Dirk Rathke – Painting and Folding
With the new exhibition presenting works by Dirk Rathke, I decided to bring together, for the first time, three genres at a time: a ceiling drawing, his paintings and folds. Dirk Rathke has just returned from Houston where he had realized a ceiling work in a private apartment, just as he had also done before with impressive outcome in a private apartment in Milan: there, through a pattern of silver-coloured geometrical shapes the ceiling was partly interwoven with the walls, thus splendidly framing the owners’ private collection of concrete art. The room itself is an experience, changing subtly over the course of the day and the seasons, depending on the incidence of daylight and position of the sun!
In the gallery, his minimalistic Ceiling Drawing for Berlin convincingly complements the exhibition Painting and Folding. Originally created as a contribution for the exhibition Dear Artist, Please draw for me! Part 1: Abstraction, it still claims a presence in the gallery and has experienced some exhibitions by Dirk Rathke’s fellow artists without clashing with their works.
The accompanying somewhat twisted and slightly tilted square consisting of lines, drawn with chalk mixed with gold pigments may well invite one or another flat owner (or tenant) to find some inspiration for his/her own interiors. Dirk Rathke is a master of sophisticated and aesthetically convincing pictorial or graphic interventions that transform the familiar rooms into new and more exciting spaces, broadening our visual horizon.
Besides this rather complex group of works Rathke has become well-known with his sculptural, spatial paintings, exploring the relation of form and colour. These are represented in some important private and public collections, as i.e. that of the Nationalgalerie (Berlin) or the collection Marli Hoppe-Ritter at the Ritter Museum. For almost two years Rathke has been working on the completion of a new group of works, also exploring the relation of form and colour, but developing a completely different language of forms and using entirely different material: monochrome painted steel sheet folds. It is amazing how both interests (form/space and colour) are translated into different genres, creating a unique and distinctive language that unites these characteristics in harmony. Not without reason these two groups of works seem predestined to be combined in an attractive arrangement for one’s own walls.
All three groups of works conquer the space, are painting and sculpture at the same time, now coming together in one exhibition space. An exciting composition and synergetic dialogue is to be expected!
Semjon H. N. Semjon, in April, 2017
Translation: Julia Böttcher
LIVING IN THE FOLD
(The Wall Works and Spatial Constructions of Dirk Rathke)
by Mark Gisbourne
In the first instance the idea of the folding of space sounds something that might be derived from a science fiction movie. For living in the fold so to speak suggests the confines of determined if variable spatial configurations, that is to say immured within a fixed or allocated set of realities that forms a limited or given viewpoint. And in one sense this is in part true for whatever we perceive in the world is experienced from the viewpoint of the body that we inhabit and from the momentary location in space that we occupy at any given time. But from another viewpoint the fact that the body has the power of movement expands the potential into wider human perception, and it is this aspect that is abundantly evident in the wall works and constructed spatial reliefs of Dirk Rathke. These perceived potential viewpoints are what Deleuze may have alluded to when he wrote of “the pleats of matter” and of the nature of visual plastic inflections of cohesion that exist within the principle of the fold. In putting aside for a moment the French writer’s distinction between plastic materials, and the organic matter he also referred to, the painted steel wall reliefs of Rathke are nothing less than imaginative forms that represent creases and folds in space. The term fold is important since “to enfold” is to surround, encompass and envelop an autonomous within, and significance resides in the singularity of each metaphorical monad that is established by each pleat.
In the case of the experience of plastic material through the variable viewpoints of perception a doubling takes place, that which is a spatial outside is enfolded inside, which is to say the movement of the body elides the delimitation of the inside and outside. At the same time this eradicates what was formerly referred to in relation to sculpture as “negative space,” which now due to the changing position of the perceiver becomes a dynamic optical and investigative experience. Hence the role of the body beyond mere entity, its variable viewpoints towards given disposed objects, becomes the necessary means to understanding the actual primacy of perception. As Merleau-Ponty makes clear “…not the body as a chunk of space or a bundle of functions but that body which is an intertwining of vision and movement.” Any consideration of Dirk Rathke’s wall reliefs or objects has to be seen in this context, and they continue a visual investigation of the curvilinear that has been present in his work for the last twenty years. But whereas the earlier work placed its emphasis on the relations between wall, space, and object, this more recent work focuses on the inside and outside of the fold that incorporates the dynamic autonomy of the space within. It marks the unique singularity of each object by the individual characteristic that is attributed to each fold as enacted. Further the asymmetry of forms and their Tatlin-Malevich like installation in this instance, challenges the viewer to engage with the works from a variety of spatial-temporal viewpoints.
The artist Rathke’s wall reliefs raise further considerations specifically through their evident use of transitional edges/creases and assertive colours, since at the rim of each angular fold different tonal modulations subtly alter the perceiving experience. As we shift from one perceptual moment to another our sensory registration alters the visual relationship to the spatial form in its state of folding, and theoretically at least, the optical “unfolding” as our eyes penetrate and review the shifting folds of mobile perceptual experience. It is in fact the fundamental grounds for sensory interaction, in that it generates the essence of phenomenological experience simultaneously as both and experiential effect and emotive affect, “…in that it is the perceptual experience which gives us the passage from one moment to the next and thus realizes the unity of time. In this sense all consciousness is perceptual, even the consciousness of ourselves.” The artist Rathke is well aware of this, and the use of bright colours to articulate outer appearance of his constructive forms further intimates the minimalist idea of a painted skin. A skin therefore that ties and heightens the perceptual experience to the embodied reality of the viewer perceiving. The artist’s use of intended asymmetry is distinct, and though some have cited sources like Elsworth Kelly and other asymmetrical practitioners, they have in other respects missed the point. The reason being, unlike Kelly this artist is less pursuant of shape (as distinct from form), and rather engaged with a personal synthesis of bringing together two conflicting traditions, constructivism (compositional) and minimalism (systemic objects). The works may be seen therefore as extended type of metaphorical folding (“faltung”), namely a new unity between the relational and the autonomous object. Small in scale these delightful wall objects/reliefs pose serious formal questions, exposing as they do a much larger pregnant idea from their modest presence…a literal embodiment perhaps of the idea that is living in the fold.
- Mai 2017