A German Abstract Painter Remixes the Old Masters for His First Solo Show in China

  • Image courtesy of PIFO Gallery.

    Image courtesy of PIFO Gallery.

If you had to guess the inspiration behind the latest works by Enrico Bach, you’d probably think architecture and geometry. And you’d be correct, at least in part.

His medium- to large-scale abstract oil paintings are characterized by square grids, bold lines, and geometric shapes rendered in vibrant jewel tones and deep, dark blacks. In fact, the German painter has spoken of his fondness for contemporary architecture and urban structures, such as bridges and tunnels.

Bach also says he has taken inspiration from technology, both physical and digital. He’s intrigued as much by the look and feel of online graphics and user interfaces as by the shape and structure of a set of enormous speakers he spotted at a music festival in England.

But there’s another influence at play, one that’s trickier to surmise. It’s the Old Masters: Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Bellini. An art history enthusiast, Bach points to Rembrandt’s “ability to create atmospheres” and “the way he handles light and dark values, which gives his paintings a special clarity.” Likewise, Bach says, in Velázquez’s Las Meninas, “it is the various levels of the painting and the picture­‐in‐a-picture concept that interest me.”

  • Image courtesy of PIFO Gallery.

    Image courtesy of PIFO Gallery.

Indeed, Bach’s abstract paintings, now featured in “With Ifs and Buts” at PIFO Gallery in Beijing, aren’t just inspired by classic paintings. According to Bach, they’re modern interpretations of those works, “remixes” of the Old Masters.

“The formal layout and the choice of colors remain the same as in the original,” Bach says. “All I do is erase the objects and the people in it by simplifying the components that make up the human figures and replacing head and torso by geometrical shapes.”

Knowing his true inspirations, it’s impossible to look at Bach’s solo show—his first in China—in quite the same light. The works are more than colorful geometry, more than riffs on architecture; they’re stripped down, reduced, and reimagined masterpieces that have exploded and re-formed in abstraction beyond what even the Old Masters might have thought possible.

 

—Bridget Gleeson


Enrico Bach: With Ifs And Buts” is on view at PIFO Gallery, Beijing, Jun. 16–Aug. 7, 2016.

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