installation view HDLU, Zagreb

Being and Showing

 

The images of art are symbolic objects because they themselves are that which they show, and conversely, because they transform that which they are into an act of showing – a showing of something, and at the same time a showing of themselves. This junction of showing and being occurs because artistic images are structures of action. The actions that produce the artwork are at the same time actions that the artwork exhibits by presenting them as part of itself as a trace. This is particularly true since artistic modernity broke with the illusionism that, in traditional art, hid the mediality of the artwork itself beneath the act of showing something outside the image – the “outside the image” that, according to the famous Renaissance metaphor, became visible through the “open window” of the image. The modern re-foundation of the image as the junction of being and showing, which closed the “open window,” has far-reaching semantic consequences. If in traditional art was primarily a matter of recognising the thing shown in its layers of meaning – as is reflected in all the complex iconographic commentaries via which such artworks are decoded – art is now less concerned with understanding the thing shown, but showing itself and hence the structure of actions that, in the modern artwork, is both a physical and a symbolic occurrence. Read All

the wall of breath series, ink, inkwash, acrylic and paper on cardboard, 93 x 69 cm, 2017 – Installation view HDLU, Zagreb

Dialectic of the image boundary

 

We could talk of a kind of grisaille in Raabenstein’s painting. If earlier works were kept monochrome, containing a single figure locked into the image by layers of shellac, such compositions have, in the last ten years, retreated into the background in favour of another pictorial method. Paper and ink have become the preferred material of artistic activity. This was accompanied not only by a renunciation of colour but a noticeable dissolution of figure that continually recurred in them. The figure: more a kind of encoded face than a head, inhabiting the images like a ghost – locked in beneath layers, no longer of varnish but of paper. The disembodied figure, reduced to pure facial expression, which in sheer endless productions of serial creation questioned, rather than confirmed, existence as a brief flash, retreated in favour of the painterly gesture, in which it can at best only occasionally be divined. The direct twin-like qualities in the images gave way to the fragile establishment of a subjective claim through artistic action. Expression hence no longer shows itself in reproduction but lies in the line itself, which immediately and irrevocably is thrown onto the page.

Japanese ink drawing, which Raabenstein employed, demands a great deal of artistic competence, since it is not only necessary to guide the materials securely – the occasionally heavy brush or even the broom – but, above all, to clear the way for the impulse of the unconscious. The expression of the gesture is hence always self-expression. The success of transcription always contains within itself the danger of failure. The constant search for existence in the faces of the earlier works was consolidated into an existential act in front of and upon the paper. Read all