Kategorie: English Version

Carl Robinson: Twofoldness / Threefoldness. Marc Lüders‘ Photopicturen. (2018)

Carl Robinson:
„Twofoldness / Threefoldness. Marc Lüders‘ Photopicturen.“

The text was written for the publication „Painting Digital Photography.“ Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing and the University of Derby [ISBN 978-1-5275-1110-1]. It is the documentation of the PaintingDigitalPhotography conference, which took place in 2017 in collaboration with the QUAD Art Centre Derby and the University of Derby (UK).

The text was also published in english and german in the catalogue „Marc Lüders. Zweifaches Sehen | Twofoldness“, published 2018 by LEVY Galerie, Hamburg.

PDF [English text in the catalogue „Marc Lüders. Zweifaches Sehen | Twofoldness“]

Luminita Sabau: Marc Lüders and the new Surrealism. (2010)

Luminita Sabau:
Marc Lüders and the new Surrealism.


„Art is perhaps the most visible manifestation of the return of the suppressed conciousness.“
Sigmund Freud

Pop Art was probably the last great art movement of the twentieth cen- tury. From the seventies onwards, the “-isms” were declared dead, the end of the avant-garde was proclaimed, and art was ultimately linked to the strength of the individual artistic voices alone. The French philosopher Paul Virilio succinctly described the social badge of the postmodern era when he coined the phrase “a visual crash.”
Thirty years later, art movements and styles were being proclaimed once again, whether they were called New German Painting, the Leipzig School, or Hyperrealism. In our everyday lives, the virtual share of our contemporary envi- ronment also contributed to the fact that each and every one of us discovered demiurgic potential within us. At the touch of a button we can now become protagonists in computer-generated universes in which anything is possible. Loosely based on André Breton, both the imaginary and the phantasmagoric as well as the depths of the unconscious can be explored as elements of a game we ourselves control that serves to extend real and inevitably limited experiences and create new virtual spaces. It goes without saying that artists were the pio- neers here. They have always confronted us with worlds that, on the one hand, are a mirror of our Self and, on the other hand, predictions of the future. The great Joseph Beuys explicitly referred to artists as seismographs. Thus, long after the Surrealist movement had ended, a pronounced number of stances emerged: in literature (ranging from Paul Celan and Isaac Asimov to Ray Bradbury and Oskar Pastior), in film (including Federico Fellini, David Lynch, and David Cronenberg, as well as Terry Gilliam and Paul Thomas Anderson), and in visual art (from the members of the Cobra group to artists such as Matthew Barney and Peter Doig). All of these artists were involved in exploring the potential of the fantastic and the specific energy of the unconscious. The science-fiction genre can of course also be perceived as the expression of a Surrealist attitude.
Marc Lüders’ visual universes may constitute such a prediction. In them, we time and again encounter unreal figures that move within a profane, photo- realistic environment. We immediately recognize this photographic world. How- ever, the painted objects or humanoid figures that populate it remain unfamiliar. And they themselves appear to have not (yet) built up a real relationship with their environment. Although they strike seemingly familiar poses in a shoe store, a bathroom, at the beach, or in a supermarket, they appear to defy the laws of gravity, standing in some cases in front of upturned shelves—like “strangers in a strange land,” the title of the science-fiction classic by Robert A. Heinlein. These unusual and cryptic compositions and fictional objects become the dynamic ba- sis for a new (previously unconscious) world, and despite their frequent repeti- tion, they do not forfeit any of their suspense. The figures made visible by the painter’s hand and the strangely surreal objects that hover over the landscape appear to have no relationship to one another—except in a formal sense with re- gard to foreground and background. We are obviously dealing here with the kind of “chance encounter” found on an autopsy table or, in Lüders’ case, on an operat- ing table, or we are witnessing long-forgotten séances. The encounter is unreal even when the human and the painted figure approach one another. This prompts associations with Ivan Jefremov’s The Andromeda Nebula, and Breton’s moment of dépaysement once again comes to mind. Objects and people are decontextual- ized and displaced to unfamiliar locations. A shifted and mad reality is revealed to us, implying that it is rooted in the unconscious and the phantasmagoric.
As important as the tension between photography and painting has been for art over the last thirty years as well as for Marc Lüders’ oeuvre, it would not do justice to his aesthetic approach to reduce his works to this relation. This is because the term “photopictures,” which Lüders himself likes to use, only refers to technical aspects. However, in the case of this unique oeuvre, it seems to me that not only are the formally convincing results more important, which testify to his absolute mastery of the media painting and photography, but also the fact that dreams and the subconscious are put back into the right perspective. Or as Freud put it: “The unconscious has a much stronger moral stance than the con- scious would like us to believe.”
Psychical automatism and conscious combinatorics are considered to be primary Surrealist methods. In his gestural painting, Lüders revives a markedly psychographic element, and he does so in combination with the photographic medium, which draws its credibility to no small extent from its automatic genesis. The Surrealist aspect of Lüders’ art lies above all in the theme, that is to say in the problem-laden relationship between people and objects: it is about animated objects that lead a life of their own, as well as about generating vision and visibil- ity by blending together different levels of reality or illusion. The Surrealists were inspired by Jean-Martin Charcot’s photographs of hysterical women from the late nineteenth century and by images of “materialization phenomena,” mediumis- tic phenomena from the early twentieth century. Thomas Mann even repeatedly took part in séances, later recording what he had experienced in writing. In this context, Lüders’ colored figures are reminiscent of flâneurs in Paris arcades—only in the photorealistic ranges of, for example, someone like Richard Este—and his black-and-white figures of chimaeras and spirits, or even (our) ancestors. Seen in this light, his deserted filling stations—Hopper-like and in Pop Art colors—can also be read as cemeteries. The hovering objects not only recall UFOs, but also so-called ectoplasms, photos from the beginning of modernity that show exog- enous substances escaping from the mouths of the mediums being depicted—the human voice of the person being called up “appearing,” as it were, in material form. These objects, which seem to share increasing similarity with the figures, are indeed phenomenal apparitions.
With his fascination for the multifaceted potential for transformation and revision, Marc Lüders is in good company. One can look back as far as Man Ray, who was both a painter and object designer and made use of the possibilities for experimentation provided by the darkroom, such as solarization or deliberate graininess. Even Brassai produced photographs that looked like the results of écriture automatique. Buster Keaton showed us in a highly poetic manner that objects have always been stronger than ourselves. And more recently, Anna and Bernhard Blume, for example, caused parapsychologically discharged centrifugal forces to explode in our faces. To us, ghosts, shadows, and hovering forms seem uncanny or, in other words, appear to be the energetic potential of the psyche. Herein lies genuine Surrealist interest.
It is indeed astounding how central formal and motif-related elements in Marc Lüders’ oeuvre correspond with these aspects. In much the same way as in paintings by Yves Tanguy, his shadows create spaces that do not really exist as a sign of their inner dynamics. The hovering nature of the objects bring to mind the hovering (weightless) objects in paintings by Max Ernst, and Lüders’ urban space is comparable with that of Paul Delvaux—the space is unreal; it serves as a backdrop for encounters without recognizable meaning or coherency. Yet the encrypted meaning is revealed to those who understand the language of the sub- conscious and who can sense the intensity of the moment.

