Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Gert Jonke's novel Homage to Czerny describes a garden party in which reality and representation, perception and memory become confused in various ways.  It opens with the hanging of 'a cycle of garden pictures done especially by the painter Florian Waldstein for this park and the summer garden parties held in it - precision work whose complexity could hardly be grasped by an outsider: the individual pictures portrayed exactly those parts of the garden that were covered by the surfaces of the respective pictures, and the portrayals were so lifelike that they were constantly being confused from every angle with the respective parts of nature itself.'  As the pictures are being hung, the characters hear a radio lecture talking about the possibility of a picture that 'exactly represents the world in which it hangs' and the possibility it opens for the viewer that they themselves are perhaps not in a world at all, 'but rather  picture of the world within a world or within a picture of the world, etc.'

I thought about the fictional painter Florian Waldstein while reading an article about trompe l'œil in the new edition of Tate etc.  In his article, Michael Diers discusses Thomas Demand's Clearing (2003): 'a poster-like photo-installation of a colourful woodland scene. Although this picture-wall was strikingly large (192 x 495 cm), it was perfectly possible to overlook it, because it was presented without any frame.   From a distance one already had the impression that the image was of the trees in the immediate surroundings - in fact, of the very trees that it was obscuring. Games of this kind, toying with reality, are already familiar from the paintings of Magritte. One of the most famous, La Condition Humaine (1933), is a depiction of the view from a window, partly hidden by a painting on an easel. The painting, a landscape, fills in almost seamlessly the view of the real countryside outside the window - on the same scale, in the same colours and with the same perspective - so that picture and reality seem to have become one: an illusion that gives (visual) form to a long (art-) philosophical discussion.'

As the article explains, Clearing is more complex than the fictional paintings of Gert Jonke's novel.  Viewers of the work discovered that 'the thousands upon thousands of leaves in the picture had in fact been made from paper, carefully positioned as foliage and only then photographed. Viewers found themselves contemplating a three-dimensional, superbly-lit paper world, captures on film as a photographic image, printed on a scale of 1:1 and mounted on a board - a large-format image behind plexiglas of a sculpture made from coloured paper and card, presented as a hoarding of sorts; a lengthy, technically complex process of reproduction that had ultimately returned the image to exactly the same spot where it had started.'

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