The blissful acceptance of the arrival of the seemingly benign while overlooking the malign this for me is the art of Neo Rauch. The conflict of contemporary values with the traditions of the past. The manner in which new technologies are blindly welcomed then celebrated as those faithful methods long used is cast away as redundant, antiquated, outmoded. The almost bovine belief that all that heralds the new does indeed mean the new is better than the old no matter the cost, no matter the lack of vision.
That sanguine erosion of previous, established ways merely allows recently discovered progressions to enter our world but also positively promotes them as being sacrosanct replacements for a tired, unwholesome history. It is as if we, unhappy with our lot, unable to manage or balance old with new, seek that which appears messianic. The new promises deliverance from the beast we have created. It devours all we have ever been as eagerly as it thrusts increasingly new wonders of design as replacement tools that in reality provide only additions to those in existence.
Take for example the internal combustion engine. It is a thing often berated by environmentalists yet has given the common man freedom of movement over great distances that he never had before. It may be the cause, partial at best, of climate change but its utter acceptance by millions as being a salvation when used, certainly in Britain and Europe, as a replacement for the steam engine condemned technological investment in rail travel.
Railways and their lines were not so much overlooked but dismissed then closed down as roads were built to grant access for more cars to travel on. There is nothing wrong with the motor car, indeed, with the advent of hybrid cars along with electric, much of what made them attractive in the first place finds a suitable place in a modern, greener world. The same could be said of trains or canals. Had time been spent on those antique technologies, had money been assigned to evolve them to their fullest potential, then they would now be delivering goods and people to destinations with far less damage to the environment.
Neo Rauch brings into conflict within his art those elements of the now juxtaposed with those of the then. It is a combination of factors that are seemingly in conflict yet in reality, with a change of perspective, reveal how each phase of development sits well with those of the past. They need not so much replace as rejoin.
"I view the process of painting as an extraordinarily natural form of discovering the world, almost as natural as breathing."
These enigmas float in direct contrast with each other as images of people dressed in current fashion clash with those from another era. It is as if the artist is challenging us to think outside of time, that time is merely a stream passing and as it does, as it washes over the debris, the silt at the bottom of its course, of its current so the collection of stones it touches stand revealed individually as parts of history from a variety of different ages.
If there is a conflict here it is not in the manner of the individuals depicted but rather the concept behind change which, when freeze-framed, displays a continuum of styles all suited to the one constant - mankind and our endless creativity and invention. Size and perspectives are challenged as is the reality we have invented.
I do not see any sense of isolation here, curiously cool as it is often presented, but more a feeling of oneness but also of regret. The former I have explained, the later is really a condemnation of our constant seeking something, be it God or Capitalism or the internet, some one little thing that will reshape and define us fit to live in times increasingly soulless.
Much of Rauch's work owes a debt of thanks to those past master, artists from the surrealist movement perhaps. It also reminds me vaguely of those nineteen forties, early fifties, propaganda posters as created by the Nazi and then the Russian Communist parties (same meat, different gravy.)
There is a strong sense of society depicted here. One that is controlled by forces even more powerful than anything before yet indistinct, so vague that it is hard to see their presence.
I like the dream-like feel that inhabits these works. They counteract the inherent realism beautifully. Make it all the sharper, all the more keen and therefore heartfelt.
At fifty-five, still relatively young, Rauch has yet much to offer. He was born in Germany, Leipzig in fact, in April nineteen sixty. His work is broadly liked by a great many people. Rightly so in my opinion. As with all and any notable artist, their works become subject to much examination. In that, I guess, I am no different. Intuition being my modus operandi I cannot truthfully pretend to know, or see, that which I know little of. For me, these works are powerful because they leap off the wall and speak to me. The language they use, as with any art once the artist has done his or her job, is aimed uniquely at the viewer and is, therefore, subject to a multitude of interpretations. Mine is no more nor no less right than anyone else's. I know this much, though; I like Neo Rauch's work. It is exciting, challenging and transformative. It thrills me.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.