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Vincent Kück: Forms of Disappearance
Location: EMDE GALLERY - Mainz
Vincent Kück: Forms of Disappearence
Emde Gallery is very pleased to present a selection of the latest works of Bremen-based artist Vincent Kück in his solo exhibition entitled "Formen des Verschwindens / Forms of Disappearance".
In its poetic ambiguity, the title of the exhibition suggests, on the one hand, the artist's thematic engagement with the question of the changed status of the subject in a world increasingly permeated by digital media. On the other hand, the title alludes to the technical level of painting, to the many different superimposed layers in the pictures, in which surfaces are repeatedly painted over and partly made to disappear.
Vincent Kück uses an entirely abstract formal language, which means that his paintings are free of anything representational or narrative. While some are more strongly characterized by lines and geometric surfaces, in others he works out the surfaces more freely, places organic forms next to geometric or camouflage-like forms, applies new layers of paint over old ones, adds and takes away again. Layer by layer, abstract compositions emerge which, despite their two-dimensionality, are again characterized by a space of depth and thus diametrically opposed to the smooth surface of digital technology.
As a rule, the artist begins by laying an even grid over the surface of the picture using tape and spray paint. It forms the basis for the next layers, on which he works until all colours and shapes are properly balanced and have reached a desired complexity. The colour palette of his paintings is limited by the use of spray paint and, much like the geometric calculation serves to smooth out his own painterly style, serves to avoid authorship.
In some works, such as in "NOsUy", one of his main works in the exhibition, different grids - mesh, stripes or honeycomb patterns - are combined in several layers of paint. They not only reveal the meticulous working method and the processual nature of his paintings, which are often painted over days and weeks, but also testify to the artist's sensitivity to colour. The painting is sprayed in shades of orange, pink, red, green, yellow and violet. In part, the colour is employed more discreetly and muted, in other parts, loud hues and contrasting effects are applied.
The use of latex causes the paint to partially flake off. The affected areas appear eroded or weathered. They suggest peeling house façades or torn posters in which new motifs and shapes are superimposed on older ones. In its compositional complexity, the picture as a whole, criss-crossed by lines, is also reminiscent of circuit diagrams, city maps or underground maps. Mind maps also come to mind.
The flaking paint in places, but also the irregularly frayed traces left on the surface of the painting by a strip of adhesive tape that has been removed, refuse control and appear as free, supposedly coincidental contrasts with the rest of the technically constructed painting. The painting is elaborated over a large area and at the same time has fragmentary details that stand out, creating a tension-filled juxtaposition of colours and forms. The materiality of the work is emphasized: on the one hand, the viewer is encouraged to look at the details up close, but on the other hand, in order to take in the painting as a whole, one has to take a step back.
Vincent Kück's painting is a painting of opposites hinting to the immersive: Chance versus construction, chaos versus structure - with the construction and the structure prevailing in each case -, proximity versus distance, flowing versus geometric forms, diffuse versus neatly masked off sprayed parts, muted versus gaudy colour tones, taking away versus adding - stylistic devices and techniques that can also be found in varying degrees in the other paintings. The complexity in the superimposition of colour layers lends his work a clearly recognizable signature, with each work yet having its own individual character.
The medium-format painting "N1KV2", for example, shows a turquoise background on which there is a strict, dark red grid, which in turn is overlaid by a curved network of lines in a bright red. It covers the strict grid behind it like a camouflage net. Contrasts of colour and form create an open pictorial space that eludes any narrative unambiguity and, moreover, causes a continuous alternation between foreground and background, between stillness and movement. Another good example of this are the pictures dominated by camouflage-like colour surfaces, in which many an underlying layer still penetrates, or the picture "mzhYm" in black and white tones. It shows two different, irregularly overlapping geometric grids, which create a spatial or even plastic effect and intensifies the flickering effect that even one of these grids would produce. Here, Vincent Kück plays with the sensory overload of the eye and with the optical illusion and creates a kind of spatiality on a two-dimensional surface.
The small-format works, of which a larger selection can be seen in the exhibition, provide a different view of his work. They show colour compositions and geometric, grid or net-like structures and have different functions, serving as sketches, preliminary studies and orientation for larger paintings, yet they are still autonomous works.
