Eventuality of an Attempt
11.02.12 – 25.03.12
Nick Oberthaler’s show Eventuality of an Attempt integrates works on paper, sculpture and a cruciform spatial intervention in KIOSK’s architectural landscape. In this very specific architectural context, Oberthaler thus tries to attain an abstract and pure spatial experience.
The series of drawings consists of layered wholes of Indian ink, wax, pastels, watercolours, gouache and sparingly used photographic fragments. Oberthaler prefers paper to canvas. In its delicate receptivity, the paper surface bears the traces of different techniques, gestures and moods. Oberthaler approaches painting as just one of many possible forms of expression, and in his finishing, too, he does not aspire to a single style: balancing between a muted and a nearly luminous colour composition, between a smooth, final texture and a tentative, tactile draft, he seeks out the nebulous space between the strictly rational form and the incomplete, possible form. Oberthaler usually starts with the traditional scheme underlying the pictorial representation of landscapes. Horizontal lines slide through several of his abstract geometric designs like a limitless horizon in a landscape.
This line, as well as the format, the cruciform partition and the colour of Oberthaler’s works on paper, is extended throughout the entire exhibition space. The cruciform wall structure of gypsum board in the central dome room creates a new, sculptural focal point that integrates four equal spaces. Each of these is autonomous and is also treated as such. Some of the walls become surfaces for rhythmic colour blocks and lines, others remain plain. This background converges with an assemblage of works on paper, delicate steel sculptures, mirrors and an enlarged print of the last page of French writer Charles Juliet’s book Rencontres avec Bram van Velde. The undefined colour surfaces imply a certain depth and the mirrors offer an expanding window onto what is ‘hors-champ’. This three-dimensional pictorial representation is positioned in space like a folded sheet of paper, exploring the material and the spatial boundaries of the medium.
Eventuality of an Attempt is like an abstracted representation of a metaphysical, subjective landscape: a grey cloud study, a sunset over the sea, a paleness in the perception of colours at nightfall and, eventually, a vanishing point, with the moon as the centre of the world. Painter Bram van Velde, already mentioned, might well have said that Oberthaler’s ‘window still life’ does not simply offer a view of the world outside, but that above all, it stares right back at us from the void, like Narcissus losing himself in his own reflection. With German romanticism at the back of his mind, the artist expresses the desire to attain a similar level of sublime complexity through reduction. The exhibition’s title points out that neither the attempt nor its goal is unique, stressing instead the openness to the attempt and to doubt—as if the exhibition space was just a studio, basking in the low winter sun.