reference: Marc Lüders. Erfindung der Realität. Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, 2010, page 111-113
Translations from the German: Gillian Morris

Stephan Berg: Betewen the images. (2010)

Stephan Berg:
Between the images.

In a certain way, the close relationships between photography and painting, which have had a considerable impact on the discourse surrounding both media at the latest since the nineties, are nothing more than a complementary contrast to the intense hostility that existed between them for decades. Nothing has changed since the first photograph Joseph Nicéphore Nièpce succeeded in producing in 1826 using the heliographic method, in particular the evaluation of the photographic image. As soon as it was acknowledged that photography was by no means merely a mechanical and therefore inevitably non-artistic reproduction of reality-as painting liked to insinuate-the way was cleared for the more interesting issue of which results, in terms of cognitive theory, are generated by the invention of reality practiced by both disciplines, albeit in different ways. In other words: do we lend more credence-or perhaps even less-to a painted picture because its relationship to reality is determined from the very beginning by the subjective placement of the brush, meaning that each and every painting initially creates its own reality before depicting something else? Or does the direct link-at least in an analog age-between the photographic image and its subject ensure that we perceive the gap between representing objectivity and contriving subjectivity as more productive or more contemporary?

With his “photopictures,” Marc Lüders operates at the very heart of the lines of rejection and interconnection that run between painterly and photographic discourse. In doing so, his oeuvre follows two main threads: on the one hand, the systematic linking of the photographic and the painted motif, and, on the other hand, the confrontation of the painted gesture with photography. The first group primarily includes the black-and-white photographs of spaces and suburban peripheries, into which Lüders has integrated painted figures that appear strangely awkward or absent. The figures are based on digital photographs that Lüders has taken, for example, of people waiting at pedestrian lights, only to then digitally edit the image in several steps before projecting it onto the photo and then transferring it to the painting. The dialectic link between photograph and painting also functions so well because Lüders always selects the settings for his photographic motifs in terms of the people he plans to later integrate. At the same time, the combination of faceless non-places and displaced persons creates an atmosphere that is distinctly melancholy. In the desolate nowhere of new housing estates, shabby hallways, or bathrooms, the subjects are reminiscent of somnambulant dream dancers-just as alienated from themselves as they are from their surroundings. A similar form of destabilization takes place on the level of the two media that are used. The realistic yet clearly painted figures lend a surreal quality to the photographic environment, while the photographic context to a certain extent repudiates and subverts the painterly statement.

