworked by graphic means. Limiting and continually recurring paint bridges as well as the meeting of different graphic paint substances result in an objectivizing effect that literally leaps out at the observer.
This effect does not contradict Ute Pleuger’s general artistic development. Also in her earlier paintings the applied transparent paint formed the basis of an autonomous artistic level freed from all bindings in regard to contents – in material as well as in optical regard. In these paintings there is an insurmountable contrast between overlapping dull and luminous layers of paint. In the same way, Ute Pleuger’s serial pictorial conception result in a principally open, enlarging form, which gives the impression of an expanding universe.

Genealogically the Atlas of New Nature not only continues this position but also adopts it manifestly as an indispensable and essential precondition. The occasionally shapeless elements are based on a certain coincidence; and obviously demand a multitude of principally equivalent variations. Thus a pictorial compendium arises, whose systematized cycle of 90 pages – similar to presentation maps – relies on a comprehensible down-to-earth description, yet at the same time devalues the individual form in favour of the only partially reproduced, entropic structure.
At first sight an art-historical comparison with Karl Blossfeldt’s famous photographical catalogue of enlarged parts of plants, published in 1925, seems obvious. Yet there is nothing more different than these two works of art! Blossfeldt recognized in his photographs statically defined, organic “archetypes”, which he first used for his lessons in floral drawing at the Berliner Kunstgewerbeschule. Later he used them as the foundation of his conservatively motivated criticism of functionalistic designs. In her Atlas, Ute Pleuger is not concerned with visual experiences, i.e. the description of a single form or shape, but – starting from a discursive definition of a picture – she attempts what may be defined as “picture-genetic field research”.
The repertoire of her forms produces rather strange effects in its bizarre structure; it seems occasionally to be somewhat awkward and knows no tangible, reproducible binding to experienced reality. Experience of reality stages itself in these pictures rather automatically, so to speak from an imagined neutral point. The method of the well-ordered presentation generates an intensified presence though a constant repetition. The imaginative, pseudo-scientific Latin labels that Ute Pleuger gives to the individual pages (e. g. Ovum obscurum), enhance the impression of scientific objectivity. Yet at the same time they reveal an ironic intention, which reduces the obtruding reference to gene-research to absurdity.
The basically objectified representation of reality, reproduced sober and unprejudiced, can no longer be seen separate from its potential effects. The blueprint necessary for this describes admittedly a serial resonance space resulting from artistic means, which – with reference to the great graphic compendium of the Histoire Naturelle of Max Ernst first published in 1926 – proclaims a new history of nature. Its relation to contemporary, controversially discussed possibilities of modern gene-technologies convey a – pictorially well founded – thematic parallel, which nonetheless was not intended at the beginning. Yet in view of the problem raised, this can result in an even stronger ethically determined dismay of the observer.

In Ute Pleuger’s paintings, reality appears by no means merely as theoretically experienceable, illustrated knowledge. Her works of art assert a transcendental claim to be themselves pieces of broken, by no means finished, reality. Thus they thicken to form a magnified center, from which certain aspects of the world can be comprehended. The observer cannot escape them.

From the catalogue: Ute Pleuger – Atlas zur Neuen Natur, Richard-Haizmann-Museum Niebüll 2003, ISBN 3-00-010944-7
Translated by Jeffrey Butler, Berlin
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Ovum obscurum from Atlas of New Nature

Ovum obscurum from Atlas of New Nature · 2001