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Florian Witt - Grüße aus dem Logbuch
Location: EMDE GALLERY - Mainz
Florian Witt: Grüße aus dem Logbuch
Emde Gallery is very pleased to present Florian Witt's first solo exhibition „Grüße aus dem Logbuch“ (Greetings from the Logbook).
Florian Witt's artistic work encompasses drawing, painting and sculpture, whose border areas he explores. In his solo exhibition at Emde Gallery, the artist shows small and medium-format paintings and drawings on paper and canvas, as well as sculptural objects made of wood. All the works stand side by side on an equal footing and complement each other, as they hang on the wall in the gallery and are distributed around the room to form a picture.
Florian Witt studied fine art at the AdBK Nuremberg with Thomas Hartmann and at the HFK Bremen with Stephan Baumkötter and Kathrin von Maltzahn and passed his diploma examination in 2021. He is a master student of Thomas Hartmann.
Digital worlds have always served the artist as a source of inspiration for a part of his artistic work. "Impressions of the world of computer games," says the artist, "from their beginnings to the present day, shape the breakdance of worlds of colour, paths of composition and spaces of abstraction that dance before my inner eye in the quiet phases between working actively on paintings. Many of my ideas come from it."
In recent years, Florian Witt has developed an artistic position that deals in particular with the interface between the digital and analogue world. In doing so, he has found his very own, unmistakable visual language, characterised by recurring (geometric and figurative) forms and signs, which moves in the field of tension between drawn painting and painted drawing.
His small-format works on paper are mostly lines drawn on monochrome coloured surfaces with a paint marker or scratched in wet paint, somewhere between spontaneous inspiration and planned setting, abstract and figurative allusions. Keyboards and hands, chimneys and spheres appear again and again in his paintings. Partly filigree, partly chunky figures and objects are reminiscent of technical devices or industrial structures. They appear sketchy, are (seem) quickly painted and emphasise the two-dimensionality of the pictorial space, in analogy to the flatness of digital worlds.
His paintings, on the other hand, presented in a larger format, are increasingly worked in a recognisably large number of steps and are characterised by a variety of materials - such as acrylic and spray paint - as well as overlapping layers of paint with incised lines that give the works a haptic surface. In some works, sheets of paper are incorporated into the composition like a collage, such as in the painting "Schichtplan 2“ (shift plan 2). In others, in addition to felt-tip pen scribbles of intertwined lines, comic-like elements can also be found.
Florian Witt's deliberately rudimentary and highly subjective pictorial language enables the artist to hint at subtleties emerging from beneath the surface of his paintings. His pictorial worlds, created in varying degrees of abstraction, remain enigmatic and elude a clear reading. Concrete statements are replaced by allusions (or blanks) that open up a wide associative space for the viewer, which is on the one hand speculative and very subtly calculated on the other. It is precisely this combination of evocation and control that makes his works so appealing and encourages us to look closely.
For Florian Witt, pictures are a pre-linguistic means of expression and - apart from the title and a few exceptions - manage without words. They is a more immediate and original means of expression than language. "The line", the artist expresses himself in this context, "is the expression of a deeper realm of thought. Without having been reflected with language, the drawing hand helps itself to the pool of all the things that have flowed into the head through the eyes as visual raw materials." Many of his works are reminiscent of children's drawings. However, he is not interested in drawing or painting like a child, but in capturing actual states that are fed from the digital pool of images, his own thoughts, memories and feelings, bringing them to the canvas, the paper, and thus making them tangible. Making this tangible with his hands is a central aspect of his work. Following Aristotle, Florian Witt describes hands as tools "with which the inner becomes the outer". It is no coincidence that hands appear again and again in his works, often in connection with keyboards. And finally, as is well known, the word "digital" also has its origin here - it comes from the Latin word for finger ("digitus").
Florian Witt's paintings are not abstractions of motifs from reality, even if references to something real underlie them and are more or less visible. His pictures are therefore not repetitions but inventions. Nor are they retranslations of digital structures or formal elements into analogue traditional images. Rather, they are independent forms with more or less explicit references to the digital and analogue world.
At least 3 are needed to be able to sit on a stool – Interview between Florian Witt and Ronia Adl Tabatabai (artist)
Ronia Adl Tabatabai: When you start a work, do you feel you have too much or too little to draw from, or rather, do you see the blank canvas or the variety of possibilities?
Florian Witt: I definitely have huge trawl nets in my arsenal and could fish the seas clean. But I often have to work more with a landing net.
If I could produce the way I would like to produce, my storage would be full in a year or even just a month.
Of course, then there is also the ever-present danger of arbitrariness.
That's why it's important for me to sort things out. If you don't have anything to sort out, you're doing something wrong.
Something is only arbitrary if you don't sort it out. That's why a certain amount is necessary.
When it comes to works, I believe that no matter how explicit you want to be, you can never say what the core is, only paraphrase it. That's why I like to use metaphors.
Why should I only say one thing when I can say so insanely much with a metaphor and also mean everything. They are actually much more useful statements.
