March 16, 2014 André Butzer
17th of March – 7th of May
N: NASAHEIM, a combination of Anaheim and NASA, an outer space Disneyland, an unimaginable non-location towards which paintings should travel
N: An eternal storage space for color much like light frequencies/thresholds
N: A holy, golden number/letter that knows no earthly measurement and degree
N: The origin of life and death
The N-paintings seem to lack “color” but the often thinly painted black and white forms are not monochromes. André Butzer is a colorist, “I will always be a colourist and nothing else” and the color choice of black and white is the result of the inclusion, or acceptance, of all existing hues; the destination, or starting point, of color potential.
The N-paintings also lack “figures” but the tonal rectangles upon rectangles within rectangular canvases are not a minimalist movement. Visually deviating from Butzer’s previous vivid surplus of figurative expressionism, the N-paintings are painterly, but as with his approach to color, the pictorial state has reached a density so intense that all figurative indications obliterate, or merge, into what appears to be singular non-specific entities: Bild (overarching German term for image, picture, painting, holy field). While the N-paintings appear to depict rectangles, they are in fact not, because Butzer neither believes in nor can physically recreate the “earthly measurements” that constitute a scientifically geometric rectangle. Butzer clarifies the difference between “real world” and “artistic” geometry- the latter of which does not adhere the former’s constraints. Butzer is interested in artistic perfection, what we see is Butzer’s “painterly geometry” which “is about Heaven, God, N; something other than the world and the rules applied within the world we exist in.” This dematerialization of form directly displays the infinitely enduring potential of all possible imagery due to its lack of constraints of conceptual and physical properties (fixed imagery); it is the birthplace of imagery, “it is where all I made came from and all I will make will come from.”
The N-paintings are an unreachable, un-picturable likeness of N, presented in the only way that a non-space can be, through a medium unapologetically and acknowledgingly unable to represent reality and remaining parallel: painting. The non-chronological nature of painting is “made to be the medium of N because it is about relation and proportion, never about time, process, progress or accumulation.” And for the paintings which appear to deviate from the specific visual nature of the N-paintings, such as Butzer’s addition of his first post-N [sic] work, a chromatically-rich figure painting, there is no difference. Each is just as complex, neither is simplified, they “all belong together. The N-paintings are the true beginning.”
Butzer’s second solo exhibition marks Carbon 12’s 40th exhibition in tandem with the artist’s 40th year.
André Butzer (b.1973, Germany) is one of Germany’s most relevant contemporary artists with over 220 worldwide exhibitions including prestigious institutions such as MUMOK, the Kunsthalle Nuernberg, and works in the collections of Stuttgart Kunstmuseum, MOCA Los Angeles, LACMA, Sammlung Goetz and the Scharpff Collection, amongst many others. Butzer lives and works in Rangsdorf, near Berlin.
Interview: A Conversation With André Butzer by Katrina Kufer
Katrina Kufer for Carbon 12: Your works, from the more colorful and imagery-based earlier creations to now the more simplified N-paintings, have visually changed considerably. What do you get out of making art?
André Butzer: N-paintings are actually as complicated as the other paintings I am making; there is no simplification of anything, no difference. They’re all complicated but I enjoy these problems of measurement most of the time and I feel that they all belong together as paintings. The N-paintings are no end point at all, in fact they’re the true beginning of all painting.
KK: Can you elaborate on your view of proportions/geometry, chronology/process?
[In relation to the N-paintings] AB: I have never painted rectangles in my entire life. The main problem is that I do not believe in earthly measurement, that’s why I cannot paint a rectangle. What I do is about artistic perfection; I do not paint things thinking of them as being imperfect. On the N-paintings you see rectangles nowhere and also no imperfect rectangles. What do you see? What seems “geometric” as we see geometric is not geometric. Artistic or painterly geometry is completely different from geometry we use in daily life or architecture or design. Painterly geometry is not imperfect, it’s superior to daily life geometry, painterly geometry is about Heaven, God, N, something else other than “world” and rules applied within the world we have to live and suffer in.
KK: You’ve said painting is the closest medium to achieve your intentions, but you’ve also expressed that music, or light frequencies, are comparable.
AB: I hope [painting] is the right medium to get as close as possible. I know nothing about other media, but I suppose music tries to get close too, but obviously sound is too obviously a frequency itself, but painting is non-chronological and therefore made to be the medium of N since Giotto, Raphael, Titian, Tiepolo, Cézanne. It’s about relation, proportion and never about time, process, progress or accumulation.
Painting is an old thing, we know more than 1000 years of European painting which is about incarnation. So generally, painting is about the origin of life, this includes death automatically, and both seem to be linked by this frequency thing. Actually it’s wrong to say painting is “about” something. It’s doing it itself, it’s incarnating, it’s the origin of life itself and so on. This is important. Painting keeps back time and process. Painting is round. Painting has eternal information about creation in general and transforms this code of creation it refers to into what we see, the channel of life, breath, rhythm and love.
KK: You have said your N-paintings are “about love. It’s not about denying God, because God is a recurring proportion himself. The paintings are also about giving birth to future works.” Could you expand on that? Is this a concept you have always held or was there something else before NASAHEIM?
AB: All my painting is supposed to be “love”. “Before” NASAHEIM is “after” NASAHEIM. The round concept of painting knows from a revelation, epiphany thing, the beam, threshold, I spoke about. N is that threshold of light. Anything I did before seeing this beam of light and everything I can do after having seen this, is painting in relation to this revelation. My earlier works were on their way to get to know those things, my paintings now can make use of what they have experienced with N and of what they will experience with N.
KK: You have stated you are a colorist. Why is color so crucial to you? Do you have a particular color that you are most drawn to? Any you avoid?
AB: There is no choice with color. It’s all about color or it’s nothing. Nothing is not so good.
KK: On that note… which artwork (of another artist), or color experience, was the first which most resonated with you?
AB: Woman with a Fruit Bowl by Titian. I go to see it regularly because it’s nearby. Also the Sistine Madonna by Raphael which is two hours away from my house. The Fruit Bowl painting is presenting gold as a destination of color, so N might be entirely golden. The Raphael painting is exactly about the beam of threshold that we spoke about, it’s even illustrating it, just look at the curtain rail. Both together might make a very golden revelation. Each for itself, too.
KK: Can you tell us more about the “behind the artwork” aspects— do you create a particular environment in your studio, given that the paintings are representative of NASA-Heim, an “unimaginable, non-space”?
AB: No. I can paint everywhere. It doesn’t matter where I am or who I am.