Lüders interweaves the two disciplines even more closely in a series of black-and-white landscape photographs that he has been producing since the end of the nineties. In works such as Waldgrün (Forest Green, 2001) or Serpentaragrün (Serpentara Green, 2002), the artist initially completely paints over the nature shots in a monochrome green, only to subsequently remove thin layers of paint in a second step until he achieves a precarious balance between the black-and-white photographic representation of the forest and its naturalization by means of color. Interestingly enough, it is this abstract, gestural application of paint that lends the photograph a sense of realism. The non-depicting character of painting reinforces the veridical character of the photographic image, at the same time ensuring, in equal measure, the contrary, as painting over the photograph in effect cancels it out. As a result, the combination of photograph and painting generates a more dense reality, because both media reinforce as well as challenge one another. This is also due to the fact that Lüders-as opposed to Bertrand Lavier, who painted objects ranging from mirrors and refrigerators to entire cars completely in their respective local colors-does not transform reality into a symbol of itself, but conveys a level of reality that is itself already semiotic even deeper into the inescapable vortex between signifier and signified by means of crossing it with a further identifier.

This finds its strongest and, to a certain extent, most uncanny expression in an extensive series begun in 1994 in which Lüders operates with contrasting photography and painting. Strange, elongated, black-and-white painted creatures hover like aliens in black-and-white photographs of bathrooms, church altars, flooring, or museum spaces. On the one hand, these forms are nothing more than compact, concentrated, gestural brushstrokes. On the other hand, Lüders lends them a three-dimensional volume, which considerably calls into question the ostensible abstraction of the pure brushstroke. Especially since these mysterious molded shapes, often reminiscent of cucumbers, insidiously cast a shadow, assuming a self-confidence that can at best be claimed by real objects, not, however, by painting. Like ghostly phantoms, the round shapes irritate and comment on what is happening in the photographs, and they do so with a decent helping of irony.

This applies in particular to the photograph of a space in Hamburg’s Galerie der Gegenwart, Objekt 215-4, with its black-and-white painting by Gerhard Richter, into which Lüders has smuggled an apparently blurred painted form. Here we really do find ourselves in a perfect, inescapable pictorial circle: the photo shows a painting which makes reference to a photo that in turn shows the same blurred effect achieved by Lüders’ three-dimensional brushstrokes. And the structural distrust with regard to the possibility of representing reality in the image, which Richter has mastered at the latest since his black-and-white photo-paintings, also serves as the matrix for Marc Lüders’ “photopictures.” In the latter we can see how the reality in the image constantly eludes us and is contaminated by the alternating and different demands made by the media photography and painting: if, for example, one of these photographs really is supposed to show nothing but a section of a simple, rather shabby bathroom, then a colored shape that casts a black-and-white shadow-insisting on its representative rights just as its photographic surroundings do-should not be allowed to spread out at knee height.  Thus, the productive paradox of these works lies in the fact that they show how similar ostensible abstraction and ostensible representation are when one brings them together on one pictorial plane. Because in these photos, the gestural self-expression of the brush charges itself with a narrative, representational energy in the same way it likewise undermines the reality content of the photograph. In their essence, these works are proof that reality within the image in fact consists in its pictorial reality.

Stephan Berg, 2010

reference: Marc Lüders. Erfindung der Realität. Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, 2010, page 79-81.
Translations from the German: Gillian Morris

Ludwig Seyfarth: Painted Disappearance. (2008)

Ludwig Seyfarth:
Painted Disappearance.
On Marc Lüders’ East Side Series.

Trompe-l’oeil painting has traditionally served the function of deceiving the eye to such an extent that painted objects are mistaken for the real depicted objects. This was also the aim of the famous ancient painting contest between Zeuxis and Parrhasios, which the latter won when he succeeded in fooling Zeuxis into wanting to draw back a painted curtain in front of the alleged painting. One of the historic climaxes of trompe-l’oeil developed as a special form of still life painting in Holland in the 17th century. Cornelius Gijsbrechts, one of the greatest virtuosos in this field created illusionary portrayals of curtains, open windows, letter trays, and even the reverse side of pictures.

