Badische Zeitung, D-Freiburg, May 1999
Galerie Regio […] In the orangery the paintings of a young artist from Basel are to be seen. Oil on canvas from Urban Saxer, who is presenting his work publicly only for the second time. He works with precision, without showing off. He reduces; on a monochrome surface one or two objects, key or vase for example, are presented very flat in combination with a geometrical surface. Everything appears calculated and cool. But there is a quiet movement in the light. Tiny deviations from the ideal forms start breathing, weights slightly moved out of place. A play of the colour within the colour of the countless layers on top of each other, the holes in the coarse canvas, or, where the colour becomes denser and seals off its own texture. Vitality in mastered forms. […]
Der Bund, Bern, 16.03.99
Art/ Urban Saxer in the Galerie Christine Brügger
Isa. Urban Saxer is largely unknown in artistic circles and in his first exhibition in the art gallery Christine Brügger modestly calls attention to his impressive work.
The artist living in Basel presents paintings which manage entirely with the most concise elements regarding form and content. Surfaces with only one colour evoke spatial underdetermination. Arranged are the contours of vases, bowls, bottles and lines or geometrical forms arranged primarily perceived as non object related.
In this simplicity the surface is quickly scanned by the eye, but not immediately rationally grasped. Through the presence of tradable objects or clearly structured forms within the unreachable context, originates the multi-layered tension which Saxer’s works carry within them.
In his paintings the artist emphasises the importance of levelling the forms which are perceived as abstract with those that are concrete. His attitude becomes apparent when he combines both the readable and the supposedly unreadable in the same undifferentiated pictorial reality. He is mainly concerned with the tension between different surfaces, as separated forms isolated from concreteness and still only perceptible as such in connection with those surrounding them.
Once a little while is spent to consider Urban Saxer’s paintings, the perception of the forms returns an impressive time-space experience, but they can just as well offer a visual pleasure on the surface of the painting, immediately attracting the eye with its clear structures and minutely painted precision of the forms.
What’s on the Paintings
In my paintings abstract and concrete elements appear not always clearly separated, but often simultaneously. I thereby try to achieve an expansion of what is visible on the surface. The solitary line on the surface should lose its character as a stroke of paint on the canvas and enter into the field of the spectator’s imagination. In this imagination the dimensions are no longer fixed, but can be mixed and topple over one another. The line can, contrary to all material reality, start to float in the colour. A fruit too leaves its overcome meaning behind in front of a concrete background. It becomes a plaything of our thoughts with its form and symbolism, unknowingly confronting individual experience and associations of which it has no knowledge, and still, in the ideal case, fits smoothly besides them. I am therefore while creating a picture responsible for every single millimetre on the surface and can play God in that sense. At the same time though I do not have the slightest idea what happens where the painting finally ends; namely in the imagination of the spectator. I find myself in the odd situation of knowing the material reality on the canvas down to the last dot (or should know it at least), but its effects remain to a large degree beyond my reach. This paradox is perhaps the most important motivation for my painting, because in a sense the liberty of creation on the surface of the canvas in its kind corresponds somehow to the freedom of imagination. In this sense therefore the most exciting aspect in my pictures is not necessarily what is on the surface, but rather what lies behind, besides or in front of it.
Time of the Wide Spaces
One square and a little colour isn’t much to create a whole world out of. The fascination of a painting for me lies in its restriction. The capability and readiness to allow for coloured surfaces to enter the mind as independent experience of space or object, is at the same time deeply human and as distant from human ratio as ever imaginable. I’m trying to place my work within this field of tension in that contradiction. The concrete presence of the objects is kept in a balance with the intangibility of the surrounding surfaces. There’s no predetermined interpretation and the length of time needed to develop such a one should not be restrained. Wherever readable objects are missing there are lines or geometrical elements. They provoke in their relation with one another and the surrounding area an incentive which creates a mood or associations beyond what has been seen, and in the ideal case even carries them along away from the painting. Once I have succeeded in taking the coloured surfaces as far as that, they start to allow for the influence of space and temporal effect. Then I have arrived at the point when I can put the brush down and offer what has been created to the spectator and his or her perception.
The Vase or Subversion of Simplicity
There are many advantages in the use of such a simple object as a vase. In its plain, archaic form it remains open for almost every modification, be it in colour or in form. In addition universal recognition can be used as an effect and therefore open up the vision behind the objectas such.
If I paint a vase large enough so that it threatens to destroy the format, the perception automatically transgresses the object “vase” and remains searching for different clues. The same can happen when the “object” is confronted with geometrical forms. As the elements in my paintings are neither strongly distorted nor expressively overemphasised, they first of all appear perfectly “normal.” But then after a while the contradiction between the daily habit of perception and the representation of the painting takes effect.
The vase previously identified as a simple form is positioned in front of two surfaces for example which obtain their presence only through their colour, while the vase still requires some spatiality. Which habit is the eye to follow? Is it to look for a coloured abstract effect in the vase itself or rather construct a special analogy to it out of the coloured surfaces? A gap opens between what is visible and what is perceived. The instance that both the vase and the coloured areas appear very matter of fact like, almost creating a picturesque unity therefore, widens the gap, once occurred, even further.
The gap developing, between what is material on the painting and how our habit to see changes that, consists of the essential effect in my work; It constitutes of the open space that makes the painting a painting, which exclusively belongs to those who know how to use it, namely the spectators.
On the Unexplainable Expectation of Something to Happen
Mr K. got up later than usual, the clock pointed at 5, probably in the afternoon, because, even though everything was at its proper place, just as he had arranged it the evening before, the cup, the plate, the fruit and the vase everything suddenly appeared different. Perhaps it was the light. The alarm clock though had stopped for sure, the reason why he woke up at the wrong time. He then became witness of a strange spectacle and he realised how things had a life of their own without him and he somehow didn’t dare to touch the cup, because it wasn’t there for him at the moment. What Mr. K. experiences like at the start of one of Kafka’s novels can also happen to us when we observe Saxer’s paintings. We feel as though we could take part in events which happen without us as long as we don’t disturb them. We have perhaps within the daily rush pushed open a hidden door which suddenly opens up and reveals that same vase we thought to have known up to now. But now it appears displaced, like a powerfull Brahman priest to have stood in the inner circle of a temple. And the space around it leads into further depths. It stands perhaps in a world that hides another one. There are surfaces which cover and open up, like foolish fire, created through strong tensions, and remains as long as we stay there, reflect on it and disappears as soon as we think to approach its solution. If we look at the objects in Saxer’s paintings as materialist things, we still don’t know where they come from and where they are heading. This realisation remains our destiny which Heisenberg described scientifically : “We will never know both, location and time of the smallest elements simultaneously.” There we stand in eager expectation, not to miss the instant, when the mystery is revealed, what the things on the paining will do next. Perhaps we feel related to the vase- once we realise that we aren’t just humans looking for the spiritual but there are spiritual existences searching for the human.
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