cataloque text - spaces and heads


Between the ideal and the underlying undefined

As it always has, painting today develops force fields of an atmospheric density, irregardless of whether you arraign its creators as combatants of the avant-, or the retrogarde. To press painting into a progressive pattern of development or otherwise reproach it or endorse it for its traditional ties says something about the state of the art of art criticism, but otherwise nothing about the permanence of the maelstrom as a continuous “feast for the eyes” (Delacroix).
Particularly in times when everywhere the domination of an aesthetic of information design for the information age moves more and more into the foreground, the enthusiasm of youth for painting’s basic material elements, and their longing for immediacy and for the iconic remains unbroken.
Even if art’s and reality’s traditional division of labor as it still prevailed in the industrial age has also fallen apart, and if art’s position as an attention-demanding producer of perceptual proposals was subsequently shaken, the increased sensibility for things such as the radiance and temperature of color created new prospects for attraction.

The still young work of Daniel Sambo-Richter from Berlin, who participates with interest in the contemporary discourse, cannot be separated from the transition within painting and its interpretation. It should thus be possible to exhibit Richter’s geometric-constructive series "Space of Possibilities" together with an as-yet unshown earlier series of 10 expressively executed "Köpfen" (Heads) from 1998/1999. For Sambo-Richter has always developed his series of paintings in opposition to aesthetic claims of exclusivity, and thus in constant alteration between anticipation and reversion, comparable with Duchamp’s door with its two openings and a filling.
Richter laughs at the system which dictates every artist have a recognizable style, something he himself has avoided until now, proving by this attitude to be an apt descendent of his famous namesake, but also of other masters of the kaleidoscopic eye.
Thus the course is predetermined; to seek a balance between factors of visual irritation and the radical painting.
Upon superficial observation his work’s current phase appears like a two-part symphony of program music. From one side salutes the dramatic impetus, the blazing bush of fire, while offsetting this is a painterly rendition aspiring to the reserved manifestation of the dominant striped effect, although certainly allowing the occasional casually splattered transition zone between stripes in an ornate reprise.
This alternation draws its viewers in, but simultaneously holds them at a distance. If one takes time for detailed investigation, the “heads” in matte enamel paint on hardboard panel assail their viewer, without meaning the viewer directly; for Sambo-Richter doesn’t portray nor does he humanize, he composes. Defined and undefined stand side by side in the form. A “head” can be a place of inner sanctity, a reference to the prospect of an instant between daydream and meditation. And concurrently, a starting point for inquiry, when Sambo-Richter stirs in darkness with his brush, in spottiness, in dryness, from out of which, born of open cavities of mouths, soundless cries appear to come.
In the series "Space of Possibilities" severity and illumination have the upper hand. Perhaps this is due to lucidity arising from the placement of various types of enamel paint (glossy and silk-matte) against one another.
While the “heads” make inward reference, the stripes orient themselves like rays towards an above. Thus two targets of inquiry are stated in color and form in two equally strongly-characterized approaches.
It’s not two souls living there within the artist’s breast, for built into the striped compositions are also divergences and surprises that refute the view that Sambo-Richter has developed into a hermetic. No matter how he configures his paintings, in their various forms of existence they always pursue movements towards reality – from the horizontal, wildly proliferating mycelium in its expressive process of germination, to the vertical; towards condensation trails and still further – there where the spirit goes in search of itself.

Christoph Tannert
(February 2003)