Michael Pfrommer’s paintings and drawings provide the framework for spaces that our thoughts begin to construct when we stand before them – and in a certain sense, before ourselves. The way we look at them parallels our gaze meeting a reflective display window: At first, our glance is fleeting; then it becomes fixed as we focus on the flash of a midway world, a world located between the objects presented to us and the events occurring behind us and our own transient presence.
Pfrommer’s works contain a fore and a back, as well as various image grounds that appear to be unsure who is first in line – and who might manage to jostle all the way to the front. It is hard to wrap one’s head around what’s happening here. Sometimes, the works appear reminiscent of wallpaper: a colorful surface between rooms that themselves create a space.
And so newspaper also functions as material, visual repository and carrier for new images: The sea lends its shape to a blanket, spindly reeds form a thicket. Streams of lava lick the crevices; a mesh wire is superimposed onto the folded pages. Printed on a daily basis and painted on by the artist according to their availability, the papers offer up changing headlines, protagonists, places and events – yet these are never made the subject of the painted scenes directly. Instead, the printed texts and photographs turn into linear structures and windows that pulsate in the backgrounds of the gouaches, literally seeping through but never forming a coherent visual whole with the painted shapes and figures. Their contents become fleeting silhouettes, the daily events morphed into associative, thin image backdrops. Detached from their already full picture medium, the layers of gouache – sometimes in the form of thin glazes, at other times opaque – bring new shapes to paper.
The mutual independence and idiosyncrasy of the painting grounds and themes is characteristic of Pfrommer’s works. It always seems as though there is still space for something – something that could arrive at any moment, should we turn to look away for a second and then back: Turning our gaze 360 degrees, akin to flipping a postcard in one’s hand and trying to make the two sides connect – only to realize that there are many possible, but no decisive ways for reading the front and the back as one.
The images are full of things that branch off and others that allow us to connect to our daily life, as it appears to us and as it can, at times, haunt us. They show mundane things – use items, urban and residential landscapes or media images of global events – and both lead us associatively closer to our own individual access points, as well as away from these and around the next corner.
Pfrommer’s themes show themselves to be the results of a momentary convergence between an environment that only appears to be external to us and the inner movements we carry out in response to it. Both wind around each other, become entangled, and involve us in new situations and images in which the external world reveals an inner life and it is no longer clear who is looking at whom or what.