Ulrike Lorenz: Standing before Ute Pleuger’s paintings

Standing before Ute Pleuger’s paintings, we are seized with doubt. The eye, gliding as it flies toward free, shallow-breathing surfaces, on its arrival perceives traces of streaks, sucks itself full in furrows of color, begins systematically to probe the lanes, which a broad brushstroke has left behind in paint-paste and acrylic color, turns around confused at the borders, navigates around softly melted hills, stumbles through scratched-in channels, jumps over watery pearl strands, halts at muddy, dried-out ponds; now becoming more sure of itself, it measures the picture-field trace by trace, climbs step by step the heights before it – and gets going on its way once again. However, what is here to be discerned remains uncertain: a field prepared for sowing, a gently moving desert landscape, a slow-moving current or the extreme enlargement of a piece of asphalt, of a wood texture, of a connective tissue; looking out of an airplane or through a microscope; a perspective from above diagonally over and away from the minimal object or from below looking up at it. While wandering on the amorphous plain we encounter, few but regularly, hardened forms, tiny resistances of a different consistency (and reality), which then, when we come up close, reveal themselves as houses, but which in their intact uniformity are signs or conceptual images rather than homes or hearths, in any case not islands of hope or optical points of reference. For the eye, attracted by material and gesture, wanders about in endless field-structures, which know neither horizon nor vanishing point, gets caught in the widely-spaced scatter-pattern of the architecture, without finding a stopping-place on its search for the way to the third dimension (or for the lost time). Our eager glance, which wants finally to escape into openness, into the distance of an imagined picture-space or into the depth of our memory, slips off on the surface and is thrown back, as in a mirror, into the present of our failed looking. The flat surface, turned up toward the vertical, releases no picture-space, but vibrates in the uniformly meaningful display of all the elements (and all the directions), in the simultaneous attraction and repulsion of the covetous glance, in the vague promise of an illusion and of its denial. And, exhausted by the futility of our desire, we finally step back opposite to that dubious surface that has just now enclosed us without taking us inside. Only this seems certain: the image, clearly larger than life-size, recurring sixfold in barely perceptible form-variants and diffuse light, alternating between night-blue and gray-green glowing daylight, is an accidental excerpt from an infinity.

Ute Pleuger has painted these six large pieces in a technique she herself has developed: on fine canvas, a bodiless foundation for the paint layers to come, coarse packing paper, as the real carrier of the image, is laminated and grounded by a colorless layer of acrylic. In a single session, the gesturally natural background, which constitutes the image, is added: thinned-out acrylic colors or a thick liquid brew of acrylic and methyl cellulose is applied with a hard paintbrush and full bodily exertion in rhythmically horizontal strokes, equally rapidly, over the entire surface, and leaves behind, on drying, those clearly defined runoff- and evaporation-traces, which determine, like its handwriting, the finely-nerved individuality of each canvas. The monochromatic Prussian blue, the color of distance, is a collaborator in the work process, and develops in its various mixtures differing behavioral patterns and nuances. In the intuitively controlled use of the material, in the concentrated balancing of calculation and chance, the painter’s whole accumulated experience is precipitated. As the last “layer” the houses, abstract form-shells, one variant per picture, are set out in oil: a precisely defined system of lights, painted elevation and the irruption of another reality, at the same time of another movement. For unmistakably separated by a shadow-stroke from their foundation, the houses seem to hover in a cold stereometry over the background, and untouched by its nature, appear as emissaries or as representatives of a completely different culture. The architectural elements reveal themselves to be technically constructed nodal points of an imaginary net, which is spread out over the “grown” flat surface in a disturbing parallel displacement, without however connecting with it so as to create a space: a place or a landscape.

Ute Pleuger calls her architecture- and facade-paintings serial spaces minimalized and rhythmical surface patterns, which, with their reintroduction of medieval parallel perspective, develop an unsettling dialectic of infinity and lack of distance. In the new cycle of six canvasses, to which the painter refuses to comment on, an imaginary space of perfected transcendence is presented. In endless loops, mimesis and matter pulsate. And the observer is dizzied at the threshhold between image and concept, in the shadow of things, which escape her at the (eternal) moment of perception; in the ambivalence of eye and memory, of the notion of world and the reflection of its sensation. Standing before this impenetrable vibrating membrane, which Ute Pleuger has achieved here, we experience above all one thing: how the image, in an immaterial process, first is produced and how we then, in a “flight of thought from the corporeal to the incorporeal” (Petrarch), become present to ourselves.

Published in following catalogues:
Ute Pleuger – Serielle Räume II – Arbeiten 1997–2000, Villa Kobe Halle (Saale) 2000, ISBN 3-00-011666-4
Dix-Preis ’98, Kunstsammlung Gera 1998, ISBN 3-910051-22-7
Translated by Robert Ball, Minneapolis

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no Title · 200 x 140 cm · acrylic, oil on paper on canvas · 1997

no title · 200 x 140 cm · acrylic, oil on packing paper on canvas · 1997