Mind and Matter-The Art of the Automatic
Traditionally, artworks are carefully planned out, with various studies, drafts, and attempts created before the finalized version of the piece is completed. However, as a deliberate stylistic choice, some artists purposely reject this practice, valuing spontaneous creation over meticulous forethought and organization. The lack of the artist’s revision becomes integral to the finished product. This type of art making is undertaken for various reasons, and through the artworks of Anil Duran, Jakob Hentze, and Margarete Hentze, the various range of intentions of using this method will be explored.
Anil Duran’s use of automatism is reminiscent and comparable to the works of abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock, surrealists like Max Ernst, and Dadaists such as Kurt Schwitters. Through the sheer scale of his artwork, the large, chunky, sweeping brushstrokes, kinetic composition, and use of collaged found objects, Duran projects raw emotional turmoil onto canvases. Instead of pre-planning components and subject matter, he lets them unfold through acting on his predilection and whims. The paintings are striking, intended to overwhelm with their use of bold, blunt use of primary colors, black, and negative space. Built upon artistic methods such as bricolage and action painting, they reveal the artist’s turbulent subconscious state of mind. His psychology is laid bare through the primal, strained use of paint and materials, showing autobiographical aspects. The brushstrokes and movement are thick, tactile, and animalistic. Anarchic and disorderly, the “thrown-together” nature of the artworks is indexical of the artist’s every movement and impulse, from the strain of his body to the collection/binding of objects. Duran’s practices border on shamanistic, automatically projecting his inner self into the paintings. While for the most part abstract, this allows for vaguely figurative flourishes, suggesting eyes, houses, cities, and silhouettes. Each painting features an extreme, uncensored sort of physicality, which functions as an individual narrative visualizing the artist’s actions and mindset.
While Duran automatism’s is very visceral and chaotic, a visual representation of the artist’s subconscious and movements, Jakob Hentze uses automatism to nearly detach his physical presence from the work entirely. Instead, Hentze depends on geometry and mathematics to determine the makeup and composition of his artwork and designs rather than his own imagination. Through this process, his art making becomes machine-like, using calculations to determine his next step. It is because of this process his works mimic both machines and, ironically, natural bodies/organisms. They evoke the imagery of microscopic cells, honeycombs, constellations, and fractals. Hentze becomes a medium for these calculated algorithms. His methods mirror that of processed based artists, such as Gerhard Richter, in which he strains his own presence out of the artworks to allow them to be their own entities separate from the artist, “organic” and with their own “DNA.” They also recall the principles of the ideology of the Bauhaus, where artists rejected the Great Master approach of creation in favor of turning themselves into a cross between a factory assembly line and a monk-like craftsman, their ego humbly removed from their designs. Although he aims to remove as much “humanity” out of his process of assembling and designing artworks, they still possess a delicate, handmade beauty. The craftsmanship is still apparent and the translator’s touch is not completely removed.
Margarete Hentze builds upon of her husband Jakob Hentze’s work with her photography and film series. She captures the performances of Jakob, as he roams in different areas, ranging from Brooklyn to Munich, to Iceland, to bucolic rolling greens in the wild. Within these performances, he utilizes handcrafted geometric shapes. Margarete directs, initiates, and documents, placing Jakob in these various locations. As he moves with the constructed object in tow, it unfolds and interacts with both him and the surroundings, creating a spontaneous and unscripted dialogue. The object is the most active agent within these collaborative pieces, impacting, folding, and unraveling. Although inanimate, the way these components interact determines significant factors within Jakob’s performance, and therefore Margarete’s artwork at large. It is because of this phenomenon every performance captured is entirely unique, showing the material, tangible difference of each element. Flesh fumbles over unwieldy cardboard and paper, geometric forms scrape against grass, concrete, and/or dirt, and bodies, organic and inanimate, lumber.
Although automatism involves a certain amount of disengagement and lack of planning from the artist, it can be used to create wildly different effects. Although it is often assumed that art is created through extreme mindfulness and a grand design, these works show that even the method of the artist’s detachment of themselves from the works can be exceptionally influential to the finished piece of art. Its manifestation can appear emotional, mechanical, or spontaneous. Even without any supposed influence of the artist, the resulting works vary greatly in visual and emotional effect. The deftly executed artworks of Duran and the Hentzes attract the viewer and exude the artists’ psyches, their processes revealing a certain part of their astounding creativity.