Painting beyond Image Production
Some remarks on Thomas Reinhold's paintings
The current series of paintings by Thomas Reinhold dating to the years 2006/07 presents a succession of non-representational compositions, abstract piles of paint shifted over and next to one another atop the canvas, forcing the viewer – undistracted by any discernible narrative – to come to grips with the paintings' construction and production process. It is only the series' titles – Rods and Cones, Networks, Ariadne, or Enchanté – that seem to offer a potential link to the viewer's own knowledge or experience. Based on these allusions, the viewer is able to establish his personal web of associations relating to the paintings' colours and shapes and may navigate among them.
This art finds its point of departure in the circumstance that the contemporary concept of the painting has for some time now become emancipated from the concept of the image. In a digital age, the true labour of the painter – working as he or she is with organic as well as synthetic materials, with solids and liquids, proportions and chrominances, form and texture – no longer lies in the mere production of "images" (as used to be expected of painting, if not exclusively).
This focus on the innate resources of painting becomes readily apparent in the spatial arrangements of Reinhold's paintings. On this subject, too, it is possible to trace a stringent historical development: ever since the Renaissance, "space" in painting has been evoked through the use of the most realistic perspective imaginable at the time; modern art (e.g. in Picasso's collages or in Tatlin's Counter-Reliefs) then had three-dimensional objects protrude from the picture plane while abstract painting would conversely produce seemingly infinite spatial depth. Reinhold takes the next logical step in creating a spatial continuum and positioning his mostly organoid expanses of paint in receding layers by superimposing them on one another and on a more or less transparent, neutral, and subtly pigmented white ground. In so doing, he addresses several of painting's authentic properties, most obviously its two-dimensional quality, evident in the fact that the individual forms are neither sculpted nor rendered in perspective. These are true planes rather than bodies of colour. At the same time, however, he also addresses their latent spatial quality through the material dimension of the colour planes (the visual and tactile impact of the pasted paint) so that they regain some bodily attributes and open up a space between them.
A third fundamental theme of painting addressed by Reinhold is the choice regarding what is shown and what is not. His paintings are characterised by a discernible structure, a few lines of charcoal determine where the planes of paint start out and where they intersect with the edge of the painting. This division of the edges according to precise proportions obviously has a significant effect on the composition within the painting itself. The allusion to proportions, measurements, and numbers might well remind one of the traditional symbolic charge contained in a picture. Reinhold, however, deliberately leaves out any content-related dimension and instead extracts the formal principle from the medium's history.
Beyond its peculiar physiology, some of the contentual dimension of the painting of Thomas Reinhold reveals itself in the individual titles. "Stäbchen und Zapfen" (Rods and Cones) refers to the anatomy of the human eye and hence to issues of perception, "Netze" (Networks) suggests interconnectedness, "Ariadne" derives from Greek mythology and is about finding a way through confusion, while the French term "enchanté" means "very pleased" as well as "enchanted". Perception, interconnection, orientation, and cheerfulness all to a certain degree define the "inhabitants" of Reinhold's pictorial space. By putting himself in their position, by focussing one's entire perception on that available to the eye, the viewer realises precisely why these works are about perception, interconnection, orientation, and cheerfulness. Sensations become inextricably linked with sensibilities, and directly stimulate emotion. Precise perception allows the development of networks that provide orientation as well as a place for enchanted perambulation.
Divested of the superfluous, painting is enabled to deploy its untrammelled power. It is no great conceptual leap from this form of artistic clarification to the idea of enlightenment, which might be another fitting way to describe the development of Reinhold's painting. Might even the digital revolution have had some part in this? And now when for the first time in its history pure painting has emancipated itself from mystification in all its forms (passed on to more recent mediums) and has instead opted for clarity and comprehensible structure and effect? Rather than in theory, answers to these questions are best found in the contemplation of Thomas Reinhold's paintings themselves, answers that will be of greater immediacy than any description can hope to be.