Certain images seem to be able to convey new levels of awareness, a sort of psychedelic epiphany that, for a few seconds, makes you reconsider your perception. Once, at the Kröller-Müller museum, I saw a Van Gogh painting in which the blue sky and the yellow grain followed the same wavy strokes throughout - a single, continuous flux shaking the air and the trees alike. These are the pictures that remind you that there is no such thing as a still image, that the corpuscles in your retina are always dancing, even when your eyes are closed, and eventually shape up your dreams.
Axel Hütte's work is hardly as powerful as that Van Gogh painting, but the way he layers sparkling watery surfaces onto portraits or wood landscapes has a similar dynamic, which reminds me of all those Merleau-Ponty writings on phenomenology that I have never read, but heard so much about.
Hütte photographs the reflection of an image on the surface of a body of water, where the wrinkling of the waves and the occasional floating branch work as some sort of visual noise. The most recognizable elements in his images are tree trunks and the odd person, often upside-down and relegated in a corner of the print.
From a distance Hütte's works look like paintings, abstract paintings. Then you get close, and you realize not only that they are photos, landscapes so to speak, but that the artist's intervention on the aforementioned layering is little more than framing the shot. He delivers an experience to the viewer, unfiltered by pictorial codes like impressionism, pointillism, or any of their abstract derivations. The resulting image is one we might find ourselves gazing at during a lazy afternoon by a pond in Vondelpark, only cropped and made mysterious.
Hütte's seemingly casual disregard of the human figure in his “portrait” pieces, while injecting some warmer and more romantic feeling to them, consistently evokes a pure experience, a direct perception. The formula is simple, and it works, but after looking at a few pieces the phenomenological enthusiasm forces you to abandon the gallery and go look for some real, moving perception. Well done, I guess.
~Nicola Bozzi, a writer living in Amsterdam.
(Images: Axel Hütte, Portrait #19 , 2006, c-print, 135 x 165 cm; Portrait #26, 2005, c print, 135 x 165 cm; Aranjuez-5, 2007, c print, 157 x 207 cm.; Jacobigarten, 2008, c print, 157 x 207 cm; Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Akinci)
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