Among some of the delights in this group show at Galerie Karsten Greve are five new oil on cardboard paintings and two ink on transparent Chinese paper works from 1983 by German artist Norbert Prangenberg.
Whether Prangenberg is working in clay, oil, even watercolor, his works stand out for the intensity of their tactility. The paintings, with their thick build up of abbreviated brushstrokes, make me want to run my hands across their surface and indulge in their physical extravagance. In this sense, the five small oils on cardboard on display at Karsten Greve are more like sculptures than paintings. Even though they are two-dimensional oil on household cardboard, the thickness of the brush strokes is so built up and heavy that the paint cannot be contained by the cardboard support. Indeed, the paint not only forces its way into the third dimension of the space we occupy, but it ignores the edge of the support and freely ventures over its edges. In this way, Prangenberg uses paint as though it were clay: moulding massaging and pushing it around the support in a vibrant and powerful exploration of color as form.
In addition, in each of the five Bilder (2008) there is a moment when the materiality of paint gives way to a piece of magic. In the bottom left hand corner of an otherwise predominantly abstract red and green surface, a wheel suffuses the image with movement, lightness, and a whimsical turn towards the ethereal. In another Bild, subtitled Nacht or Night, a horizon line is softly defined through what might be a sky of grey, blue, white and yellow balloons, miraculously floating into the perfection of day's transformation into night. Such gestures infuse the paintings with ineffable moments that otherwise elude the potential fixity and intransigence of the thickness of paint.
Everyday cardboard and thick, layered oil paint don't belong together, and yet, in Prangenberg's hands they are perfect partners. Typical of his works, the oils and the ink on transparent paper images from twenty years ago also forge an unlikely marriage between two otherwise incompatible materials. Similarly, he covers the entire surface of the Chinese paper with black ink - save for those comparable moments of magic, the wave, for example, the line after which Linie (1983) takes its title. The delicate paper is not meant to be a support for layers of ink: it is counterintuitive to render transparent paper opaque by covering it in black ink. And yet, on Prangenberg's surfaces they somehow belong together. In another gesture which sees a continuity across diverse media and twenty years of artistic exploration these two meter high pieces embrace an unusual sensuousness. Whereas looking at the paintings invites me to touch, here, looking encourages me to listen to the crinkling of the paper.
Prangenberg's work is often described as being inspired by nature, or attempting to capture the sensations and perceptions felt in the face of nature. However, for me, those exhibited at Karsten Greve speak more to the physical, even the erotic, experience and expression of painting and drawing on paper.
(*Images, from top to bottom: Norbert Prangenberg, Bild, 2008, huile sur carton, 41,5 x 30 cm, courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris. Norbert Prangenberg, Bild, 2008, huile sur carton, 35, 5 x 26 cm, courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris. Norbert Prangenberg, Linie, 1983, encre de chine sur papier transparent, 200 x 150 cm, courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris.)
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