Since the 19th century, painterly illusionism has become less and less significant, not least due to the development of photography, which to a large extent took over the role of depicting objects true to life. However, painting was assigned a new trompel’oeil task; that of simulating itself within another medium. Photographs were coloured and painted to look like paintings in order that they gain recognition as works of art, a status that they were long denied due to their technical production.
As a result, this position of painting and photography to one another created an extraordinary successor to the classical Paragon contest once held between painting and sculpture in the quest for the “truest« depiction of nature.
In the 60s, Gerhard Richter proclaimed: »All painters and in fact everyone should paint from photos and these pictures should be hung everywhere, in apartments, in restaurants and offices, in railway stations    and    churches, everywhere.« (1) Alongside Richter’s success in taking the blurriness of photography a step further in his paintings, around 1970 the photo-realists appeared on the scene, with their virtuoso pictures created using photographic templates. They once again gave art-historic credit to the illusionary possibilities of painting, before the potential of digital image productionand manipulation transformed the question »painting or photography« into a random selection of Photoshop menu options.

When it comes to new image techniques, artists prefer to take a step back in order to observe them better. Manet or Degas transferred the cuts made by the frame and distortions, which one was inclined to overlook in the photos, into their paintings, where they were quasi magnified by the anticipated laws of the compositional structure.
And thus it is by no means a sign of historical regression when Marc Lüdgers refrains from providing Photoshop-collages in his »photopicturen.« Instead, he adds individual painted elements to his photographs of real landscapes, wastelands or urban locations.
It is as if he were to revive the antiquated colouration techniques and other early methods of photographic deception. The curious, sausage-like shapes, which seemed to hover in Lüders’ early black-andwhite pictures could be perceived as revenants of the amorphic shapes found in the »ghost photographs« at the end of the 19th century. They were intended to prove the existence of supernatural phenomena but frequently revealed themselves to be more or less adept forgeries.

The forms, which are in some cases clearly recognisable as brushstrokes, and which at times resemble blobs or stones hovering in the air, can also be found in Lüders’ latest series of pictures. They are based on photographs taken by the artist at the »East Side Gallery»; one of the few remaining sections of the Berlin wall. Here, in 1990 more than 100 international artists painted motifs, mostly in bright colours, along a stretch of 1316 metres.
The succeeding cold winter 1990/91 caused initial damage to the paintings, which, although they have been partially restored in recent years, are still for the most part weathered, and have even flaked off in some sections, or been painted and written over with other graffiti or texts.

Against the background of the photographed sections of the East Side Gallery, Lüders’ painted »additions« seem to become a part of that which is already written or painted on the wall. The fact that another level of reality is present here is indicated above all by the painted shadows, which the elongated lines or blob-like forms on the wall or on the ground seem to cast. With this classical trompe-l’oeil effect, Marc Lüders makes an ironic reference to the historic battle between painting and sculpture: The shadow, classical proof of physical existence, causes the painted form to appear just as real as an object within a space.
The abstract shapes, which in some cases create swirling structures, and in the numbered titles of the works are always categorized as »objects«, are contrasted by a second category, entitled »figures«, which includes the »painted additions.« These figures are people who Lüders initially photographed in public places, standing at the traffic lights or in other random situations. He also painted these figures in earlier series, standing alone in a wood, on a beach, or in an industrial estate.
The »Rückenfiguren« (back figures), which Caspar David Friedrich once collaged into his landscapes in a similar way, doubled the viewer’s gaze into the landscape, which may have been rather dreamy, but was in fact directed quite purposely into the distance. Lüders’ figures are also frequently shown from behind. However, even when they are positioned sideways or frontally, their gaze is not directed at the viewer. Their faces are not clearly recognizable and they stand about in their »new« surroundings like disoriented strangers.