In any case, I can already say in advance that I have resolved to talk less explicitly about the works.
Because I actually think it’s good when a text pushes you around, sometimes gives you points to hold on to, and these points then present themselves not as an anchor, firmly, but as a little gimmick. Then you fly around with this gimmick and you're like - okay, now I've got this, fine, then I'll just put it in my pocket.
RAT: In your paintings and drawings you try to develop a kind of pre-linguistic sign system. I often think I can recognise things that promptly slip through my fingers when I try to assign them. Do you have certain means to create it, certain rules in your process?
FW: I don't have any specific means by which I aim to produce that. It's more an observation of that it happens.
When you arrive somewhere, you want to go somewhere else again.
To make a clearly legible image is totally against me. It's so closed off, there's an absolute unambiguity, there's no room for interpretation.
At the beginning of my studies, I once had such a train of thought that I thought knowledge was like individual points in nothingness and in between them was a huge space, a quasi-endless space in which there were bridges. That image has held up quite well since then.
I don't actually want to paint the points, but describe the things between the concrete dots; a place to swim.
RAT: Most of the time, the elements of your images remind me of technical or digital signs and forms. Does this technoid pictorial repertoire hold a special attraction for you?
FW: I have noticed, and this has been a new thought, that these forms and elements, which appear in my pictures, actually appear in every culture, so signs, buttons, fittings, interfaces, devices. Why do they all look the same?
RAT: Because of this technological upheaval in the last few decades, there is something almost archaeological about using these signs or these echoes of signs that are more situated in industrialization.
FW: Yes, definitely. If you use very simple basic forms, the simplest geometric forms or free forms, then even with the highly complex CNC-milled engine blocks you move from simple form to simple form. So, these are all combinations of circles and squares and diagonals. The degree of complexity is simply higher.
It's comparable to the building blocks of language.
Or would you feel like speaking a language with me if I thought up new words all the time? Neologisms do lend themselves as seasoning, but really it's all about combining elements we all know - and timing.
RAT: So these forms are like anchor points, maybe a bit like those points you were talking about earlier, that are not bridges. But these points that I as a viewer can hold on to.
FW: Yes. These forms are more or less like a piece of ground that offers itself as - here you can stand and have a look - and then you stand on it and realize - ah, it doesn't really work at all - but you can still stand on it.
But that is always a question of perspective.
RAT: One element that stands out for me a little from your "sign language" is the hand, which always remains assignable and also asserts itself as a hand. Is it a kind of alter ego?
FW: The term alter ego is ultra-charged, there are thousands of different interpretations. That's why I think I can say yes and no. But where there are hands, there were or are people. And that's what it's all about. I think very simply - these works only exist in a world where people also exist.
RAT: You talked about every beginning being a kind of intervention, so there is never an actual beginning, but pieces, remnants, traces can be seen in your pictures.
FW: That's also a question of perspective.
You're born, you do your stuff and you step out. You wake up, do your stuff and go to sleep. There's always a before and after, so either you're kind of a bunch of atoms or yesterday or then you're ashes or tomorrow...
You have to define a beginning and an end, that is, place these brackets. Which then decides the beginning, which is always an intervention. There is simply nothing new.
RAT: At first your pictures seem flat to me, almost digital. On a second glance, you can see an uncanny variety of materials, of layers that overlap and are broken through. Many of the materials you use appear again and again. How important is the material for your work and do you have a fixed construction kit?
FW: No, the construction kit is definitely not fixed. New things are always going in there.
It's a constant refilling, things fall out again and again, comparable to a bag that has a hole in it. But what's in there is in there for a reason.
When you try out new material, the first work is always really nice, because so much happens at the same time and you approach it with such a unique curiosity.
Even if it's sloppy, it has a really cool quality to it. After that, the quota only goes up again after maybe 57 works.
I think after the first 1-2 works you get really stupid and vain thinking - ah, now I'm going to do this so-and-so - and then you try out a lot and maybe at some point, when you don't really have to think about it anymore, it comes back.
I would say all material can be categoriszed as solid, liquid, gas and light, i.e. radiation. Tools are either cutting or tearing or pinching. So, physics is wishy-washy. Accordingly, everything then is a tool. A stick is a brush with only one bristle.
That is, everything is ultimately based on finding a way and then making an analogy or building a bridge or making a translation, then I can add the material to the box. If it's completely foreign to me and I have no idea how to work with it intuitively, the detours are too harsh, then it's trash.
It definitely needs a spectrum of possibilities to have impact.
For example, I know in theory how to work with steel, that's no problem at all. But you just need sick power tools to manipulate it in a way I would want to work with it.
RAT: Is there also a kind of brutality or aggression in your work, in tearing, scratching methods of working on things?
FW: Very interesting question. I hadn't thought about it that way. From the gut, I would say that in dealing with material, it's about balancing how much influence on it you want to have.
How much control do you want, how much can you be controlled?
Material always has a spirit. And by working with material, you always inscribe your own spirit into it.
