Architectures of Velocity

The Arts

 

["Hacienda", oil on canvas, 180x200cm, 2013]

The solidity of an image is not formed in the three-dimensional manner of a cube, for it is not an extension of the visual field containing tangible locations, but a purer space inside of which, objects dissolve in order to become amplified consciousness. Solid is also an architectural metaphor for the emblematic structures and materials of early Modernity – steel, concrete, iron, in a reference to the emergence of a radically new urban space in which the correlation of scale between human life and human dwelling begins to collapse, and an ambivalence is firmly established between mnemonic sites and the open space of the universe, a vast theoretical expanse. Yet in the history of the image – a concept charged with the illusion of tracing a development – this new solidity was not manifested simply as width of representation (the desire to flee human fragility) but as an articulate dissolution. 

Hacienda

Oil on Canvas

180 x 200 cm

2013The solidity of an image is not formed in the three-dimensional manner of a cube, for it is not an extension of the visual field containing tangible locations, but a purer space inside of which, objects dissolve in order to become amplified consciousness. Solid is also an architectural metaphor for the emblematic structures and materials of early Modernity –steel, concrete, iron, in a reference to the emergence of a radically new urban space in which the correlation of scale between human life and human dwelling begins to collapse, and an ambivalence is firmly established between mnemonic sites and the open space of the universe, a vast theoretical expanse. Yet in the history of the image – a concept charged with the illusion of tracing a development – this new solidity was not manifested simply as width of representation (the desire to flee human fragility) but as an articulate dissolution.

A solid does not only occupy space but prevents movement within its confines. Accordingly, the logic of globalization which has made time across different time zones identical and homogenous, has as a matter of fact cancelled movement through the elimination of distance, reverting to a classical paradox. In order to create movement it is not possible to move the solid from one place in the Cartesian plane to another; melting is the only alternative rather than evaporating, for the solid is constitutive of the space it occupies as much as it is constituted by it. The resulting substance, an in-between compound, does not exactly move but uniformly circulates, without yet becoming and is impossible to measure, as its properties are constantly changing between viscous, fluid and thin. Events occur here only as singularities or states of exception, since everything is “happening” all the time.

A contemporary Austrian painter, Alexander Ruthner, has succeeded in representing the condition of solidity akin to Modernity and its fluctuating instability, derived from the primacy of substances and essences over objective existence. Representation, however, in his work, emerges only as a breaking down of itself without becoming Minimal or abstract, yet remaining in a state of suspension. In his painting “Hacienda” (oil on canvas, 180x200cm, 2013) whose title refers to a famous night club in Manchester, you can see deployed his particular claustrophobic exteriors. These exteriors are not landscapes but condensed micro-solids appearing alongside each other as they begin to travel; what from the distance might seem a bucolic snapshot, on proximity is revealed as greenery trapped under a hothouse, a botanical garden, or under artificial light while a nightly thickness lingers nearby.

 

["Bazille", oil on canvas, 100x100cm, 2013] 

In the painting, built as a dynamic architecture of several small oblique planes, the time-quality of objects is taken for the granted, and thus, they do not exist independently of each other but titillate as a composite field. From the perspective of the viewer, despite the plurality of overlapping planes deployed, there seems to be no ground or background behind and the composition might be floating or in motion, maybe falling into an abyss. What the painter seems to be after is actually not nature at all, but having understood time in the image as self-evident and yet troublesome, he introduces a notion of maximum velocity, in which the acceleration has gone so far so that things are no longer recognizable in their essence but have become amalgamated into a substance. This acceleration paradoxically annuls time and becomes inertia.

The otherwise inert landscape becomes electrified in this process and though only a snapshot is available to the viewer because of the velocity, certain markers of the world remain present, usually through abjection. As time has been already annulled, the human condition becomes irredeemable – salvation can only occur inside time – and asphyxiating. An initially promised paradise turns its back on you and opens as an abyss: De-naturalized life, alienation, consumption and irredentism. Yet Ruthner’s irredentism however does not shine with a living light but begins somewhere more primal, a cosmic moment that precedes the energetic quality of light; for the time being it is only street smog or a thick haze. It is for this reason that his references are always humorous and too tangible: Blue chewing gum (Blue Chip, 2013), a cocktail glass (Hacienda, 2013), a vial of party drugs and cigarettes (Bazille, 2013).

The almost caricaturesque elements are an intervention on the part of the artist on his own painting, releasing the viewer from the madness of calculation and establishing a whole new layer of risk. After the fashion of earlier painters, the artist wants to consume himself wholly and avoids redemption through a creation of inviting warmth that can be held only temporarily and soon enough incorporates into the melting substance of the world. In the moment that the painting “occurs” this warmth has already left the room or broken out of its natural boundaries. Painting questions and problems are resolved almost mathematically, but that does not release anyone from his own captivity in the night and under the intense street light. Those looking for the exactitude of three-dimensional spaces will get lost in a maze of images whose referents in reality are absent, missing, lost.

 

["Untitled Kaviar", oil on canvas, 100x90cm, 2013]

Thinking in terms of textures as Ruthner does, repetition helps stabilize the works and destroys spatial understanding in a manner such as being under the effect of a powerful drug or high fever. While texture painting usually focuses on the production of surfaces, the painter here uses textures and surfaces as elliptical shapes that grow convex. The idyllic nature is only a trap, and as the painter breaks the promise of paradise, the world is revealed not as a phenomenon but on the level of biological structures, hence agonic and cruel. There is at a later stage a conflation between life as a cycle and life as a singularity. In the arresting images, one could speak of objects as ruins in abeyance, and opening the possibility of a ruin is always enabling a metaphor, or allowing the past to quote itself. The presence of personal objects (“Air”, 2013) depletes the otherwise apparent transparency.

Translucency becomes a fiction about truth, for it works not as a see-through but as a mirror with a pointer towards transience. Transitions have been effected, a transformation, a metamorphosis (“Untitled Kaviar”, 2013). A lifetime of broken parables has come together, blended into sinister sounds, and the distance from the erstwhile warmth becomes infinite; time has frozen. For now the sounds of the night still titillate out there and punctuate the silent stares. The flickering rays of light in Alexander Ruthner’s work are found in an absurd chemical process through which desperately enormous amounts of energy consume themselves completely and leave the curious observer at the mercy of his own desires, wandering aimlessly in no other company than his own breath. The painting then whispers: Everything has already happened, nothing is yet to come.  

 

["Air", oil on canvas, 90x100cm, 2013]

Alexander Ruthner was presented by Ibid Projects at Art International in Istanbul, September 2013, and in the group exhibition "Nature of Speed," at Gallery EXIT, Hong Kong, May 23-June 29, 2013. 

Follow Arie on Twitter @Dilmunite

 

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Austria