Just how multifaceted and semantically variable Raabenstein’s ambiguous structures of action, using all possible means to attain oppositional effects, are is shown by the role played by grids in the pictures. In numerous works equally sized fragments of proportional surface geometry are arranged in a correspondingly regular fashion on the canvas. In this manner Raabenstein emphasises the moment of fragmentation against the moment of newly emerging figuration, since a grid – to take the terms of Gestalt psychology – does not produce only one weak, formal coherence, but also suggests that we could, by rearranging the pieces, potentially rediscover the original figuration. This becomes most explicit in the independent series of pictures that consist of slender, vertical strips strung together, in which a paper shredder was used to cut up the ink drawings fed into it. The fixing of these strips in a random order on a paper or canvas base produces the effect of a picture puzzle in which we instinctively search after the original forms. However, the more the grid effect retreats into the background and gives way to a freer arrangement of the fragments, the clearer is the articulation of another, stronger moment, establishing (again to take the terms of Gestalt psychology) coherence: the figuration that begins to be produced from the individual elements and the gestural energies stories in them and which moves beyond the boundaries of the fragment. As a result of the grid procedure the moment of fragmentation comes to the foreground and the more open arrangements weaken the moment of division in favour of a secondary form that, in its positivity, triumphs over the negativity of fragmentation. The diversity of the two procedures is intentionally overstated here; the pictures themselves show finer degrees of scale in the balance into which these two moments are brought. Nonetheless, a fundamental difference is at stake in the question of whether Raabenstein’s pictorial process primarily appears to allow form to vanish in the grid of fragmentation, or if form appears as something that rises like a phoenix from the ashes of the initial destruction of images. It is hence significant that Raabenstein’s pictures can be read in both ways.
In the pictures where the grid moment becomes weaker, in favour of freer arrangements of fragments, “painting with paper” comes to the fore – that is, all the activities involving the gluing, mounting and overlaying of the paper fragments, and allowing them to tear in a calculated manner – a gestural dimension equal to the expressive act of calligraphy. The two pictorial processes now work less against each other than symphonically. By allowing montage to gain form-creating power in this way, the gauge now rises on the other side, as is shown by Raabenstein’s affixing much larger sections of the original calligraphies – and hence larger gestural arches – to the canvas without cutting them up. Nonetheless, however the individual results, very different in their details, may be, the same pictorial understanding remains that sees the balancing in one picture of counteracting processes that place each other in question and are irreconcilable. At the same time, certain works make room for a tendency that allows their fundamental impulse to flash to the surface in an unmasked fashion – the impulse, in spite of all challenges, to allow a great figure to emerge, in spite of all doubt to complete a significant gesture, in spite of all restraint to confront the viewer with a decisive act of expression.