Painted Time Travels
The "time tunnel" as a parallel universe: the visual worlds of Maike Abetz and
Oliver Drescher leave a lot of room for utopian vision. Baroque angels
meet antique gods and ancient Greek arcades dissolve into psychedelic Op
Art spirals, while the spirit of pop music hovers above it all - a
rendezvous between Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, The Who, and David Bowie.
All of which gives rise to a type of painting that uses any available form
and medium to keep the magic of memory alive. But where does this new
longing for the past come from? Harald Fricke visited the artist
couple in their studio.
Maike Abetz und Oliver Drescher ©
Pictures of pictures, pictures in pictures, pictures on
pictures: art history is full of references, traces, and labyrinths in
which the viewer can easily get lost in an endless abundance of visual
material. An ironic treatment of the hunger for images already appeared in
the caricatures of William Hogarth
, who used his own production to expose his contemporaries' insatiable
curiosity. Yet the celebration of the image flood as aesthetic
enlightenment was taken completely seriously - ultimately, the so-called
Petersburg hanging was a treasure chamber, image atlas, and fun house of
the real world, and all at the same time. In the final analysis, even
postmodernism's playful love of the quote is not a swan song, but an
homage to art history's vast inventory.
Maike Abetz and
Oliver Drescher, the eighties' drive to plunder the archive and drool over
the treasures of the past like a vampire is not an entirely alien one.
While there was some talk about the end or even the death of painting in
the aftermath of Neo-Expressionism's and
Neo-Pop Art's excessive exploitations, a new rush for painted images has
since broken loose.
Abetz/Drescher: The Optic Nerve, 2000
Courtesy Galerie Volker Diehl,© Abetz/Drescher
Every stylistic direction or art historical reference is
welcome, and new generations of painters are digging ever deeper into the
goldmines of history. The youngest have already announced a revival of
Art Informel and
Constructivism. For Oliver Drescher, art is back where it started
again: "you suddenly realize that nearly nothing has been painted yet.
While Modernists were busy discussing what each radical new beginning
should look like, the forms used to communicate this new beginning were
painted, again and again." Abetz avers that the respective level of
technique only exerted a limited effect on the perception of progress: "If
you look at
Malevich, he turned from the Black Square, which is one of our
favorite paintings, back to figurative painting. This decision makes it
clear that it's not possible to separate between categories like
'abstract' or 'realistic.'"
Abetz/Drescher: Daten und Strukturen, 2003
Courtesy Galerie Volker Diehl, © Abetz/Drescher
In the case of Abetz and Drescher, however, this encounter with the past looks
completely different from what you'd expect in times of retro and revival.
In a painting like Data and Structures (2003), Baroque angels meet
antique gods; in Red with Purple Flashes (2001), ancient Greek
arcades dissolve into psychedelic
Op Art spirals while the spirit of pop music hovers above it all - a
Mick Jagger, The
Who, and David Bowie. While
Neo Rauch's shrewd Socialist figures populate fifties scenery, or while
Tim Eitel places his monk-like museum visitors before the fruits of
Classic Modernism, the artist couple, who live in Berlin, carry their ties
further back into vanished cultures. For Drescher, this entails a "touch
of longing" that doesn't merely recapture the earlier spirit as "life
lived better," but rather the magic of the moment that seeks to transport
the immediate experience of what was "happening" back into the present. To
learn from Pop means to learn how to fly.
Admittedly, you can get
pretty dizzy looking at this kaleidoscope-like journey through time. And
it's with a certain amount of derision that Abetz and Drescher talk about
how some visitors first have to recuperate from all the glaring variety in
their studio. They're both aware, of course, that they're expecting the
viewer to subject himself to an endless number of cross-references,
, and puzzles, also in reference to their own visual philosophy. When asked
whether their pastiche
is a reaction to the common practices of
sampling and digital manipulation, Drescher answers: "I'd go even further
and see it as part of a much larger context: everything is about storage,
whether it's writing, painting, or music. There wouldn't be any memory
without forms of notation and symbols. And that's magic, too, when you
make signs. That's how it's always been, and it happens again and again.
The ibis-headed Egyptian
moon god who writes in the realm of the dead was the inventor of the
written form and at the same time the god of magic and science."