I wouldn't say it's always about doing it in a certain way, but just being aware of it.
Because that always happens, even if you are handling something absolutely delicately. It's always influence and negotiation.
RAT: So now we are back at intervention?
FW: Yes, but in a different way. Before we were talking about the intervention as the point.
And now we are talking about the kind of, that is, the pastime of the intervention. Actually, it's about passing time with purpose.
If you like, it's also a question of perspective, everything you do is violence. Every activity is intervention.
That's why I also want to say that it actually isn’t helpful to describe something as brutal or delicate, because that would be a form of interpretation.
It just depends on what kind of own story you bring with you.
RAT: Some of your works require a long period of time. Some you develop in a few minutes. What does time have to do with your paintings? Do you make a distinction between drawing and painting?
FW: The concept of authenticity is important to me. Good things take time and good things take haste.
It's such a classic question – how long do you need for your work – or something?
Things just need different amounts of time. If it's like that in real life, it should be like that in the work, if it's not like that in the work, then the work is not real.
The difference between painting and drawing is actually only made by others, for me it's all pictures. Actually, it's only about offering points of reference or finding points of reference. If you want to draw an analogy in relation to time, then a drawing is more like a minute and a painting more like a year or a month.
The smaller the period of time, the more tangible it seems and the clearer the brackets in which this takes place. But that's another thing, because you can zoom in mega close and then even a minute is a lot. Or you can be extremely far away and a month is like a breath.
But it gets exciting with the object. It’s something completely different. Flatware is a snapshot and moving images give you a timeframe.
If objects have a mechanism, then it is, I don't know how to describe it, but what the brushstroke is to the painting, the movement is to the object.
In their presence they are the same, painting and object.
RAT: There is something playful about your work. Do you think the idea of play is a fitting synonym for your way of working or what does play mean to you?
FW: There’s such a haze surrounding that term.
There is no clear definition of play, but the term still gives me a good vibe. I can deal with it well. In the construction kit of material and tools, the term play is definitely one of the most useful. To regard something as a game is to define the framework, that you can behave as you like, that you can transcend conventions.
You can make up rules and follow them or not and it really exists only as an end in itself.
RAT: How important is humour for your work?
FW: Humour is both a lubricant and test at the same time.
What do you do when a pizza is delivered and the box is upside down? Can you still eat it or do you think: oh no, the pizza is ruined?
RAT: With your objects, a kind of joke is also fulfilled for me through a recognition of a familiar everyday thing like the railway carriage or the orange pylon from road traffic, which slip into the absurd, because they seem to lose their function and yet retain a reference to their function. What do they have to do with your "flat" works?
FW: Well, first and foremost they arise in the same way as an image. Some paintings simply demand to be in space. Actually, they're just as much an image as a flat piece.
The wagons stand out a bit. Being able to experience something in haptic space, as an activity even, is appointed a different quality than experiencing it in metaphysical space.
I would argue that these pictures on the wall have the same function as a railway carriage - but it's just not as intuitive.
RAT: Perhaps the objects are also a kind of bridge.
FW: Yes, and above all, if we stay with these points and the space in between, it's like this - you can't really be on a point. When you are on the point, you don't actually see the point, you see the others. The space in between is a place where you are, but where you are also only in transition and you become the content yourself. The wagons allow you to actually experience that with your body.
Besides, I don't like the distance to classical works at all. You don't have to grab everything, but when things are robust... It's obvious that you are part of the work. So if you are in a room full of objects, you are part of the picture. Just act accordingly.
RAT: Your titles show a humorous approach to your own work, what meaning does this actual language have for you in relation to the image, the object? How and when do you decide what to call your work?
FW: I find that naming works untitled is completely out of touch with reality, I can't do that.
Sometimes the works just come into being and have no words associated with them, so they get something like a date.
On the whole, you can then maybe find out what the thing is about because it was created in that period of time. What was happening in the world at that time?
A title is also always a form of naming and, above all, a linguistic anchor point. The main use of a title is to be able to talk about a work while it is not there, without having to describe it.
That's exactly why I often make the title of the work - what the work looks like. I don't resist that at all, because that's what happens anyway. So if I were to call the work untitled, some random would come along and say - here's the one with the speckles. It happens anyway, and I think that's good.
I think it's close to reality. Those are real titles for me.
RAT: This is your first solo exhibition. What was it like for you to design a room just with your work? How do you go about it or what was important to you?
FW: I don't find it so different from group exhibitions or exhibitions with more positions. The difference is, of course, that you either talk to people or just to yourself.
But at the end of the day it's about making a picture. Because as I've already indicated, as soon as you put works in a room and put people with them and call it an exhibition, it's a form of image. It has all the qualities that a painting has.
What is special and important to me is the material. Being aware of it and having a real engagement with the aspects that are there. Walls, rooms, light, people...
Actually, it's about building up an interesting field of tension, between the works, dealing with the weights of the work and building up interesting contrasts.
A wall in the exhibition is a picture and the works that you hang on it are the spots of colour that you spread.
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