Overall, the geometric structure of the grid in Vincent Kück's painting is reminiscent of pixel structures of digital surfaces. What is decisive, however, is that his paintings or individual fragments are not created on the computer, but composed by the artist on the canvas. Vincent Kück works with a very contemporary aesthetic that would be inconceivable without the influence of digital media. And in terms of content, he also gives expression to the complex and multi-layered networked world permeated by digital structures. However, the most immediate and powerful effect of the paintings emanates from their material nature. Depending on the thickness of the individual layers of paint and the number in which they are superimposed, the surface of the paintings forms a flat relief that can only be discerned when viewed at close range or from a lateral viewing position. The use of thick frames - whereby the painting continues beyond the edges - also leads to an object-like impression of the canvases. Vincent Kück's paintings appeal to the senses and thus create a balance to the smooth, digital world of our everyday life.
Vincent Kück lives and works in Bremen. He completed his studies in Fine Arts at the HfK Bremen with a diploma in 2019 and as a master student of Katrin von Maltzahn in 2021.
Vincent Kück in conversation with Lea Schäfer (artist and curator at the Museum Reinhard Ernst, Wiesbaden)
Lea Schäfer: "Formen des Verschwindens" (forms of disappearance) is the poetic title of your first solo exhibition at Emde Gallery. What dimensions of your artistic work do you encompass with this title?
Vincent Kück: For me, the title "Formen des Verschwindens" embodies several levels. First of all, on a technical painting level: by using tape and latex, I cover up areas on the painting that I can remove again after a layer of painting. Thus, areas are partially brought out again from lower layers or simply painted over. In combination with spray paint, this technique allows me to smooth out my own signature, the painterly ductus, the drawing, in other words, all my personal idiosyncrasies that make it obvious that I have made something.
And further, to me disappearance means the dissolution of a certain perspective. The composition plays with our visual habits and provides a sense of spatiality. I try to find picture puzzles with the means of painting: Something like the picture puzzle in which you can see a profile of a face or a vase. You can only see one thing at a time, it's always jumping back and forth between foreground and background. This produces an alternation in which the gaze sometimes enters the room or encounters a closed form and is repelled.
LS: That means that as a viewer you can't locate yourself in the picture and take up several points of view. The painting is no longer a window to the world, but has very different forms. What does painting itself mean to you?
VK: I start from an I-perspective, imagine this I as a membrane between an inside and an outside. Both the view inward and outward is a view that eludes me, or rather what I look at eludes me. That is, there is something like a subconscious inside of me that I cannot access, outside of me is the world that I cannot access. I can address certain things, but they are always separate from me.
For me, painting is a way of examining these constellations and dissolving them to some extent. Within an aesthetic perception, one steps out of everyday thinking, is able to set aside rationality and perhaps feel something like timelessness. Expressed somewhat pathetically: one feels connectedness with everything. But this must always happen in a secured and protected framework.
LS: When does aesthetic perception take place? Are you in such a state when you work in your protected place in the studio?
VK: I believe that aesthetic perception takes place always and everywhere. One always receives stimuli. From the outside world, however, everyday, rational thinking predominates, in which one includes and excludes things and uses linguistic logic and concepts. In a protected setting, one can fall into an ego oblivion. This can also happen in everyday life. It is not necessarily linked to the work in the studio. It is independent of the medium, because it doesn't necessarily has to happen visually. It can take place through other sensory channels and, in my perception, has something to do with the merging of the senses. In a state of immersion, shapes are sometimes associated with certain sounds, tastes, etc. Ideally, all the senses combine into a single sense.
LS: Are all your senses engaged in the studio? What does your protected space look like where that happens?
VK: In music, for example, there are rhythms that cause you to dream yourself away. Stimuli from outside that could interrupt this structure would be a hindrance. I listen to music very often. The tactile, the repetition of hand movements, touching the canvas or the materials and tools, is very important to me. Painting is by no means a medium for me that functions only through the visual.
LS: So the material plays a big role in your process. Your works with their painted edges are telling. What does the process look like? How do you start and what has to be ready for you to start?
VK: I start with a primer of black acrylic paint. White primed canvases would be too full and too hermetic for me. Black paint is a total reset for me, a zero point. The second step is to lay an even grid over the canvas with tape and paint it with spray paint. Based on this grid, the next layers are applied. It's a slow approach to a diffuse idea of composition that I have to feel my way out of, rather like a fog. For me it feels like I can use my own eyes, as if they were tactile tools, as if they were hands.
