Contemporary abstract artist Peter Zimmermann’s Blob paintings and Book Cover paintings perhaps best convey his artistic soul, purely by their visual power. Anima Gallery, The Pearl, is all set to celebrate the German maverick’s work in a solo exhibition of his paintings titled Diffusion, from January 18 to April 18.
Zimmermann’s way of working — his medium essentially involves airbrushing combined with digital arts — is rather peculiar. Often drawing his source material from texts or book covers, he scans them into his computer, tweaks it using Photoshop and other such digital manipulation toolboxes, and eventually gets the resultant image onto a canvas, which bears nearly no resemblance to the source image.
Following application of “numerous strata of pigmented and dyed acrylic resin to the support,” he transforms the contents into “palpable and mellifluous bodies” of light and colour. “While literally liquidating the gesture vis-à-vis the history of gestural painting, Zimmermann’s pictures nevertheless move, or suggest a kind of kinetic shifting of shape and mass. Paradoxically the work remains gestural, but in the most mediated and unorthodox way,” says art critic Chris Sharp, on Zimmermann’s technique.
According to his biography on Artnet, Zimmermann gained international prominence with his individualistic paintings. He became famous with his collection entitled Book Covers (1980s), in which he conceptualised the artwork on classic books and art catalogs by transposing them into his works. “Another well-known collection by Zimmermann is the Blob Paintings. The blob paintings are created on a computer, by taking found materials (photographs taken by others) and then abstracting them through Photoshop,” the bio states.
Critics have categorised Zimmermann’s blob paintings as an “independent and highly seductive form of abstraction” and a constructive continuation of the painting medium’s potential within a digitally influenced perception of reality.
Since the late 80s, Zimmermann, known all over the world for his many international exhibitions, has been working on an art form which examines the terms and possibilities of contemporary visual depiction.
In Anima’s newly released catalogue on Zimmermann’s upcoming exhibition in Doha, Astrid Wege observes, “Peter Zimmermann became well-known in the late 1980s, early 1990s with his ‘Book Cover Paintings’ and his ‘Boxes’. In the case of the book covers, the motifs transferred to painting — on a larger scale — completely filled the pictorial field so that the outlines of the image carrier were congruent to the motif depicted and the paintings consequently developed an object-like character. The chosen originals — whether dictionaries, lexica, travel guides, classics of art and cultural theory, or monographic works on artists — made it very difficult to discern personal preferences.”
Referring to Zimmermann’s work, Sharp points out that beyond being thoroughly anchored in a specific tradition of abstract painting, the sheer doubling power of this protean work is truly exceptional.
“For example,” Sharp notes, “the artist starts by deforming his source material, and initially looking at such deformed imagery, one may have the impression of a microscope being trained in upon some kind of primary life form or matter itself. Amorphous amoeba-like hieroglyphics yield to both mountainous and subaqueous topographies, replete with hot and cold zones, whose warped and colliding temperatures suggest some mysterious rationale, if not the rationale of Pop. Likewise suggested is some kind of blown-up infrared fragment, denatured by an arbitrary colour-by-numbers’ logic.”
For example, Piet Mondrian or — in a later work — Minimal Art in the shape of a painting of the catalogue cover for the exhibition “Primary Structures” in New York in 1966 also served Zimmermann as patterns, Wege says.
In addition, in his Book Cover Paintings, Zimmermann already began to experiment with the material that he has used for his paintings up to the present day, Wege points out: “Epoxy or synthetic resin augmented with pigments. Depending on the concentration and fluidity of the pigments, this creates either a lucid or an opaque impression, but it certainly involves an inherent aspect of industrial chill and distance. The choice of material, therefore, is also a rejection of the idea of the artistically authentic signature.”