Paintings in Metal and Oil28 May – 17 July, 2010
In Holger Bär’s paintings and metal engravings machine-production takes pride of place: the production process is essential for any proper understanding of his work. “I want to become the laziest artist of the world,” he proclaimed, in provocative exaggeration, when he started developing his first painting machine in the late 1980s, in order to subsequently have his painting be done by machines. Even though more than twenty years have passed since then, during which time his machines have undergone any number of changes, they have not lost any of their radical quality. For many, art and machine still do not go together, automated image production seems to run counter to wide-spread concepts of the originality of the artist and his individual handwriting. “Notions of art as immediate expression of a unique individual,” Heinz Stahlhut writes in his catalogue text, “run counter to this combination, even in the age of genetic engineering and Second Life. The mechanical reproduction of art, however, is as old as the decisive media revolution of the early modern period.”
In his newest works, moreover, Holger Bär address the subject matter of nature and landscape, traditionally antipodes of the world of machines. But as Stahlhut argues, “the automated image production forms an analogy to the fundamental artificiality of landscape,” which is always already molded by man. This is especially apparent in this many depictions of parks, i.e. consciously shaped landscapes that adhere to the respective culturally determined ideal. If this ideal strives for naturalness, it often requires an even more rigid control. Naturalness is replaced by the effect of naturalness, just as Bär’s machine-painted images substitute personal handwriting with the effect of personal handwriting. For the particular, not always perfect way in which the machines paint make Bär’s paintings quite distinct and recognizable.
In addition to the paintings in oil on canvas, the exhibition features a number of engravings. Bär has in recent years developed a special machine that chisels the image in tiny closely spaced incisions into an aluminum plate. The plate is subsequently rubbed with oil paint, but unlike in a traditional engraving it is not used as a printing plate but considered a complete work in and of itself. It is therefore not mirror-reversed and in every case a unique copy. The incisions in the metal and the applied oil paint furthermore create a very interesting visual effect that changes according to the angle of view.
“Even more than in his previous “digital painting” series,” Stahlhut writes, “Holger Bär, in these most recent landscapes, has managed to bring into accordance subject matter and execution, content and technique.”The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue: Holger Bär, Machines Painting. With contributions by Martin Oskar Kramer, Heinz Stahlhut, Stefan Asmus, and Andreas Bienert. 88 pages, hardcover, ISBN 978-3-9812880-1-8, € 12.00.