Thomas Grünfeld - Felt Felt
5—30 May 2006
Galerie Michael Janssen, Cologne
Thomas Grünfeld's work is characterised by the confrontation between visual and tactile experience, and the dialogue between natural and artificial languages of form. His pieces, such as 'misfits' and 'Gummis' ['rubbers'], which were produced in the 90s, are subjected to a certain arbitrariness in their creative process. The pervasive themes of crafting forms to create 'new' properties and qualities, along with the artistic principle of collage as a conceptional element of style are apparent throughout the artist's work. In the current show Grünfeld presents a consistent and yet entirely new group of pieces at the Galerie Michael Janssen. The 'felt pictures' which he began producing in 2005 open a new discourse with the art in his work: Grünfeld transposes his confrontation with space, form and portrayal to flat, closed surfaces. He moves away from fully concrete objects towards a two-dimensional presentation of forms that are patched together to produce elements of an image.
The exhibition presents hangings that are exclusively made of felt material. The firm, dense, matt felt serves as a medium of opacity, achieving a strong reduction in the polarity and bond between forms or figures and their background. In this sense, the colours also contrast from each other and serve to highlight individual elements. The impression of space is only conveyed through the diverse glowing tones and the dimension of depth in the material, which is crafted beside, within and on top of itself. This technique and the felt material itself hardly produce any depth at all, instead having the effect of a relief, which in turn underlines the geometric form of individual elements and reveals traces of the creative process. For instance a tree is created in such an innocent, playful way in the 'felt picture' 'Affenschaukel' ['monkey swing'] (2006).
What initially makes the motifs seem to be a naive, childish, emotional and even poetic discourse with art, unfolds at a second glance to reveal a distinctive, highly detailed confrontation with symbols, perception and significance. Aspects such as identity and difference, and authenticity and forgery, coexist in mutual dialectic tension. References to art history (Picabia) and contemporary influences (Hume, Baechler), as well as allusions to folklore (votive tablets, ex votos) are all apparent. At the same time, the 'felt pictures' are unusual because they are in a sense 'oblique'. They challenge the viewer to think differently instead of using categories of a historic order of styles and artistic movements, thereby opening a new dimension in artistic perception, since everything is perceived as 'image-worthy'.
Like his work, the artist picks up on signs, images, memories and objects that exist in reality, takes them over and transposes them in a way that separates their form from their significance. Released from contextual connotation and abstracted by the use of (craftsmen's) felt, the objects are transformed and become anonymous. The viewer can recognise the specifics of the motif, but cannot identify the story residing inside it as a historical document. In this way, Grünfeld's 'felt pictures' are somewhere between figurative and abstract art, seemingly unwilling to fulfil any significance.
Thomas Grünfeld, Felt Felt, Installation view, 2006, Galerie Michael Janssen, Cologne