LS: In your painting, the grid recurs as a motif and starting point. Where does the grid come from?
VK: It comes from an overload of painterly gestures. In the past, a cramped state has set in with me, so that I could not paint canvas or paper with brush or pencil. For me, the grid is a starting point for a pictorial structure on which I can base myself for the time being. In more complex works, I dissolve it piece by piece with the layers to discard the meticulous work and allow free and random things.
LS: There are three larger groups of works in your oeuvre: There are the larger complex works that you just mentioned, in which there are an incredible number of layers on top of each other, which thus free themselves from a clear structure and open up a new perspective. In the rather smaller works, the pattern or grid is pictorial. These can be divided again into more graphic works, with clear surfaces and shapes, and those in which gesture takes over in the process. Where do the three groups come from? Did all the works that can be seen in the exhibition develop out of a preoccupation with the grid as different ways of playing?
VK: It all comes from the grid. The smaller works are almost like an index of different structures, colorings, and shapes. From them come cross-references for larger works, in which different grids are combined in several layers, merge with each other, overlap or cover each other. This can be imagined like different stages of a painting process, in which the starting point is always the grid and in individual stages further layers are realized. Works can therefore be finished at several points in time. My desire is to contrast, on the one hand, works that have very few different parameters with works that are very dense in detail.
LS: Now we've looked at your groups of works a little more closely. We haven't talked about one particularity yet. Among them, there are works that were created on a transparent image carrier, such as Plexiglas or foils. That's quite interesting because it gives you the opportunity to paint on the front and back of the bases. How did you come to this step and what potential does it hold for you?
VK: For me, it's about the reflection of digital images: They shield themselves behind the glass of the display and are characterized by a lack of materiality. All you touch is actually your own grease from your fingers, which spreads across the glass. For me, the choice of the transparent image carrier was a way of using spray paint, lacquer paint or acrylic markers to give a materiality to images that have an associative proximity to digital images. In some cases, I play on the front and back, so that there are interactions there between a foreground and a background.
LS: Does this engagement with and reflection on images and materialities of digital images make your painting contemporary? Is that the great quality of your work, to address or comment on contemporary phenomena like screens and digital worlds?
VK: I think it is precisely this proximity of a grid to the pixels of a screen that brings these images close to digital images, regardless of whether they are on canvas or a transparent image carrier. The dissolving of handwriting can also be reminiscent of these clean, sharp-edged images of displays, as can the orientation to horizontal or vertical lines. Displays are also divided into different images or layers, but they are not totally flat on top of each other.
LS: What role does color play in terms of hues?
VK: That's a very difficult question to answer, because for me color is something self-referential. Colors don't mean anything, they stand for themselves. Color is a phenomenon that I find incredibly difficult to grasp and that moves outside of linguistic designation.
LS: With spray paint you are limited in the choice of shades. It's a paint whose properties you can't determine or control yourself: You can't change the consistency, nor can you act on the hue. This sounds very far from classical painting. You turn the experimental setup of paint on white canvas upside down when you work from a black background. Your handling of materials seems rather unconventional as a result.
VK: It connects to the idea of a dissolution of one's own preferences. By using, as you said, a limited color palette that has already been determined by someone in the factory, I am again giving something that I don't determine, but that comes from the outside. I am the one who arranges things.
LS: Contemporary painting is often accused of being self-absorbed, of revolving only around itself and of being disconnected from the social and political challenges of the present. What makes painting interesting for you today? Is it able to comment on the present and make statements?
VK: I have also encountered criticism that painting is already dead in a sense. But I think that precisely because we have integrated more and more digital devices into our everyday lives in the last ten years and are dependent on them, the medium of image is becoming more and more present. In the interaction with painting, I find that it remains a contemporary medium as a result. To examine the extent to which it is possible to be political with abstract painting in particular, I also find a very exciting, but also incredibly difficult question to answer. I can only speak for myself that I don't really feel the need to make a political statement and would actually like, even if it perhaps ties in a little with the self-indulgence of painting, that I step back with painting and actually say nothing at all. The medium of the image, which has now changed so much, I would like to detach more from having to achieve a certain purpose of an image or statement.
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