Group Show


Group exhibition "achromatic": Black. White. And in between. ... more >



Exhibition at Galerie Biesenbach in Cologne

When colours disappear from the scene

by Annika Kern

Light is reflected on the glossy surfaces of the white and black wall sculptures by artist Árpád Forgó (*1972), bringing subtle nuances of colour to the achromatic. What look like tiles or plastic are actually covered canvas modules. The notches in black and white wooden blocks by South Korean artist Ji Eun Lee (*1984) create soft shadows. And tin cans have crept under the filigree drawings of Brazilian vegetables by José Gomes (*1968). He uses them to criticise the destruction of the rainforest and the exploitation of labour that the global distribution of food from his home country entails.

It's about much more than just black and white

What remains when you remove all colour from art? The current exhibition at Galerie Biesenbach, "achromatic", explores this question. Works by nine artists are on display - each bringing their own interpretation of "achromatic". It is not so much about black and white, but rather about everything in between, about the shades of grey and nuances that arise when colours disappear from the picture.

The contributions of Parisian artist Catherine Seher (*1958) show what is meant by this. In her paintings, figures blur with the landscape until they become unrecognisable and anonymous. The colourless works appear as if a black and white filter had been applied to her colourful pictures.

"achromatic" forces us to take a closer look

With the banishment of colour, the monochrome also threatens to become monotonous. But Seher's achromaticity reinforces the isolation of her figures. And so the loss of colour also adds a new quality. Where colour recedes, material, technique and form come more to the fore. Light and shadow gain in importance. By abandoning colour, artists force us to take a closer look, as ceramic artist Beate Höing (*1966) proves with "Black Snow“.

From a distance, the mural looks like an indefinable, shiny black something. If you get closer, you can recognise flowers and dead birds. Their wings disappear between the numerous, pointed petals. Höing plays with the kitsch associations of ceramics - in other works she combines blue and white flowered vases with small, found figurines. Without the colour, what is otherwise so ornamental suddenly becomes almost abstract.

While Höing's dead birds can certainly cause discomfort, the works of Japanese artist Hideaki Yamanobe (*1964) seem like a haven of peace that has become art. He largely dispenses with colour throughout his work, drawing attention to the texture of his paintings. For one of the exhibited works, he first applied several layers of black paint, then a thin layer of warm white. Yamanobe finally scraped this off again in places - you might think you recognise flowers in it. The layer of colour is thickest at the edges, so that the picture surface stretches out between them and appears almost empty.

Hideaki Yamanobe: His strength lies in emptiness

Another of his paintings, "Black Screen Scratches", lives up to the promise of its title: a black, square canvas, criss-crossed by deep scratches. But if you take a closer look, you realise that this time the black is matt, almost grainy and reminiscent of volcanic rock. Incidentally, he inflicted the scratches on the painting with the wooden frame of a Japanese fan (uchiwa). They can be interpreted as injury or aggression, or as threads of rain.



Árpád Forgó (*1972): The Budapest-based artist is clearly rooted in the tradition of concrete art, but expands it with a playful approach and a love of experimentation. Forgó finds images that offer us wonderfully sensual stimuli. He invites the viewer to look closely and see if they can trust their eyes. The subtle colour gradient on a canvas, for example, is created by the curvature of a slightly stretched canvas in three dimensions. Here, the artist explores the boundary between the "shaped canvas" and the painterly body, which resembles an object. However, his works always remain images and do not question them.

José Gomes (*1968 in Brazil, lives and works in Cologne): "Creation and destruction, life and death - this is the field of tension in José Gomes' drawings. With a clear reference to Brazilian nature and culture, some of his works on paper look like collages that develop a strong pictorial depth. Gomes' research for his drawings also includes the study of drone images of Brazil's primeval forests, which show exactly how these important habitats are being destroyed. These findings, as well as the examination of Brazilian art history and handicrafts, flow into Gomes' delicate drawings, in which the figurative is often broken up by abstract elements and thus tells its very own story." (Dr Carla Cugini, Managing Director of the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst Museum Ludwig)

Jutta Meyer zu Riemsloh M.A. on the work of Beate Höing (*1966, lives and works in Coesfeld): Inspired by ornaments and materiality as cultural-historical components of folk art, by fairy tales and myths as well as traditions and rituals, these influences appear in the work of the painter and ceramic sculptor Beate Höing in a completely independent iconography. What actually exists, what is associated and what is remembered come together in an ambivalent interplay of reality and fiction, in which dream and nightmare, relaxation and fright lie close together. Content, materiality and form are inextricably linked. The artist's oil paintings, ceramic sculptures and installations also convey an enthusiasm for the beauty, delicacy and aesthetics of things as well as a desire to play with creative possibilities.