It is perhaps no exaggeration to perceive this as a metaphor for the random nature of the relationships between people in large cities, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Baudelaire, or the German sociologist Georg Simmel once vividly described them. An impression of mental absence can be found in many photographs of urban milieus, like a signature of modern life, for example in the »Subway Portraits«, photographs of passengers in the New York metro shot by Walker Evans between 1938 and 1940 using a hidden camera.
In a similar manner to Evans, Lüders photographs passers-by who, oblivious of this fact, also seem mentally absent. In the East Side series, the figures do not strive to relate to us as viewers, nor do they seem to pay any attention to the painted wall behind them.
The relationship between the figure and the background is of a compositional nature, created by Lüders’ positioning of the figure in the picture and by his choice of colours for the clothing, bags or other accessories. Similarities in the colours and forms create a compositional uniformity.
And the more colourfully the persons are dressed, the better they can be »concealed« in their surroundings. Someone who wants to remain invisible in the countryside or in a wood is more likely to choose dark or subdued camouflage colours or patterns similar to foliage, such as is used in traditional military camouflage clothing.
When in 1915 canons painted with camouflage were driven through Paris, Picasso allegedly said to Gertrude Stein: »We invented that.« (2)
And in fact there are many similarities between the Cubistic dissection of form with which Picasso and Braque dissolved the traditional relationships between objects in order to create a fragmentary mosaic of individual shapes, and military camouflage paintings, which aim to make an object vanish within its surroundings.
In view of this it would seem quite logical that William Wadsworth and other representatives of Vorticism, a British variety of Cubism, were given the task of overseeing the camouflage painting of 2000 ships towards the end of the First World War.

The East Side Gallery is also a kind of camouflage painting: its goal was to disguise the drab grey of the concrete slabs, just like the numerous examples of graffiti that had adorned the west side of the Berlin wall prior to 1990.
The fact that the »East Side«, once part of the wall in the former border section sheltering East Berlin from view from the west, was also painted with graffiti and other images, was perceived as a conscious and liberating comment on the political changes, and was reflected in the content of the individual graffiti artworks.
The effects of weathering and the constant painting over of the pictures transform the former clear messages into a complex jumble of colours, shapes, texts, and symbols. These would certainly have interested photographers such as Brassaï, who back in the 1930s integrated graffiti or torn posters into his works, thus modernising the picturesque aesthetic of decay, which in the 19th century had already sparked off the interest of many photographers in ruins and in derelict and weatherbeaten walls. Affichistes such as Raymond Hains or Jacques de la Villeglé took what Brassaï captured in graphic black-andwhite, and hung it as polychrome visual objects in museums around 1960. Their pictures would provide a good camouflage background against which Lüders’ figures would virtually disappear in their brightlycoloured streetwear and their T-shirts adorned with logos or text.

The opposite applies to the tourists, photographed by their friends or relatives in front of the real East Side Gallery, on the pavement along the busy Mühlenstraße between Ostbahnhof and Oberbaumbrücke. They want to show that they were here, something that was probably never the case with the people in Lüders’ pictures.
The latter have been collaged with paint into surroundings that are already a collage, one that has built up diverse layers on a remaining section of the Berlin wall over the past eighteen years.
Even if no-one could possibly succeed in determining the origins and creators of all the pictures and symbols left behind, these are traces that can be perceived physically. Marc Lüders, who in earlier works also added painted graffiti to photographed walls, adds carefully selected elements, which sometimes become relief-like, tangible, physical traces on the surface of the photos. The abstract shapes, which at times resemble spontaneous brushstrokes, are not really spontaneous, but are rather symbolic of the spontaneity of painterly gestures. One could interpret them as the illusionary depiction of a gestural brushstroke, a painted trompe-l’oeil of painting itself.

And that would lead us to quite a different theme, away from the battle between photography and painting, which Marc Lüders appears to re-enact only to once again analogically outwit the levelling of all mediums by means of their digital simulation. Lüders photographs what has been painted, paints something more, and this painted addition then casts a shadow in its real surroundings. The only case where »reality« can really be physically examined is when it comes to the sublime nature of painting. If we take the physical reality as a starting point, which is visible in the photo the work is based on, then the painted elements suggest an added layer with a lesser degree of reality. Different levels of visual representation are engaged in play with one another, which constantly questions their lack of ambiguity. The alleged interplay of painting and photography is rather a staged performance of that which quasi takes place behind the curtain of the screen, in the case of digitally-generated pictures. If painting, photography and other digital visual media only compete when simulated, then there are no longer any physical traces whose reality could be called into question. And with that, the source of friction required for the illusionary game of trompe-l’oeil, which Marc Lüders keeps alive in a manner that is both contemporary and ingenious, can be disposed of

Ludwig Seyfarth, February 2008
translation: Gillian Morris

Gerhard Richter, text for exhibition catalogue for the Galerie h, Hannover, together with Sigmar Polke [1966], in: idem., Text. Schriften und Interviews, published by HansUlrich Obrist, Frankfurt a. M./Leipzig1996, p. 42.

See also: Christoph Asendorf, Super Constellation – Flugzeug und Raumrevolution, Vienna/New York 1997, p. 217 f.
Vogel 507-1-2, Öl auf Silbergelatine-Print , 72 x 60 cm, 2001

reference: East Side Gallery. Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld, 2008, page 81-89