Dr. Frank Schmidt
StandPoints


Jürgen Raap
Locations   First results





text for catalog: StandOrte, Locations, Cologne 2010
 
Dr. Frank Schmidt
 
StandPoints
 
Where does a work of art come into being? For once the aspect of aesthetical reception, that images arouse in the beholder‘s head depending on his sociological, cultural and individual background, has to be discarded. Instead, we will have a closer look at the various sites of art production. For her latest art series, Marina Herrmann visits not only metropoles like New York, Tokyo, Shanghai or Dubai but also the — perhaps easily overlooked — city of Frankfurt. There she concentrates on one of the most spectacular tasks for architects and urban planners; skyscrapers, most likely housing banks. In comparison with pictures taken by photographers of architecture we are confronted with sometimes blurred views, cutouts, reflections or details of the architecture. The artist seems to be more interested in the structures of skyscrapers in general than in specific attributes of a certain building. And still, the pictures convey the typical idiosyncrasies of each country. They give an impression of the interactive bond of a building, a city and cultural and social relations. Because the project is open and always in progress, other locations can also be focussed on by further journeys. Marina Herrmann is not simply content with a typological compilation of photographed impressions. In a further step, she adapts the buildings, when she thematizes the correlations between image, impact and identity.
 
The second and even more important site for the art production is the studio. Here the photographic image is revised and embedded in a pictorial setting. By means of a glazing overpaint, the photographies are transformed into paintings themselves. The diversified reality of architecture enters into a dialogue with the pictorial interpretations of the artist. The different levels of relevance and impact are visually manifested in the multi–parted principle of the artworks’ design. Individual deep display cases — each of them with a different motif — form all together kind of a polyptych. Inspired by the revised photographic reference Marina Herrmann finds colours and ornamental shapes, which she puts into its relation. The extra–pictorial reality has formed its counterpart, which refers to this but also claims an autonomous point of view. The ornaments and abstract coloured areas seem to be as realistic or artificial as the photographies. While the latter claims a reference to the original building the former are definite in an self–referring meaning. This emphasizes the actual subdivision of the picture in particular compartments. One part of the polyptych can not reconstruct the others. Only through compounding all parts can the picture be brought together.
 
Consequently Marina Herrmann creates an deceptive visual reality, which on the other hand, is directed to the origin of urban architecture. Therefore, single high–rise buildings always correlate with other buildings, the district and — last but not least — with the whole city. The ambivalence between insulated architecture on one side and necessary neighborhood and integration on the other becomes particularly clear within the group of narrow, upright square formats of high–rise buildings. While the format refers to the significant structural shape, the opaque glassy façade blocks any view of the inside of the building. Redirected to themselves the viewers have to assure themselves about their own position. But if they interpret skyscrapers, so–called “signature architecture”, as symbols of money and power, they will fail to see one important and signifying aspect of the oeuvre: The analysis of the aesthetic qualities of the architecture as well as Marina Herrmann‘s special fine feeling for textures, for colour and picturesque moments.
 
The pictures reflect both complexity of modern urbanity as well as — in the choice of means and methods — the painterly discourse. The locations of the motif and its positioning within the oeuvre are entering an inspiring and mutually stimulating dialogue. The question about the StandPoint is continually put forward.

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Opening speech gallery Benninger, Cologne 2008,
 
Jürgen Raap
 
 
Locations   First results

We are getting a first overview of the project, in which the artist initially dealt with the cities Tokyo and Shanghai. As a next step, travels to São Paolo and Dubai will follow subsequent to this exhibition. The examination of the architectures and their formal structuring in Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt/Main and New York gave Marina Herrmann the idea of investigating how the cultural differences of cities can be compared to each other in this age of globalization by the means of their architecture.
 
Cityscapes constitute their own chapter in the history of arts, especially since the development of cartography. You all now Cologne‘s oldest city map, the Mercator map from 1571, which posed a revolution in art and media history because it historically was the first map showing a bird‘s eye view. Of course, you also all know the cityscapes from Canaletto and contemporaries from the 18th century. Those are panoramic pictures with meticulous attention to realistic details. Here, it all was about the realism in the time before the invention of photography.
Later, photography took this representational function from painting and thus opened up the possibility for painting to head towards abstraction and modernism, approximately 100 years ago.
With the introduction of the offset printing, respectively rotary printing and the spread of illustrated journals, photography developed the new genre of travel reporting. Since then we are especially familiar with pictures of cities in all aspects through tourist publications and photo–journalism.
 
Marina Herrmann now tries to redefine the relationship between photography and painting. And this is a very complex field. First, there would be the choice of cities by criteria which are not already set by art or media history. For example in the way in which for the artists of earlier days the journey to Rome, or in the early 20th century, the stay Paris, were mandatory. Or in the way in which a city can be loaded with myths, like Berlin, which even today provokes editorializing self–reflections on the 1920s: In the heads of many, the Berlin where Bertolt Brecht staged the rise and fall of the city of Mahagonny and were quotations from Alfred Döblin‘s novel are still attached to the façade at the Alexanderplatz is still very present.
 