About Patrizia Kränzlein (*1987, lives and works near Stuttgart): Patrizia Kränzlein's drawings, a combination of graphite and linoleum paint on paper, are usually reduced to black, white and grey values. During production, the colour is applied directly to the paper with a roller, so the roller functions as a drawing instrument. The works are developed from variable basic geometric forms and integrated into the picture surface in segments. They show pictorial spaces that are configured by lines, surfaces, shading and depth. In doing so, the artist always seeks a path into the depths, with a demand for the valid, towards the essential.

Artist statement Ji Eun Lee (`1984 in Seoul, lives and works in Munich): For a long time, I have been exploring the possibilities of visualising spatiality with various materials, questioning the relationship between inside and outside. During my studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, I often used wickerwork as a starting material, for example in the form of wicker baskets. I am particularly interested in the various structures and different haptics. Recently, I have been visualising the desired pictorial effects of wood carving in my work. In search of a painterly representation, I continue to visualise the theme of inside and outside, which I have been exploring for a long time. Visual essays emerge that create new atmospheres between sculpture and painting. All manipulations on the picture are carried out manually and successively. My aim is to have a painterly effect with a fine and poetic style on the new works made of solid wood panels.

About Catherine Seher (*1958, lives and works in Paris): French painter Catherine Seher captures striking views, often depicting figures in different landscapes, evoking a strong sense of anonymity and isolation in her work. By capturing the essence of a particular environment but extracting from it all the elements of meaning, Seher reduces both the art of the landscape and the figure to their very essence, forcing the viewer of her work to consider the mechanics by which each component of the work is created. The result is a body of work that taps into the universality of art itself, one anonymous figure or view at a time.

Artist statement Austin Turley (*1977, lives and works in Portland, Oregon): Spontaneity, improvisation, and bricoleur techniques are the result of keen observations that can lead to finding relevance in the unexpected. I believe that my style of making parallels that of the bricoleur and explores the notion that science and mystical thinking are equally valid approaches to understanding the world around us. I am interested in the transformative nature of objects that evolve, erode and change over time. As I continue to learn and experiment with the complexities of kiln-formed glass, my focus and research revolves around the language of the medium itself, how it behaves, its characteristics and its properties.

About Douglas Witmer (*1971, lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): For over two decades, Douglas Witmer has continuously and subjectively explored the materiality of the painted object, gradually refining his work within the framework of reductive abstract painting. His elemental compositional structures are activated by sensual colours and variously improvised gestural and accidental actions. His enduring interest is to create a visual place that openly invites personal visual and sensory experiences. Douglas Witmer questions perception in terms of the viewer's relationship and connection to art and is driven by the experience of art itself. Emphasising elements such as materiality and commercialisation, Witmer's dynamic work raises essential questions that can spark valuable conversations with his audience. In this way, Witmer revitalises his work and makes it a subject for the contemporary generation.

"The fullness of emptiness." - Notes on the paintings of Hideaki Yamanobe (*1964, lives and works in Cologne, Düsseldorf and Tokyo) by Peter Lodermeyer (extract): Hideaki Yamanobe attaches great importance to the ambivalence of the associations that his paintings trigger. This also applies to the carvings that characterise a large part of his paintings. On the one hand, they can be perceived as aggression, as a violation of the body of the painting, and on the other - again, at a greater distance from the painting - as hints of rain or drops of water running down the window panes. Incidentally, Yamanobe found a typically Japanese instrument for creating the scratch lines: After realising that steel combs and similar tools produce a line pattern that is too rigid and mechanical in appearance, he switched to the rods of traditional leaf fans (uchiwa), from which he removed the paper. With the help of the radially radiating, extremely flexible bamboo sticks of varying lengths, he succeeds in achieving a lively, never completely predictable line image with numerous crossovers and variable widths of the incisions. Even at the micro level of colour application and brushstroke, the double value of the associative qualities of Yamanobe's painting is evident. Typical of his paintings are the wave-like structures in the layers of white, which in their varying intensity can evoke associations such as snakeskin, goose feathers or drifts of light powder snow (again "warm" and "cold" impressions). These structures are created by a constantly faltering, "stuttering" application of white texture paste, which is applied to the black underpainting with a flat brush.


Article in the Kölner-Stadtanzeiger

Wenn die Farben von der Bildfläche verschwinden by Annika Kern: read here!


28/01 – 09/03/2024

Árpád Forgó
José Gomes
Beate Höing

Patrizia Kränzlein
Ji Eun Lee
Catherine Seher

Austin Turley
Douglas Witmer
Hideaki Yamanobe




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