But Marina Herrman‘s choice of cities does not follow educated middle–class associations but only by the criterion that they are meg–cities, in which sometimes always the same prominent architects like Renzo Piano have created distinctive landmarks. Although it is commonly assumed that this globalized, functionalist architecture brings with it a high degree of aesthetic and standardization and uniformity, on location one can see that the architecture actually fits in very well with the local population‘s urban attitude to life. Naturally, issues of political and cultural history and their influence on the development of the city play an important role. For example, since the reign of Mao Zedong and the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the Chinese city is very different from the Japanese city, where already the high risk of earthquakes demands entirely different approaches to the structural stability of a building from the architect. And one traces in Marina Herrmann‘s work the steps of a pictorial interpretation and estrangement through ornamentation. Like in New York, where gaudy icons of the advertising world create a reflected stain on the façade. Where the architecture of Frankfurt‘s banking quarter exhibits a clear patterned ornamental structure analogous to the rational sobriety of the business carried out there. And while everyday life in Tokyo is strongly determined by the principle of formal discipline, which is part of the Japanese social mindset, life in Shanghai usually is more lively and loud. ...All this can be seen in the shapes and colors of these pictures.
Marina Herrmann calls this the “volume” of painting, in a similar way in which Wassily Kandinsky ascribed acoustic qualities to painting in his book “Sound of color”. One has to experience this directly on location — even in the days of Internet, the medially available pictures do not replace the actual exhibition. So, also for us, when we view the original in a museum or gallery, as opposed to the limited communication of a reduced photo or postcard which cannot convey the aura and texture of an artwork. The same holds true for architecture; the direct observation is needed to examine and appreciate the scale, volume, and locational impact. Marina Herrmann consistently chose cities which also are the centers of economy and finances, which has a formative function for the constructional appearance of the city. For example in Japan, in Tokyo; not in the old Imperial capitals Kyoto and Nara, and in China, Shanghai; not in the political capital Beijing.
 
This means that here, the cathedrals of money have replaced the old temples in these Asian cities and in São Paolo the baroque churches of the colonial ages have been eclipsed. Medieval Cologne was a center of pilgrimage, but in the economic centers of the 21st centuries the transcendental meaning of hedge fonds and federal saving bonds has replaced the old relics. In the 16th century it was Protestantism, namely Calvinism, which ideologically replaced the mystical light of the gothic cathedrals through the shine of golden coins and which had pronounced, that accumulating money was a work agreeable to God or that having obtained wealth was a sign of God‘s mercy.
This conviction provided the ideological basis for the newly evolving capitalism and is until today a spiritual point of reference that seeps daily into our living rooms when the stock market guru informs us of the Dax and Dow Jones index. But not on Saturdays: When we receive the weekly spiritual message from the TV vicar. As locations for the relic business, the old pilgrim centers depended on the physical existence of an actual relic: They were real bone splinters from the tomb of a saint or real shreds of a bishops‘ coat, which one worshipped or even touched to steer its healing powers towards oneself. Here in Cologne, for example it were the mortal remains of the three wise men. Phonetically, the name of the Wall Street in New York (in german) still vaguely reminds of a place of pilgrimage, but in the days of credit cards and online banking, money also becomes more and more virtual. But the cities persist, which means they are always the home of their inhabitants. In their persistence, cities remain locations in a geographical sense and a mental orientation space.
 
“StandOrte” (locations) therefore is a deliberately chosen expression — an expression from the language of politics and the economy, where one speaks of “quality of location” and of “hard” and “soft” location factors considering the infrastructural integration of a place. Of course, this project also is about the soul of a city in the sense in which the mindset reflects itself in the architecture. After all, architecture is more than a material constructional hull for the most vital functions of living and working. And thus, the artistic location concept of Marina Herrmann is more wide–ranging than in business administration. She knowingly distinguishes from the aforementioned old panorama views of the cities because Marina Herrmann focuses on the “clip–out quality”, which the part is able to represent the whole.
 
She transfers her on–site research into a a second phase. She translates photographic motifs into painting, during which the resolution of the subject often goes into ornamental structures, as I indicated before. In the end, the painting departs from the photographic starting materials, so that for the viewer, no iconographic references to the actual location of the original shot are possible anymore. The final result of this artistic approach then is a constructive–geometrical compilation of section–like pieces of pictures to a complete picture. Such a picture is similar to heterogeneous collage or montage. The photography thereby is a practical and useful, but also aesthetically relevant medium for the collection of material on location, but in the completed picture complex, the photographic and the ornamental–painted parts communicate with each other equally. As a painter, Herrmann is interested in the structures and the optical and material mannerisms of the color. In the aforementioned “volume” of the colors, the temperament of the city reflects itself; but also in the structural order of its constructional shapes and especially their façade rasters, which in their painted translation sometimes look like a strict network of bars, then again like a crocheted curtain pattern. ...

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